IRL: League works on cost containment

The addition of two road circuits and one street course to make 17 events on the 2005 Indy Racing League IndyCar Series schedule also means changes for drivers, teams and suppliers to the League. Among the founding principles of the IRL was the...

The addition of two road circuits and one street course to make 17 events on the 2005 Indy Racing League IndyCar Series schedule also means changes for drivers, teams and suppliers to the League.

Among the founding principles of the IRL was the interest in cost containments and, with new equipment necessary to run these three races requiring both left and right turns, the League had a lot to consider in chassis updates.

After two days of road course testing here on the 2.21-mile, 12-turn Homestead-Miami Speedway circuit, the League and its teams, drivers and suppliers have come to the conclusion that the mandated changes are working.

While there were several "offs" as drivers tested their limits and those of their Dallara and Panoz chassis over the four sessions, there were no major hiccups yesterday and the day prior.

"The League was founded on the operating principles of equipment availability, cost controls and equipment specifications designed for close, competitive racing," noted president and CEO Brian Barnhart.

A group of update kits have been produced that will enable IndyCar Series participants to run the different circuits at what can only be considered minimal cost.

Both Dallara and Panoz have produced - and are continuing to refine - updated parts for chassis suspensions, brakes, steering, oil systems and front wing with a maximum cost for the kit of $65,000.

A specified differential has been produced for road courses and cost-reducing changes have been made to transmissions. By increasing the number of spec parts in the transmission, the IRL allows teams to eliminate a number of lightweight parts that had to be purchased upon receipt of a new transmission assembly. The cost associated with transmission parts, Barnhart confirmed, has been capped at $11,000.

Elements for the brake package that will enable IRL cars to run road and street races, including aluminum brake calipers and steel brake rotors and pads have been capped at $4500.

For the 14 oval races on the 2005 docket, the cars will run in the same configuration introduced with last season's Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. There will be minimal aerodynamic changes associated with specified areas of the underwing and sidepods to compensate for the modifications made before Indy. Those costs are capped at $10,500.

"The update kit completes the project of making our cars road-course ready" for this season and in 2006, according to Barnhart. "We may change wing angles or make other minor changes as deemed appropriate, but right now we don't anticipate that."

Technical operatives Kevin Blanch and John Lewis were on hand to make remarks about the efficacy of the new road course packages over the past two days. Lewis, the senior director of racing operations noted the IRL faces its biggest challenges in the first competition away from the oval racing that defined the IndyCar Series over its past nine season.

"At St. Petersburg in April," Lewis noted, "the paddock space should be a bit challenging but I think at Infineon Sears Point and Watkins Glen, with the updates both tracks are making we shouldn't have too many problems."

Lewis was pleasantly surprised by the "clean running these past two days. We are very pleased. The goal was to test and find the limits and a spin or two from drivers trying to find their limits" was better than he'd hoped.

Blanch thought the League was "in pretty good shape. On Thursday these guys did qualifying runs and we know they can't use the brakes and suspension that hard in a race. Several did 200 miles over the two days," he explained, "and that is close to a race distance. They'll always drive harder in a test than during a race weekend.

"With the steel calipers we've specified," Blanch continued, "drivers still have the opportunity to drive into the corners. The drivers are pretty happy with the cars and we think these cars should be as reliable on these three tracks as they are on the ovals."

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Series IndyCar
Drivers John Lewis , Brian Barnhart