CHAMPCAR/CART: Champ Car changes race rules

The President's Day holiday was none of the sort for Champ Car World Series officials, who have been busy tinkering with rules already in place, hoping to enhance competition for the series. With the release of its 2004 Rule Book, the Champ Car...

The President's Day holiday was none of the sort for Champ Car World Series officials, who have been busy tinkering with rules already in place, hoping to enhance competition for the series.

With the release of its 2004 Rule Book, the Champ Car World Series has made some changes to its mandatory pit-stop rule, which was introduced to add drama to the series two years ago.

Combined with the new point system, which awards ducats for leading a race lap, teams will be required to perform either two or three green flag stops during a race, and must have those stops completed by a particular point in the contest, which will be determined by Champ Car Racing Operations.

"We really wanted to do something that allowed the teams more flexibility in their race strategies and also allow them to take advantage of the new point system," technical director Lee Dykstra revealed. The number and the time at which those stops must be completed will be revealed prior to the start of weekend competition. All green flag stops must still include a four-tire change in order to meet series requirements.

"At the same time," Dykstra continued, "We needed a system that discourages fuel economy runs and challenges drivers. We think we have been able to accomplish that" with these new edicts.

Rules addressing safety on the circuits and in pit lane have been added or enhanced over the past week or so, including a rule that penalizes drivers who initiate avoidable contact with another car.

This season, any driver causing an incident that negatively affects a competitor will be immediately subjected to a drive-through penalty. If the contact results in the immediate retirement of a competitor, the offender will serve a stop-and-hold penalty on pit lane.

Blocking penalties that were introduced in 2003 have also been enhanced. Any driver blocking a pursuing competitor - or failing to yield to an approaching competitor while lapped - will also result in a drive-through penalty.

To aid in the enforcement of the new rules, Champ Car Stewards will have the power to enact more stringent penalties on teams and drivers this year, including loss of championship points for specific rules violations.

The Champ Car rules makers decreed that contact on pit lane - whether with a vehicle or with a crewmember - results in an automatic fine of $1000.

Protocol for race starts has also been revised, requiring the polesitter to be the first car across the start/finish line at the start of the event. Previously, the second-place qualifier had leeway to pass the polesitter once the green flag had waved.

Champ Car World Series officials believe fans will benefit from another rules change, as teams will no longer be allowed to scramble their radio transmissions during a race weekend. Fans will now be able to use their scanners to experience all conversations between teams and drivers during every Champ Car session of a race weekend, from initial practice to Sunday checkered flags.

The Champ Car World Series begins its 2004 season with the 30th annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 18th, competing on picturesque Long Beach city streets abutting the Pacific Ocean.

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Series Automotive , IndyCar