CHAMPCAR/CART: Owners and series revise rules

Some big changes came about for the Champ Car World Series this week, with new rules, and some hints about the longer-term future of the series. Changes were announced to the rules for operation of Champ Car races. Most importantly, the ...

Some big changes came about for the Champ Car World Series this week, with new rules, and some hints about the longer-term future of the series.

Changes were announced to the rules for operation of Champ Car races. Most importantly, the controversial mandatory pit windows were dropped for most future Champ Car events. The rule will likely still be used for super-speedway events and a modified rule was previously announced for next week's Brands Hatch race, with the new rule taking effect at the Milwaukee round in late May.

The mandatory-stop rule, enacted at the beginning at the 2002 season, did have the intended result of preventing fuel economy strategies by the teams, but it also added confusion for fans and scrambled some races. Only the 500-mile race last fall at the California Speedway was enhanced by the rule, so expect it to remain in place there and at the upcoming German 500 at the Lausitzring super-speedway race.

Also in effect beginning with the Milwaukee race will be a rule regarding late-race restarts. Before any restarts with less than 10 laps remaining, the lead-lap cars will be allowed to pass cars that are one or more laps behind the leader. This will give a clear track for the drivers competing for the win and prevents backmarkers from influencing the outcome of the final race order.

Also announced today following yesterday's CART Board meeting, were longer term plans to reduce operational costs for Champ Car teams. Limitations on the use of backup cars will start at Milwaukee. Backup cars, which previously could be used at any time before one of a team's cars was qualified for a race, can now only be used if the primary car is too damaged to use. In an interesting change, the backup cars will be put on display in the paddock to add to the show for the fans.

Beginning in 2004, several more new rules will go into effect. Champ Car crews will be limited in their size, with only 15 people assigned to each car, a cost-cutting measure that will help smaller teams to be competitive. Several mechanical restrictions also go into effect after this season, with simpler pieces being used in the suspension and drivetrain of all cars. An aerodynamic rules freeze will also be installed after the European rounds in May.

In other actions, the CART board gave the okay for the company's management to pursue the mechanical package that will be used for the Champ Car World Series beyond 2004. As the Champ Car World Series teams and staff pack up for their trip to Europe, these changes give them plenty to think about. The announced changes build on the strong package that has created some great racing in the early races of the 2003 Champ Car World Series.

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Series IndyCar