IndyCar weekend formats set to change in 2017

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IndyCar weekend formats set to change in 2017
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Dec 3, 2016, 12:00 AM

The Verizon IndyCar Series is aiming to introduce a more consistent timetable across all formats of track, to increase track action for the fans and improve each session’s productiveness for the teams and drivers.

Jay Frye, president of IndyCar
Mechanic with Firestone tires
Firestone Racing signage
Will Power, Team Penske Chevrolet in mechanical trouble
IndyCar and Firestone flags
James Hinchcliffe, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, Tony Kanaan, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Great crowd came out to see the race
Alexander Rossi, Herta - Andretti Autosport Honda
#5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP: Joao Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi on the grid
Start: Ed Jones, Carlin leads
Fans at an autograph signing
Start: Will Power, Team Penske Chevrolet leads

Heading toward this off-season there were rumors of a future adjustment to tire allocations in 2017, with rookies – or possibly all drivers – getting one set of Firestone’s softer-compound (red-walled) tires to try in a practice session prior to qualifying.

Even teams employing veteran drivers have also indicated, via a broader-reaching questionnaire from IndyCar, that they would prefer to have a set of reds before qualifying to help learn how the alternate tires might alter the balance of the car.

However, Jay Frye, IndyCar’s president of competition and operations, told Motorsport.com that the tire allocation issue is just one of a number of changes he wishes to introduce for the 2017 season, including a revised and consistent session format.

“Yes, we’ve heard from numerous teams who suggest we shouldn’t go into qualifying on red tires completely cold turkey,” Frye said, “but actually that’s just one of a raft of ideas for making the race weekends more efficient. We’re looking at the overall weekend schedules, too.

“So there’s more than one piece to these proposed changes, which is why this process has taken longer than people think it should. But we’re getting close to finalizing it – should be completed within the next two weeks, I’d say.”

Although Frye did not wish to disclose details of the revised race weekend timetable yet, Motorsport.com has learned that the morning practice sessions – particularly Fridays – may be shortened, on account of the fact that the track is ‘green’ or dirty at that time. Several teams traditionally elect to save tires and spend much of the session in the pits, to allow the backmarkers – who need track time – to ‘clean’ the course for them.

In addition, Friday afternoon practice sessions may be extended, and could see the teams gain access to one set of red tires per car, to allow engineers and drivers to learn the behavior of the softer rubber in temperatures and conditions that are more representative of what they’ll encounter in qualifying.

Said Frye: “We’re looking at how to make the weekend’s sessions more interesting and meaningful for the fans, and more productive for the teams. I’d say we’re working to create efficiency within the weekend schedule. Because it’s not just a case of how much time you have as a team, but how much productive time you have – and that goes back to the tire aspect.

“How many sets of tires are available, and what time of day is it? There are times when the teams are practicing on a Saturday morning in the cold but qualifying is at 2pm, the sun’s beating down and it’s 100 degrees ambient. How does the practice help?

“It’s the same deal with the ovals; the guys can often be qualifying in 100 degree heat, but it bears no relation to track conditions if it’s going to be a night race.

“If you give the teams the correct amount of tires to run in a practice window, they’re going to be more active and use the time they have, and that gives more track action for the fans.”

Frye also implied there would be no extra concessions for rookies, whose inexperience is often exaggerated in qualifying at road/street courses by the fact that the reds aren’t available in testing or practice.

“Rookies get additional testing already,” he observed, “so they are already being given opportunities that veterans don’t get.”

He went on to explain that part of the delay in verifying a new and consistent timetable for events on road and street courses was due to trying to align IndyCar’s schedules with that of a traditionally busy support-race roster, as well as with TV slots.

“We have our broadcast partners’ airtime windows to consider, and then also our weekend partners, be it Mazda Road To Indy, Pirelli World Challenge, or IMSA. They’re all good partners and so we try not to dictate; we try and come to an amicable arrangement. And of course there’s at-track promoter activities to consider, too.

“So we want all our partners to know what our schedule is going to be on any given weekend, and that’s where we come back to the consistency. We’re trying to get it to where all the road and street courses have the same schedule and all the ovals, too, to the best extent we can.”

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Series IndyCar
Author David Malsher
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