©2002 SpeedCenter Publishing
MONTEREY, Calif. (February 9, 2002) - A productive eight-hour Championship Auto Racing Teams, Inc. (CART) Franchise Board of Directors meeting held yesterday near Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca resulted in the approval of dozens of rule changes and resolutions that locked down CART's race car package for 2003 - 2006 in addition to introducing several enhancements that will improve the racing competition in this year's CART FedEx Championship Series. The meeting was held in conjunction with the 2002 CART FedEx Championship Series Sneak Preview that is being held at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca through Sunday.
The key development of the meeting was the approval of CART's next generation engine and chassis package that will debut next season and be the series standard through 2006. Future CART Champ Cars will feature 3.5-liter normally aspirated (non-turbocharged) engines that will be limited to up to 12,000 rpm. Traction control will be permitted but the engines will be limited to an annual cost cap of $2.7 million for a season, including all racing and testing.
The engines will be coupled with race cars that will feature "tubs" - which are the central units of a race car chassis - identical to those being used by race cars competing in the Indianapolis 500, an event in which several CART teams have indicated a desire in which to race both now and in the future. The new CART chassis, however, will continue to feature CART's existing aerodynamic packages that include different set-ups for short oval tracks, road courses and superspeedways.
Similar to the engine program, the new CART chassis regulations will include a to-be-determined cost cap that will greatly reduce the expense of competing in the FedEx Championship Series. In total, the new engine and chassis package combined is targeted to meet a total annual operating budget of roughly $5 - $6 million per car, about half of the current price for a top effort.
"Our goals since the basic 3.5 liter engine formula was approved last October was to finalize an overall CART Champ Car race car package that will reduce costs and improve the racing while taking into account the current state of open-wheel auto racing in the United States and at a global level," said CART Vice President of Racing Operations John Lopes. "CART continues to offer an unparalleled line up of unique racing events contested on a variety of oval and road course race circuits both in North America and overseas. We strongly believe that our new 2003 - 2006 race car package will allow us to continue to deliver a quality CART product to all of our business partners and race fans both here in the U.S. and around the world.
"I am also grateful to the CART Franchise Board of Directors for their tireless efforts and swift action in both yesterday's meeting and our meeting last month in St. Petersburg, Florida," Lopes continued. "What we have accomplished in those meetings was nothing short of the most significant changes in the history of CART and this could only be accomplished through the unified efforts of all involved. We have clearly charted our course for the future and will now shift our efforts into working with existing and potential manufacturer suppliers and teams to join us as we take CART Champ Car racing to another level."
Additional developments for the new package included the approval of engine and chassis supply criteria and the adoption of a cost-capped gearbox that will be capped in the $60,000 range. Although not "spec" units from a single manufacturer, the gearboxes will follow uniform rules constraints.
"I also want to extend my thanks to the CART Race Operations staff who have worked very closely with all of our teams, drivers and manufacturer partners in providing the Board with the necessary information to make these critical decisions. This includes Director of Technology and Competition Lee Dykstra, Director of Electronics Jeff Horton, Senior Manager of Competition Gary Barnard, Chief Steward Wally Dallenbach and CART Steward Chris Kneifel."
2002 COMPETITION CHANGES
In addition to the locking down the long-term CART Champ Car race car package, the Franchise Board also approved several rules and resolutions that will greatly enhance the racing competition in the 2002 CART FedEx Championship Series. Among the mandates of new CART President and CEO Chris Pook is to increase the "show" value of CART racing events in order to provide a better and more entertaining event for race fans on site and watching FedEx Championship Series races on SPEED Channel, Fox Network and CBS television.
"We established at the St. Petersburg board meeting an environment in which the world's automotive manufacturers and sponsors could justify a new or continuing involvement in CART with the establishment of our four-year rules freeze that will be applied to the new race car package," Pook said. "Now, we need to shift our attention to our current situation as we head into the 2002 FedEx Championship Series season. We believe the CART FedEx Championship Series provides one of the most entertaining forms of motorsport in the world. Our new partnership with the FOX family of networks, that is anchored by an unprecedented level of programming on FOX, CBS and SPEED Channel, gives us an outstanding opportunity to showcase our sport in new and innovative ways. In order to do this, I urged the board to consider several enhancements to our racing events and I am delighted and grateful that they saw fit to clear the majority of these initiatives yesterday."
The list of enhancements includes the following:
· The return of Friday qualifying at road course races and a revised qualifying procedure that will see the fastest driver from each day of qualifying awarded a bonus point. Each race's pole winner will again be determined by the fastest lap of both Friday and Saturday qualifying sessions, but the provisional pole winner will be guaranteed a front row starting spot regardless of the outcome of final qualifying.
"These enhancements add a couple of additional elements in qualifying on which fans can focus," Pook said. "The front row 'lock' truly awards drivers that are putting it all on the line for the fans on Friday while the second-day single point bonus creates something for the drivers to shoot for, even in the event of a rain situation. Considering the 1999 FedEx Championship Series ended deadlocked (with Juan Montoya winning in a tiebreaker), you can believe drivers will always try to get every point available to them."
· Additional qualifying enhancements include the establishment of a maximum of 15 timed laps per session with a guaranteed 45 minutes (of a 60 minute session) of green flag time at road course events. Additionally, all race cars will qualify in one group. The penalty for creating a red flag situation in road course qualifying has also been changed. Drivers causing such conditions will now lose their fastest lap in that session rather than be parked for eight minutes in the pits as has been the case the last few seasons. The practice of carry over penalties to the next race has also been abolished.
Oval track qualifying order will also revert to the inverse of that weekend's total practice speeds, with the fastest drivers of the weekend to that point qualifying last. Pit lane speed limits have also been abolished in oval track qualifying.
"These efforts are being done to put a little showmanship into our qualifying," Pook said. "By having the limited number of laps in road course qualifying, it will be easy to anticipate when a driver is going to make a flying run for the pole. On the ovals, lifting the speed limit will bring back tire warming burnouts as drivers head on to the track to make a qualifying run. And eliminating eight-minute stoppages as penalties will keep our cars and drivers on the race track where they should be. This is all great stuff."
· Race finishes under caution have also been addressed with CART committing to red flag stoppages for late-race incidents whenever possible. Extended full-course caution flag periods will also be minimized and CART will now follow the worldwide FIA standard for local caution flag periods whenever possible. This basically lengthens the on-track area of the local caution period from flag station to flag station while leaving the pits open the entire time.
"Even if it comes down to 'green-white-checker' we want our races to end under green when we can," Pook said. "And the more local yellows we have, the more we can keep the pits open and the more racing we can keep on the track."
· Timed races and fuel conscious "economy runs" have also been given some needed attention. Although miles-per-gallon fuel stipulations will still be in place, CART Race Operations will develop a formula that will give competitors more than enough fuel to compete "flat out" in FedEx Championship Series races. The details of this exact formula will be announced at a later date. Additionally, timed races will rarely be mandated this season due in large part to the increased amount of television time available within the SPEED Channel relationship.
"A timed race may occasionally be required but the trend of such timed races becoming the norm rather than the exception is over," Pook said. "Our fans and competitors deserve a full show and that is what they will get. And the fact that competitors will no longer be constrained by fuel restrictions is just another addition to the package. This all comes down to creating a competitive and entertaining show."