Tire Warmers, an idea whose time has come

 by Mark Cipolloni
November 16, 2000

Go to our forums to discuss this article

Tire warmers being used by the Ganassi team on a cold testing day at Nazareth

Several years ago CART's Rules and Technical Committee outlawed the use of tire warmers to keep costs in check. We make a case of why it actually costs the teams more to not have tire warmers, than to have them,  and why CART's Rules and Technical Committee should revisit this issue. 

F1 has allowed the use of tire warmers for many years. Warm tires mean a driver's out-lap after a pit stop can be nearly as fast as any other race lap. However, that is not the primary reason to allow tire warmers. The primary reason is to save cost! 

A set of tire warmers cost around $3,000. A team would need two sets per car for a total one-time cost of $12,000 for a 2-car team. $12,000 is small change when today's budgets run around $20 million per year. More importantly, we have seen more than one driver crash on a warm-up lap, or on a pit stop out-lap, due to cold tires, wiping out a $400,000 car in the process. That only needs to happen to a team once and they could pay for their tire warmers many times over. 

A Champ Car has a lot of HP, much more than a Winston Cup or IRL car.  The chance of losing a car by pressing the throttle a bit too hard on cold tires is very real.  We watched Oriol Servia lose control of his car at Fontana a few weeks ago on the warm-up lap trying to spin his rear tires to get heat in them. He barely missed hitting the wall and went down into the grass before regaining control. We have seen guys like pole-sitter Roberto Guerrero spin out on the pace lap at Indy and hit the wall because of cold tires. We watched Kevin Cogan lose control on cold tires at Indy in the early 80's and wipe out 3 cars before the race even started.

We saw for the first time, tire warmers being used by a Champ Car team at Nazareth yesterday during the Target Chip Ganassi Racing team's testing for rookie drivers Junqueira and Minassian. Afterwards we spoke to the Managing Director of the team, Mike Hull, about why they were using them for testing and why CART does not allow them on race weekends. He said, "on cold days like today the tire warmers really come in handy. They allow us to get the most out of a set of tires, allow our drivers more hot-laps, and reduce the risk of a crash because of cold tires." 

Tires stacked with tire warmer blankets in place

Mike Hull told us one reason why former F3000 drivers like Juan Montoya were so good on cold tires in CART was because in F3000 the drivers are required to go right into a very short and intense qualifying session on cold tires, and they have to make every lap count. He told us at Vancouver Juan Montoya's out-laps were some 3-seconds faster than anyone else's. He said tire warmers would help to level the playing field for drivers who may not be as good on cold tires. 

The Ganassi team decided to start using tire warmers this year because the new rules require all testing to be done during the off-season when air and track temperatures are lower. The tire warmers can be set to any temperature, but he said they typically set them around 190 degrees Fahrenheit, close to the 200 or so degree optimum tire temperature. 

CART's new rules limit a team to 3-sets of tires per session next year on race weekends and Mike said they want to be able to get as many hot laps out of the tires as possible. He feels it's time for CART's technical rules committee to readdress this issue. Although he did not come right out and say it, it seemed obvious that he thought they should be allowed on race weekends as well. 

There bottom line question CART has to ask itself is - are $3,000 tire warmers worth the benefits of 1) reduce risk of wiping out a $400,000 car on cold tires, 2) better use of tires allotted during a race weekend, 3) less questionable blocking by drivers on cold tires during a race trying to maintain their position after a pit stop, 4) whenever CART encounters a very cold race day with air temperatures below the tire manufacturers minimum recommendation, like it did at Nazareth last year, the race can still go on with warmed tires.

We hope CART takes another look at this issue.  Is saving a team $12,000 in the short term, worth the increased risk of losing a very expensive race car.  We don't think so.

The author can be contacted at markc@autoracing1.com

Go to our forums to discuss this article




CART's road and street races are clicking with the fans

Is it sport, or just P.T. Barnum show-biz?

IRL debut at Fontana - a victim of friendly fire

CART's 2003 race venues #1 in the world

Meet the Gonzalez brothers

ISC is making enemies in Miami

And the 2002 CART Champion will be...

A wakeup call for CART and the IRL

Chris Pook - making all the right moves

Promoting a race - Adelaide topped them all

AUTOCOURSE is THE CART Yearbook to have

Has anyone noticed

Should CART race in Adelaide?

Remembering Bob Estes

2002 will be a critical year for Pook and for CART

Tongue-In-Cheek, we take out the crystal ball again

CART & IRL - it's becoming clearer now where we're going

CART & ALMS - Two Birds of a Feather?

What's the holdup on Chris Pook?

Will CART get Shanghaied?

2002 CART season shaping up just fine

CART Franchise Board fails to ratify new engines

Is Ginger just what the doctored ordered for Alex Zanardi

Vannini plays hardball with Forsythe

Spotlight on Mexico City

Is Premier1 positioned where CART should be?

Has the Gonzalo Rodriguez lawsuit turned in CART's favor?

Jim Russell Advanced Racing Course - Learning to race

CART - a stranger in a strange land

German 500 - measuring the media impact

CART N/A Engine/Car Update

An in-depth interview with Jonathan Vannini

Comparing CART and F1

Vannini advocates major overhaul to rescue CART series

Engines - There, that was easy, now let's get on with the racing

Americans don't realize what they have in CART

A proposed solution to CART's engine dilemma

Ford Cosworth opens its doors

Bullish on CART

A German's first-time CART experience

My thoughts on a variety of CART issues - by Jon Vannini

AutoRacing1 Exclusive - Is Shanghai in CART's future?

As CART goes global, what about its sponsors?

If Mexico City will get 350,000, would India get 400,000?

The inevitable globalization of CART

CART's new TV deal - don't put the CART before the horse

CART in China - Why Shanghai is the best venue

Rockingham is ready for CART.  Is CART ready for Rockingham?

Beating a dead horse.  Where's my fork?

Successful CART Venues - It takes two to tango

Setting the record straight on CART's German 500

Rebuilding CART from the grassroots up!

Could this be the break Gidley has been waiting for?

CART, ALMS or NASCAR extravaganza weekends

A true global vision will serve CART well

A proposal for CART and IRL to coexist peacefully

The Triple Crown - a proposal for CART's success

650HP, 750HP, 850HP, it doesn't seem to matter

Movie Review: DRIVEN

Ryan Arciero hopes to continue family dynasty

CART & IRL, a missed opportunity

Things are happening at CART

CART' Data Acquisition Systems - there's a new kid on the block.

CART's next moves will be crucial.

The greatest Long Beach GP of all-time.

CART & IRL - close, and yet so far.

CART Engines, if it ain't broke, don't fix it

And the 2001 CART Champion will be....

The HANS Device saved my fathers life

Soft walls or soft cars?

Safety- It's going to take more than just magic to fix

CART vs. IRL, Hatfields vs. McCoys

DRIVEN is CART's best chance to become mainstream

Is CART's problem really a lack of American's?

CART vs. NASCAR - TV Coverage

Perhaps CART need look no further than NASCAR to understand that the Bubbas' rule auto racing

Book review - Autocourse 2000/2001

Do heroes make a sport, or does a sport make heroes?

To-Do-List, for CART's new President

 Lawsuits, Will Greg Moore's final legacy to racing be more than one of "spirit"? 

Tire Warmers, an idea whose time has come

Branding CART and their race cars

Will CART's next leader be a corporate visionary?

Addressing CART's TV issues

CART, do you know who you are?

Will CART miss this boat too, - Destined to forever race in the shadows of NASCAR?

Lights to IRL Specs - Why the new Indy Lights cars should meet IRL specs

Soft Walls - drivers take a stand while you still can

Sigma team - ready to do combat in CART

CART Fan Forum - Highlights from CART's very first Fan Forum

Warren Hughes - A name to remember

CART restarts - NASCAR Style

Mario Andretti Tribute - America's Driver of the Century

Shift w/o Lift - How it works

Aerodynamics - CART's chance to make progressive changes

CART's HP dilemma

Soft Walls - Finally, a safer wall system

Buddy Rice deserves a shot at Champ Cars

Choices, Choices, we rate possible new CART venues

CART must avoid Detroit's politics

10 ways for CART to invest $100 million

Montoya and Ganassi do CART proud at Indy

Welcome to AutoRacing1.com

A year of progress shapes Rockingham

A solution for CART's franchise dilemma

Lausitzring nears completion, fighting hard to win CART date

Paul Tracy keeps his Kool, wins LBGP for 2nd time

What is an American driver?

Warming up at Nazareth

172 mph in a Champ Car is the ultimate adrenaline rush

Standing Start Rules proposed standing start rules for CART

Standing Starts are they right for CART

Convert this page to
another language

e-mail us:

Back to the top

AutoRacing1 is an independent internet online publication and is not affiliated with, sponsored by, or endorsed by CART Inc., NASCAR, FIA,  FedEx, Winston, or any other series sponsor. This material may not be published, broadcast, or redistributed without permission.
User agreement & disclaimer

Copyright 1999 - 2001, AutoRacing1, Inc., Hamilton, NJ