Push-to-Pass means no more parades for CART


 by Mark Cipolloni
July 15, 2003

Go to our forums to discuss this article

Over the years, CART has suffered much ridicule for its lack of passing, and I'll be the first to admit I had joined that chorus as well.  I'm happy to report it looks as though CART is once again willing to listen to criticism and take action to correct a problem.  In 2004 it looks pretty certain that CART will re-implement a HP enhancing push-to-pass button, but this time one that really works. 

Everyone predicted getting rid of traction control would fix the problem of no-passing. It hasn't. Time for Plan B

The push-to-pass button is an overtake button.  Because CART races on so many tight urban venues, overtaking is not as easy as on a superspeedway where a driver can draft past his opponent.  While a push-to-pass button may initially sound like an artificial way to pass, you must get past the initial idea of it being artificial, and understand just how it will work and how it will add to the excitement of the races. The drivers don't think it will be artificial, so why should you?  If anything, it's less artificial than the passes we see using the draft on superspeedways. What talent does that require?

The proposal to CART last year was to give the drivers a little extra power for short bursts to mix things up a bit, and, according to CART Vice President of Race Operations John Lopes at Tuesday night's Columbus, Ohio Town Meeting, it almost assuredly will be implemented in 2004. 

Testing will begin this coming winter and starting in 2004 the push-to-pass button will work something like this (note: the exact details have yet to be worked out, but here is one scenario I discussed with CART and Cosworth) - each driver will get 10 steering wheel mounted button pushes per race. When the button is pressed, the driver will get about 50 HP extra for a duration of about 5 to 6 seconds for a total of 50 to 60 seconds of extra power per race. Overtake buttons in the past just gave the driver 10 to 20 additional HP by richening the fuel mix and adding a few degrees of timing spark, and that wasn't enough to really overtake in most cases.  Another way to implement the button would be to give a driver 60 seconds per race and let them use it as many times, and for as long as they want, until they run out of their 60 second allotment.  I believe CART is leaning toward the later scenario.

Even with 50 HP, it's no guarantee a driver will pull off the pass. The driver will have to strategically decide when to use his allotment of pushes or seconds. Strategy is very key to this whole concept, because once you use up your allotment, you become a sitting duck unless you have built a big enough lead that it doesn't matter - like Paul Tracy did in Toronto last weekend. 

Pretend you are a driver. Do you use a push or two at the start to grab a position? Do you use them just before or after a pit stop? Do you use a push to defend against an overtake attempt? Do you pass someone back who just passed you, or do you let them go and get them back later. Do you use it halfway down the straight, or as you exit the corner? How many do you save for the end? If you fall too far behind, saving all 10 pushes or your 60 seconds for the end may be fruitless. If you run out of revs the driver will have to grab the next gear. Did they leave an extra gear (another top gear) just in case?

When and where you use a push, be it offensively, or defensively, counts as one of your ten pushes. Think about this, the Long Beach straight is rather long, more than 5 seconds long. Say, a driver pushes his button coming out of the hairpin while banging through the gears, after 5 seconds of 50 extra HP he gets alongside the driver in front, and perhaps even slightly ahead. He thinks he has the corner at the end of the straight, but wait. The driver being passed waits, and then pushes his button half way down the straight and gets back ahead. It's all part of the strategy....but every push used is just that much less for later.

The combinations and permutations of when and where you use a push will make each race a real crapshoot, not only the race for the lead, but the race for every position in the field.

Imagine the number of possible position changes each race. This will put an end once and for all to CART's parades and get the fans in the grandstands on their feet cheering. All the drivers I talked to are in favor of the idea, because they are frustrated that they can't pass now because the cars are all so equal and most of the tight street circuits just don't provide enough room.

I talked to Cosworth about how this will be implemented. While I originally proposed it be done with turbo boost, my thought now is to do it through electronics, RPM, and fuel management so the concept can also be used when CART moves to normally aspirated V10s in 2005.  Exactly how it gets implemented will be up to CART and Cosworth.

The "button" won't guarantee a pass, you must first be good enough to get close, and then good enough to stay ahead. It's an aid to help fix CART's boring follow-the-leader parades. To give a driver that little extra to make a pass that would otherwise be impossible on some of CART's Mickey Mouse street circuits.

When CART opens the series back up to multiple manufacturers in 2005, it's likely the electronics on the engines will be supplied by CART (i.e. the ECM) to ensure no one uses traction control and so that competition improving concepts such as this can be implemented.  At the end of the day, the racing product must be good and the paying customer must see a good show and get their monies worth.

Again, this is no more artificial than drafting on ovals, call it street and road racing drafting if you like. Road and street racing tends to be follow-the-leader. If there was no competition from oval racing perhaps it would be OK, but CART can't continue to produce parades while the competition produces exciting races with lots of passes.

This concept will work and has been used in the Formula Palmer Audi series in Europe with 40 extra HP on a much lighter car. Not the same exact implementation, but the same concept.

If CART can put on an exciting show week in and week out, it's much easier to get people hooked and following the series on a regular basis. CART has BIG events, but the fans who go to those BIG events don't become fans of the sport, but of the event. Hence, they don't tune in on TV from home the following weeks and TV ratings remain lackluster at best.

CART must build fans of the entire series. To do that, you must have a sport that grabs their interest enough to want to tune in again tomorrow. That takes drivers who are heroes (Like Mario Andretti and AJ Foyt were, and like the NASCAR drivers are today) and races that are entertaining. NASCAR fans follow every race throughout the year - they cheer for their heroes (every successful sport has heroes) and they enjoy the race not knowing what the outcome will be until the very end. They stand and cheer for every pass and they cheer loudest when the passes happen on the final lap.

They have passes, CART currently doesn't. It's hard to sell a parade as a sport.

Having said that if CART didn't do something to make their races interesting and exciting to the masses, the current and potential new fans, my friends there will come a day when we won't have our beloved CART to discuss.

It's my opinion that the push-to-pass button, after refinement, is the perfect answer to a number of problems. I believe it can only increase the strength and longevity of CART.  In this world of diversion people want to get excited for their dollar, not bored. When they go to a race, they want to see racing, not follow the leader for two hours.

Finally, I feel this is some of the most incredible and positive news for CART and auto race fans in a long while. The sooner the better.  It should be awesome.  Let's hope it happens.

The author can be contacted at markc@autoracing1.com

Go to our forums to discuss this article


Other Editorials

Champ Car's Minardi 2-seater is the ultimate ride

For Alex Figge and PCM it's baptism by fire

A tribute to Alfred J. Cipolloni

Champ Car owners move to silence critics

Establishing a firm foundation for Champ Car

One-on-one with Champ Car President Steve Johnson

J.R. Hildebrand is one American going places in a hurry

What's new for Champ Car for 2007 - Part 1

Champ Car positions itself for international expansion

Paul Stoddart confirms interest in Champ Car

An inside look at Champ Car TV production

Ho-Pin Tung wants to be Champ Car's first Chinese driver

Stephen King explains Justin Wilson's novel Investor's Club

One-on-one with American sensation AJ Allmendinger

Champ Car moving forward without the IRL

One-on-one with Paul Tracy

Bruce Delahorne explains CDW's sponsorship in Champ Car

One-on-one with Justin Wilson

Champ Car bosses won't be bullied

Part 2: NASCAR/ISC get dirty in Phoenix, out to destroy Open Wheel

Part 1: NASCAR/ISC get dirty in Phoenix, out to destroy Open Wheel

The Rahals: Like father, like son

Why and IRL/Champ Car merger will be a big boost for the sport

Headless Open Wheel Racing appears doomed

Richard Lyons looking at Champ Car for his next challenge

We salute the champions of 2005

Is Jay Howard the next Ayrton Senna?

Interview with Grand-Am President Roger Edmondson

Otaru, Japan Champ Car race moving closer to reality

Champ Car's global appeal may ride on mimicking the Team Australia concept

Champ Car's Surfers Paradise race promoter "gets it"

Champ Car cements another brick in its foundation

Custom built Champ Cars and Indy Cars

Interview with RuSPORT Team President Jeremy Dale

Conspiracy Theory: What Indy was really all about

Why the Champ Car/IRL war must end

How a Champ Car and IRL merger might work

Will the battle for Long Beach destroy its Grand Prix?

Katherine Legge has her eyes set on Champ Car

Traveling Light Media - Just what the doctor ordered

Champ Car lays out bold 3-year plan

Champ Car's 2005 driver lineup vastly improved

Hunter-Reay anxious to get racing again with new team

That sucking sound you hear is NASCAR

Feud - The story of the murder of Mickey Thompson

Yes, Blame Tony and the CART defectors too

Interview with ALMS President Scott Atherton

2005 a foundation laying year for Champ Car

Kalkhoven talks Champ Car with AutoRacing1

Kalkhoven and Forsythe buy Cosworth from Ford

Carl Russo is bullish on Champ Car

Can this be Champ Car's next-generation car

Champ Car poised for major comeback

Champ Car Race Control - the 'Hot Seat Zone'

Open Wheel Racing is in serious need of consolidation

Champ Car South of the Border, An interview with Joe Heitzler

There is an easy way for Champ Car and the IRL to unify

From airport to race track, a race within a race

The 2-seater Car is one of Champ Car's biggest assets

Why Bernie Ecclestone could, and should, buy Champ Car now

Champ Car rocks the streets of Times Square in Manhattan

Why did Fernández leave Champ Car?  Follow the money....

Next Generation Champ Car: A call for F1 tires

Coming to America?  Interview with Ralph Firman Jr.

Open Wheel Racing defeats IRL - Champ Car Series to continue

Open Wheel Racing needs a win by OWRS - Part 2

The next generation Champ Cars - Part 2

Is CART next for Villeneuve?

New deal for CART may be better than first thought

The genius of one Bernard Ecclestone

CART Champ Cars, the next generation - Part 1

Details emerging on CART race in Seoul, South Korea

CART hits a Grand Slam in Mexico City.  Now What?

Top-10 Challenges facing new CART owners

CART can still race in Europe, but will they?

For CART, time is of the essence

Making sense of CART's situation

Push-to-Pass means no more parades for CART

An interview with CART's David Clare

What did Roger Penske really mean?

CART must differentiate itself - clearly

Why turbos make for superior street and race engines

For CART, it's now or never

Chicken or the Egg?

War of the worlds

What Bernie brings to CART

CART, Driven to where?

Is it really about CART vs. IRL?

If I were Bernie

The Champ Cars and St. Pete

An informal survey of the St. Pete race attendees

Artificial Dissemination

CART, F1 coming to grips with doing business in China

Cancel the Funeral

Why CART and F1 must, and will, share a common V-10 engine

Book Review: Autocourse 2002-2003 F1 yearbook

Does CART need Michael Andretti?

2002 CART TV ratings by the numbers

Now is the time for CART to redefine its ladder system

CART gets a taste of tifosi passion in Mexico

Love affair in Mexico

Making sense out of Bernie/CART rumors

Changing of the guard?

Mom, apple pie, CART and....Formula1?

Why CART and Bernie make perfect dance partners

Miami should be a CART and ALMS kickoff party

David slays Goliath in Miami

What to make of Gurney's F1 team

Taking it to the streets, why Miami is a war zone

CART, like the Phoenix, about to rise up from the ashes

There's more than handwriting on the wall.....and here's the concrete facts

Labor Day weekend 1952...A weekend I'll never forget

Team owners show support for CART

CART still may be in cards for Villeneuve

Bryan Herta, USA's next best chance for F1

Is Paul Ricard in CART's future?

CART's real attendance numbers

Is Brands Hatch suitable for Champ Cars?

An Unappealing Appeal, George reigns in GEORGE-town

A candid conversation with Chris Pook

More than meets the eye with CART's turbo move

It's time for CART to define its own future

Key upgrades at Road America

Back-Breaking work

The rebirth of CART

The hidden costs of Indy Car racing

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

Is it sport, or a P.T. Barnum show?

IRL 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

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 - 2003, AutoRacing1, Inc., Hamilton, NJ