Editorial

What's new for Champ Car in 2007 - Part 1
 
by Mark Cipolloni

 December 10, 2006

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Champ Car drivers will have a lot to cheer about in 2007 as competition should really heat up because of Champ Car's rules changes
Bob Heathcote

There are a lot of exciting changes coming for Champ Car in 2007 as they begin their fourth of a five year turnaround plan set up by Kevin Kalkhoven, Gerald Forsythe and Paul Gentilozzi.  In this article we look at the new rules for 2007.  In part 2 of this article, to be published at a later date, we will look at news faces and the new TV deal for 2007.

As is customary, Champ Car looks at its rule book in the off-season and makes changes to improve the series.  Dissecting the 2007 rule book, here’s a summary of what’s been changed from 2006 to 2007:

Timed instead of distance races
Because it's important for Champ Car to fit into a 2-hour (sometimes 2.5 hour) TV window a brief pre-race buildup, the race and then a short post-race interview, Champ Car has decided to change all their races from a set number of laps to a timed race, about 1h40m or 1h45m (TBD).  In this way the fans will not feel cheated if the race must be cut short from its published race distance due to TV time, and fans watching on TV are no longer cheated out of seeing the finish when the TV broadcaster switches over to the next show before the end of the race because a race ran long.

For all events a race time limit, exclusive of any red flag period(s), will be declared by the Vice President of Operations. As the race leader approaches the start/finish line and the elapsed race time approaches the declared time limit a one lap to go signal will be displayed (no more white flag, one finger will be displayed by the starter). The race will be officially over the next time the race leader crosses the start/finish line and the checkered flag is displayed.

Standing starts
For the first time in Champ Car's history Standing Starts have been written into the rule book.  Champ Car Vice President of Operations, Tony Cotman, told us that "We will test standing starts at all three pre-season tests (at Sebring, MSR Houston and Laguna Seca) and depending on the venue (i.e. is the track wide enough, etc.) it is my intention to use standing starts like we did with Atlantic this year.  My plan is to use a standing start at the very first race in Las Vegas."

Here is how a Standing Start will work.

Countdown Period.

• A “drivers to your cars” command will be given via radio from Race Control.
• A “drivers in your cars” command will be given via radio from Race Control.
• A three minute board will be displayed at the front of the pre-grid and all personnel will leave the pre-grid with the exception of up to three (3) crew members with each race car.
• A one minute board will be displayed, along with the “drivers start your engines” command. All personnel must then completely clear the pre-grid.
• At the appropriate time the pace car will roll and the drivers will follow in single file, starting order.

Parade Laps.

• During the parade laps drivers will keep in starting order with no overtaking and the speed will be set by the pace car. Falling back to accelerate and undertake practice starts is prohibited.
• If a car was unable to leave the pre-grid with the rest of the field it will be allowed to trail the field and resume its original starting position if time permits prior to the pole sitter beginning the second lap.


Standing start lights
Mark Cipolloni

Gridding the cars.
• At the end of the parade laps, the pace car will enter the pits and the field will take their starting positions. The front wheels of the car must remain behind the grid line.
• All personnel are strictly prohibited from the grid.
• A 15 second board will be shown from the starters stand once all cars are in position (which indicates 15 seconds until the light sequence begins).
• The red lights will illuminate one by one.
• The race starts once all red lights go out (not less than half a second, but no more than three seconds).
• A false start shall be declared when the race car moves forward from its prescribed position before the lights go out.
• A penalty will be imposed for a false start judged by the Officials. Decisions by the Officials are not subject to protest or appeal.

Aborted Start.
If the start is aborted the yellow lights will illuminate. Instructions will be given to teams via the radio. The standing start procedure may be abandoned and the pace car will be dispatched for a rolling start.


In-season testing at places like Sebring will now be mileage based instead of day based.
Champ Car

Testing - Mileage instead of day based
To save cost Champ Car has limited pre-season and in-season testing for a number of years.  However, whereas before each team was given a specific number of test days to use, in-season testing is now mileage based. In addition to the three Champ Car sanctioned pre-season 'open' tests, each team will get 600 total miles of in-season testing.   A team that has a rookie driver will get an extra 300 miles of in-season testing.  Teams can use them over however many days they would like. 

Off Season Testing.
Unlimited testing of the Lola chassis using remaining engine miles is allowed between November 13, 2006 and December 15, 2006. Entrants are limited to four sets of tires per day for this purpose. These tires may not be carried forward to any other testing or event use.

Open Tests.
Three sanctioned open tests will be scheduled in 2007 as indicated below. There is no mileage restriction at open tests.
• January 23-25 at Sebring: 3 Days 10 sets of tires
• February 12-13 at MSR Houston: 2 Days 7 sets of tires
• March 9-10 at Laguna Seca: 2 Days 7 sets of tires

In-season Team Testing
Each full season entrant is limited to 16 sets of tires, 600 miles and 6 days maximum testing during the 2007 testing calendar. 
In-season Rookie Tests. Each entrant, with a licensed rookie driver who is entered to drive in the current Champ Car World Series season, shall be allowed an additional 300 miles and 8 sets of tires for rookie testing.

Wind Tunnel Testing. All wind tunnel testing of any type is strictly prohibited for the 2007 season. This ban includes testing of any representation of a Panoz DP01 chassis in any physical facility that is representative of a wind tunnel. They probably should have banned rolling testing too.  For example the Chip Ganassi team leases an abandoned highway tunnel in Pennsylvania to do friction rolling testing and aero testing void of any unwanted wind currents.

Shaker Rig Testing. Shaker rig testing is permitted.

New flag rules
Champ Car has now adopted the standard 'solid' FIA blue flag, and changed the way the white flag is used, again per the FIA. Whereas before the white flag meant one lap to go, that really comes from American oval racing and Champ Car is out of the oval racing business for the time being.  The white flag with red cross means a safety vehicle is on the course.  A solid white flag means a slower race car is on course.  Here are the flag rules that have changed:

Blue Flag. When displayed from a marshal station, the blue flag (no more blue flag with stripe) indicates that an approaching race car is attempting to overtake and the race car being signaled should give consideration to the overtaking competitor.  When displayed from the starters stand, the blue flag is a command ordered directly from the Race Director. During the race, any driver failing to give way upon display of the blue flag from the starters stand will be penalized.

White Flag with Red Cross. The white flag with red cross displayed from the starter's stand indicates that an emergency or safety vehicle is on the race track and requires the reduction of speed and the exercise of
extreme caution.

Solid White Flag. A solid non-waving white flag will be displayed to indicate a race car is not at racing speed on the racing surface. A waving solid white flag indicates an emergency service vehicle or a very slow moving race car.

The use of the primary and spare race car
For 2007 Champ Car has changed the way a team can use a spare race car.  Entrants may switch race cars only one time during an event. Under no circumstance may an entrant use more than one race car in any given practice or qualifying session.  In the event that an entrant switches race cars, any previously recorded
qualifying laps and any bonus points earned will be forfeited. In the event that a race car is withdrawn after all qualifying is concluded, all recorded qualifying laps and any bonus points earned will be forfeited and the
entrant will start the race from the rear of the field.  Under extreme circumstances, the Race Director retains the authority to allow usage of another race car for the race.

Officials taken out of pit stalls
Whereas before race officials were assigned to cover one or two pit stalls during pitstops, and stand right there next to the race car during pit stops, these officials will now stand where the team pit-board man is stationed and look across the pit lane to the car.  However, now the official will be equipped with a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) and will be able to not only instant message race control in real-time, they can also instant message teams. Instant messaging was implemented in 2006 between race control and the teams, now it has been extended to the pit officials as well.

Maximum fine increased
The Vice President of Operations and the Officials shall have the authority to levy a fine not exceeding two hundred and fifty thousand dollars $250,000.00 U.S. (was $100,000) against any person who violates any Champ Car rule.

Saturday morning practice duration increased
Second day on-track activities will consist of a seventy-five (75) minute (was 60 minutes) practice session and a sixty (60) minute qualifying session.


The only real changes allowed on the new car for 2007 will be race and qualifying chassis and wing angle adjustments
Mark Cipolloni

No changes allowed on New Car
With the new Panoz DP01 'spec' car Champ Car is not allowing any aero and mechanical performance enhancing changes by teams.  By locking down the technical rules any new team and the lesser funded teams will have a chance to compete on equal terms, at least in year #1.  Any component supplied as part of the rolling chassis, engine, or gear box which requires replacement must be supplied by the manufacturer(s) designated by Champ Car.  In years 2 and 3 Champ Car may open it up a bit (mechanically and aero) to allow teams some engineering freedom.

Major technical violations will result in a fine of no more than $100,000.00 and the loss of up to 50 championship points. Decisions by the Officials in this regard are final and not subject to protest or appeal.

No change to minimum car weight
Whereas Champ Car had said that the new car was over 100 pounds lighter than the Lola it replaces, in fact per the 2007 rule book the minimum car weight remains at 1565 pounds +/- driver weight variance.  The minimum race car weight of 1565 pounds will be adjusted for each entrant based on the driver weight variance relative to an average driver weight determined by the Champ Car Medical Department at the start of the race season.

Tires
Teams will now be given one more additional set of 'regular' tires to use in the hope that they will do more practice and qualifying laps.  Before teams were not running the full sessions to save what few tires they had.

Dry Type Tires. At all events, dry type tires will be limited to 36 (was 32) tires per entrant per event unless otherwise specified by bulletin.  At all events, the total tire allotment for each entrant will include 7 sets of primary tires (was 6) and 2 sets of alternate 'soft' red-sidewall tires.

Also, there is now unlimited tire use during qualifying, a team gets to decide how they want to manage their allocated number of tires.

Onboard starters
For the first time Champ Cars will carry onboard starters.  In case a driver stalls on track (either on the grid or after a spin during the race) they can attempt to restart the car and perhaps avoid a full course yellow.  Use of the Panoz supplied starter motor is mandatory.  For the time being the safety trucks will not carry starters, but if the onboard units prove problematic Tony Cotman is prepared to add portable starters to the safety trucks.

More readable car numbers
Because open wheel cars are small compared to stock cars, reading the car number has always been difficult for the race fans.  Now the race fan can look to the end plates of the rear wings, that is where they always will be.  Rear car numbers on right and left rear wing endplates must be composed of numerals a minimum of 8.0 inches high.

The author can be contacted at markc@autoracing1.com

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