More than 250 IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights drivers and team representatives descended on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Jan. 12 for the Indy Racing League's annual winter meeting and preseason physicals.
Brian Barnhart, president of competition and racing operations for the sanctioning Indy Racing League, announced several changes to IZOD IndyCar Series cars for the 2010 season during the meeting while other various sanctioning body departments, manufacturers and partners presented updates.
Changes announced for 2010 include removal of the four-position fuel mixture switch from the cars. The Honda overtake assist system will remain and receive almost a doubling of horsepower boost.
The Honda overtake assist was added for the race at Kentucky Speedway in August 2009 and carried through the remainder of the season on ovals and road courses. It provides drivers a boost in horsepower and RPMs for a predetermined number of uses and durations by activating a button on the steering wheel.
"Teams and drivers can still save fuel because they can develop their own fuel strategy, but instead of having a mechanical device to achieve it they can use their right foot," Indy Racing League senior technical director Les Mactaggart said. "It will allow the drivers more strategy during the event. If they want to save fuel they can by controlling the throttle and equally so the overtake assist will be more effective because they'll have more horsepower. The strategy really is to try to give the drivers more choice."
From a technical perspective, there aren't any issues, according to Honda Performance Development technical division manager Roger Griffiths. The "yellow" position will remain - to be used during caution periods if the driver chooses.
A reverse gear supplied by promotional partner Xtrac will be incorporated in cars for the nine road and street course races and be available to drivers through the paddle shift system. Drivers will retain six forward gears, and the kit won't be required for the eight oval events.
"We've been making updates every year (changing gear size, adding the paddle shift system) and it just happened to be the right time to put the gear in the car," IZOD IndyCar Series technical director Kevin Blanch said. "It doesn't make any of the parts obsolete; you just add the new kit. It's on the drop gear side, so when the crew is making gear changes it doesn't interfere. It just stays in the car the whole time."
Additionally, a "floating back" headrest configuration that has been researched and tested by Indy Racing League director of engineering Jeff Horton was recommended for implementation by teams.
Horton developed the "floating back" to curb the disparity in G forces between the car and head in rearward crashes. The Kevlar skin of the headrest is attached to the front of the foam and the sides are allowed to float, "so the driver only feels the effect of the foam during impact," according to Horton.
Teams will realize a dollar savings through decreases in the Honda engine full-season and Indianapolis 500-only lease programs.
A lease for the 17-race season has been reduced $27,000 to $935,000 ($15,000 lease and removal of $12,000 shipping fee) - about half of the 2005 lease program cost. For the Indianapolis 500, Griffiths said: "We're still offering a variety of options, but the basic price for an Indy-only team is $150,000. Last year it was $225,000." The package includes 800 miles of practice and qualifications, Miller Lite Carb Day and the race. A fresh engine for Miller Lite Carb Day and the race will be available for $60,000.
A "short Indy" program - commencing Thursday, May 20, two days before qualifications - will be offered for $90,000. It includes 500 miles of practice and qualifying, with the engine carried over to Miller Lite Carb Day and the race.