English IndyCar Series driver Justin Wilson criticized the race craft on display at the crash-filled IndyCar street race in Toronto last weekend, and called for greater clarity in the rules governing overtaking in the sport to help drivers understand where and when they could make moves – and when they should be aware of being on the receiving end of moves from other drivers.
"It was pretty embarrassing", admitted Wilson, who drives the #22 Dreyer & Reinbold car and who finished 15th in the race. "It was bad. It was kind of the perfect storm. Toronto encourages that sort of driving. You've got the concrete patches where there's no grip so people get over-committed before they even realize it, and we had the side-by-side restarts. But ultimately it all came down to people making really bad decisions and poor race craft."
The issue of where a chasing car needed to be on track relative to the car ahead in order for it to be deemed to be making a 'legitimate' pass was also a thorny question for drivers now, Wilson explained in a radio interview for IndyCar magazine show Trackside airing on a local Indianapolis-based station, presented by Indianapolis Star reporter Curt Cavin and VERSUS cable channel pit lane presenter Kevin Lee.
"It's difficult, and I think a lot of this stems from the fact that we don't allow blocking now," said Wilson. "We don't allow defending either. The guy in the lead is forced to stick around on the outside, leave the door wide open and there's a miscommunication because the guy behind thinks 'Oh, I've got this, he's leaving the door open, I'm going to take it.' The guy in front is not planning that at all, he's going for the optimum racing line … Guess they meet somewhere between corner entry and the apex.
"There's just no rules set in place for the overtaking car to abide by and people as the leading car aren't anticipating well enough that somebody might be trying to fill up spots," he explained. "It's a mess and it needs sorting out – whether that's with some kind of definition of when the car behind deserves a lane, and when it doesn't, and I think that's something that needs to be addressed.
"If not, [then] allow defending," Wilson continued. "Blocking is bad, you know – we all hate seeing the lane tossed just to defend, I think that's bad racing and no one likes to see that. But defending I don't think is such a bad thing and it's part of race craft."
Panther Racing's JR Hildebrand, who finished eighth in the race, also felt that some guidance about where and when overtaking could be attempted on a road course would help avoid the situation seen in Toronto.
"I would definitely agree with Justin that kind of no matter how you look at it, for us – for everyone involved – without a doubt some clarification of, like, 'What is [Race Control]'s idea of a legitimate pass and what's not?' would definitely be helpful, because I think … whether it's because we're going faster and the stakes are higher or whatever, I think it's a little more clear on ovals."
Hildebrand pointed out that the series' mix of circuits presented a particularly challenging inconsistency through the season. "With the IndyCar Series it's tough, because it's so much different road course to oval," he said. "On an oval, basically if you've got your wing underneath a guy that line should be yours, [whereas on the road courses] you've got to be all the way alongside a guy before its your corner, and I think that makes it tough going from road course to ovals." He suggested that drivers meetings should highlight the difference in expectations as the series moves from one format of track to another to make sure everyone was on the same page. Crash.net