Overheard at Sonoma Friday – 1

Standing starts were never an issue with the superior Champ Cars. The fans absolutely loved them.
Standing starts were never an issue with the superior Champ Cars. The fans absolutely loved them.

We hear that standing starts, favored by most fans, but abandoned by IndyCar with the current engine and clutch, can still be on the table with the new 2021 engine. The larger displacement of the new engine (2.4L vs. the current 2.2L) means it will be less prone to stalling because a larger displacement engine can generate more torque. Of course torque is not all there is to it – electronics and the clutch also come into play, as well as driver skill of course.

So we posed the question to Honda HPD boss Art St. Cyr as well as IndyCar Competition Director Jay Frye.

Art, Speaking of the engine for 2021, there was an attempt a couple years ago to have standing starts, then it was abandoned because of stalls – some accidents occurred because of them. I know Champ Car did some back in 2007, had perfected the system pretty well where the cars weren't stalling. Any discussion between you and Chevy and IndyCar about doing something with either the electronics or whatever it takes to get these engines to work well for a standing start? Is that on the table?

"Well, to be quite honest with you, we haven't really discussed that," said St. Cyr.

"But with that being said, given enough lead time, it's always possible. Anything is possible. Obviously our sister company in Japan, in F1, they do standing starts. The technology exists.

"Right now, at least in the rules as we have discussed them, there's not really been a consideration in place for standing starts.

"With that being said, though, we're always looking to improve the show, improve the racing, make it more interesting for fans. If doing that makes sense, it would be something that we'd be willing to consider in the future. Right now there is no timeframe or no plans to talk about those activities."

Is Some of that is probably related to electronics?

"It's electronics, it's clutch. There's lots of things that go into standing starts. It's about – do you do it with cold tires, hot tires. How do you actually plan for it, right?

"I think the way it was done before, the concept was good, but I think there were some things we could have done better to prevent or at least mitigate some of the risk we were taking when we were doing standing starts."

This weekend in Sonoma out Mike Silver asked Jay Frye about this topic.

"At this point we have not considered starts. It's not to say we wouldn't, we just haven't yet."

We also broached the subject of push-to-pass with the two gentlemen.

The 'push to pass' controversy has been that the 'push to pass' is used as defense as well as offense, and therefore we're not seeing as many passes as maybe we would if it was just an offense mechanism. What would it take, is there any issue for you to make it so it only works as an offense mechanism?

"I mean, from a — I'll answer the question from a technical side," said St. Cyr.

"From a technical side, we can do anything that IndyCar wants to do, right? Originally you got 10 pushes, then we turned it to time because that's what people wanted.

"As soon as we make rules, everyone is going to look to try to figure out how to best utilize, how to best race within those rules. It's almost like it's a moving target when we do that.

"The actual how to define what is defense and what is offense, I think it's a very valid point, but I think it needs a little bit more discussion. Whatever rules are or however we want to do that, I think we are capable of adjusting the system that we have right now to accommodate anything we want to do on that.

"The devil is going to be in the details when it comes to that. Conceptually it sounds very easy. In practice it might be harder. I don't know because we haven't engaged in deep thought about how that's going to work, to be honest with you.

"Like I say, as a technical exercise we can do anything at this point."

Given there's no discussion, you don't see something like that happening before 2021?

"I wouldn't necessarily say that. We'd be just as capable of doing it in the 2021 engine as we would in — well, 2019 might get a little bit tight.

"Again, we're always looking for ways to improve the racing. The current Verizon IndyCar Series, what used to be the Verizon IndyCar Series, the current IndyCar Series is some of the best racing on the planet. Anything that we can do to help improve that as manufacturers, that's what we want to do.

Something has to be done because some of these races the passing has been difficult. The complaint is it's used as defense, and hence it is not doing what it intended to do.

"I agree with you on that one," St. Cyr told Mark C.

"I would also counter by saying, to be able to turn it on and off was going to improve the racing, as well. I think we need to think about it from a whole conceptual level. The question on the technical side is, yes, we can do it. The question of how we can do it still needs to be worked out. The question is how can we make it better for racing."

However, when our Mike Silver posed the same question to Jay Frye today at Sonoma he seemed more inclined to just do away with P2P altogether.

"We are still considering removing P2P altogether and not replacing it. Just let them race," Frye told AR1.com's Mike Silver.

Mark C's opinion is simple – because IndyCar is not good enough to figure out how to prevent P2P from being used as a defense mechanism, the fans will have to suffer with watching more on-track parades. When you have spec cars that are all so equal, braking zones that have become so short, and tire marbles off the racing line, you have the perfect recipe for a parade. Maybe they can have a parade float as the pace car. Mark C. and Mike Silver reporting for AR1.com

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