Brian Barnhart will no longer be in charge of race control for IndyCar in 2012, after a series of organisation changes were announced by chief executive officer Randy Bernard.
Barnhart will step down as Race Director for next season, but will remain with the series as President of Operations overseeing the operational and logistical areas. The official statement from IndyCar said that the two roles were being split "because of increasing demands on the Competition and Operation division."
Barnhart himself explained: "As our sport continues to grow and we prepare for our first new car in almost a decade, we feel that splitting these roles will help fully service our teams and venues as we prepare for the demands of 2012 season."
The President of Operations will be responsible for officials, technical specifications, safety development and implementation, medical and event logistics, while the Race Director will henceforth be able to concentrate on overseeing all on-track activity and stewarding decisions during a race weekend as the senior official in race control.
The change follows a season of ongoing controversies involving race control, which began at the start of the season with driver unhappiness with the introduction of double-file restarts in the series.
That was followed by rows over allegedly inconsistent officiating culminating with events at the crash-filled Toronto road race, accusations of preferential treatment toward the Ganassi team and toward Dario Franchitti in particular, and then the starting of the Baltimore street race with safety vehicles still on track.
The last straw for many was the events at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, where even Barnhart admitted that his call to attempt a late restart on the oval despite continuing rain had been a dreadful mistake. Will Power's two-handed expression of displeasure with race control made headlines around the world and became one of the iconic pictures of the 2011 season, to IndyCar's discomfort.
With a growing sense that many teams and drivers were no longer willing to accept Barnhart's jurisdiction over races, it seemed that a showdown between teams and the organisers was becoming inevitable unless Barnhart stepped or was moved aside, as has now happened.
It's still to be determined who will be taking over the post of Race Director for the new season, with IndyCar saying that they are still reviewing suitable candidates to fill the post. One obvious candidate, Tony Cotman - who was in the equivalent post for Champ Cars and who has been part of the IndyCar race control team in 2011 - is thought to be wanting to lessen his involvement with the series once his role in charge of implementing the new 2012 Dallara DW12 chassis is concluded, in order to focus on his own race track design business.