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Iowa starting grid to be set by heats

14 February 2012

The IZOD IndyCar Series is tweaking some of the procedures relating to qualifying and restarts at certain tracks in 2012, the newly appointed race director Beaux Barfield has announced.

Instead of single-car speed test laps at Iowa Speedway, qualification will instead take the form of three 'heats' of 30 laps each to determine the starting places of all the cars.

The groups for the three heats will be set according to times from the practice session held earlier on the day: the cars in the top ten in practice will race for the top ten grid positions, while the remaining cars will be split into two groups based on whether they had an even- or odd-position in the practice session. The two groups will then compete in heats for grid positions 11, 13, ... and 12, 14, ... accordingly.

It's an attempt to introduce some of the excitement from the successful revamping of road course qualifying procedures, which sees car progress through two rounds of qualifying before finally fighting it out for the front three rows on the grid in the Firestone Fast Six.

"We looked at heat races as something that could add excitement to our races and just improve the product," said Barfield. "The build-up we presently have for the Firestone Fast Six has that excitement and we wanted to do something similar for the oval events, he said, adding that it was "going back to the heritage of short-track racing," Barfield said that "This is the first of a few concepts we're considering."

Qualifying at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway and the Milwaukee Mile will continue to use the existing system of averaging the speed of a car over two solo laps of the oval.

Barfield also confirmed that the controversial double-file restarts will stay for the majority of races - but offered an olive branch to teams and drivers by declaring that the high-speed ovals on the calendar will revert back to single file restarts.

That means the races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway and Auto Club Speedway will all be single-file restarts, a move that will please drivers who complained last year that trying to go two-wide on those tracks was simply too dangerous.

Barfield agreed with them, at least for these circuits: "They were right at sort of a draft and pan-out point in the vicinity of where the pit wall started," he said of the situation at Indianapolis. "If they got forced over there, that's dangerous."

He added that more changes might be on the way with the series looking at the possibility of introducing standing starts later in the year.

Other regulations announced at the ongoing State of IndyCar summit in Indianapolis include a ten-place grid penalty for any car that has an unapproved engine change for a unit failure or team decision to switch units as a precaution.

It was also confirmed at the summit that this year's cars will not have any sort of KERS energy recovery system, but that they will have anti-stall measures. Rev limiters will be set for 12,000 rpm with the electronic control unit preventing any over-revving during an event, and there will be an initial ban on the use of an "overtake" button at least for the start of the 2012 season while the new cars and engines bed in. The engines will have a projected target life of 1850 miles per unit.

It was also announced that the new 2012 IndyCar had now passed all the FIA crash tests of November 2010 (when the car specification was signed off) and that the expectation was of speeds of up to 2mph faster on road and street courses than the comparable 2011 times, although it still appears that the DW12 is slower than ideal on ovals and is struggling to reach speeds in the area of 225mph at Indianapolis.


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