July 8, 2012 – Banner Credit: Indcar/LAT USA
After rediscovering authentic competition via deregulation at Iowa Speedway last month, the Honda Indy Toronto event showed just how far Indycar's vastly over-regulated series has yet to go.
Every new effort to regulate away their problems only leads to more.
Extreme grip from whopping big tires and wing-induced downforce guarantees that the racing groove will be very narrow, which limits passing. Spec chassis assure that all cars are equally incapable of outrunning each other or providing any real variety to the field.
Limited engine options and artificially low horsepower bar independent engine builders from the series, drive up the price of participation and underpower the cars. Honestly, 600-700 horsepower really isn't much. Any racecar worth the name was making 900 horsepower back in 1973.
How on earth can they charge nearly a million dollars a year to lease an engine that barely makes 700 horses and lasts less than two thousand miles? For crying out loud, pick up a small block Chevy on Ebay. You could build a better engine than that in your garage. For eight grand. In a weekend.
Combine all this with a street course that has no elevation change and no signature straightaway and the racing just isn't very good.
The series attempts to regulate away these problems, not realizing that over-regulation wrought them in the first place.
In order to promote better racing, the series regulates a new tire: the “red” tire. The “reds” are supposed to be stickier and faster than the “black” tires. Sometimes they are not. Since their life is shorter, the motivation to use them is lacking.
Enter a new regulation. The series mandates that every team must use one set of “reds” during each event whether they want to or not. While the deep thinkers among us ponder why the series must mandate the use of a tire that is truly faster, competition on the track remains stagnant.
Quick… someone fix that with a new regulation. This time it's the dreaded return of the “push to pass” button, which boosts horsepower for a few seconds in the hopes of creating a few more passes during the race. Yet the Honda Indy Toronto is still a lackluster event.
Every new regulation brings a host of unintended consequences, yet the only method seriously considered to deal with them is even more regulation, which in turn brings a fresh pile of new unintended consequences.
The “push to pass” button is a naked admission that all the mandated chassis, mandated tires and regulated engines have resulted in a race where nobody can pass on the street courses. The “push to pass” button is the final white flag of surrender from a series whose chronic addiction to NASCAR-like regulatory mandates has killed ingenuity.
One simple act of deregulation at Iowa Speedway (reducing downforce) resulted in one of the finest open wheel oval races on American soil in years. It was universally applauded by fans, teams, the media and especially the drivers, who raved about it for a week.
The sooner Indycar remembers its own success at Iowa, the sooner anticlimactic races like Toronto will be in the rear view mirror.
Highlights were few and far between at Toronto last weekend, but let’s look at the glass as half full and try to find a few.
Charlie Kimball was impressive all day. Most of the attention centered on his later laps, but those who were watching his duel with Rubens Barrichello for 7th position midway through the race really saw what the kid has. Consider for a moment how intimidating it must be for a youngster like Kimball to be wheel-to-wheel with a Formula 1 legend. It was a good on-track battle in a race that offered few.
Tony Kanaan’s charge from 17th to 4th looks good on paper, but most of it was achieved by avoiding other people’s wrecks. The same goes for Oriol Servia, who took advantage of a silly, late-race pileup to score a top five finish with a 10th place car.
James Jakes was the BFS of the day (Big Freaking Stud), driving from 24th to 8th with virtually no one taking notice.
But honestly, I just can’t bring myself to rave about this race or the events thereof because it so closely resembled the NASCAR parades we’ve seen for ten years.
Iowa and Indianapolis were the highlights of the 2012 season so far. They represent everything that Indycar has done right. Toronto is a glaring reminder of everything they’ve done wrong.
Let’s hope Randy is paying attention.
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