Teams with drivers outside the top 10 in points will no longer be allowed to purchase an extra set of Firestone tires to use in opening practice on road and street courses. Rookies are exempt from the policy change, and will continue having access to one additional set, according to IndyCar competition president Jay Frye.
“The rookies will get an extra set of tires next season, but those outside the top 10 will not,” Frye told RACER. “We got to a situation where, with 22 or 24 cars coming to most events, more than half the field would be getting an extra set of tires, and that seemed like it was a bit much.”
Frye pointed to the closeness of the Drivers’ championship standings, among other reasons, for the change.
“And then you look at the driver in 11th, for example, who’s maybe four points behind the 10th-place driver, and they get an extra set for practice, but the guy in 10th doesn’t? Is that fair?” he asked.
“It was getting hard to justify. You also had a situation where enough teams were sitting and waiting during that first practice to conserve tires for the race, so we tried to give an incentive to go out and run so there were more cars on track for the fans. We’re continuing to look at ways to improve this area, but it was clear that an extra set of tires wasn’t the overall fix we’d hoped it would be.”
If IndyCar’s 2017 tire allotment matrix is carried over, rookies would get an extra set at the aforementioned road and street courses, barring the season finale at Sonoma, and at every open test organized by the series.
On a related tire distribution note, IndyCar and Firestone have also adjusted the total number of primary tire sets available at five events.
“We’ve taken away an extra set for [drivers] outside the top 10, but we looked at tracks where an extra set for everyone would be helpful, and with Firestone, came up with Phoenix, Detroit, Texas, Iowa and Toronto,” Frye said.
“There were some inconsistencies in the amount of primary and alternate tires teams could have; Toronto’s an example where six primary sets and four alternates were available, and then the next race at Mid-Ohio, it was seven and four. So we tried to clean that up, and also looked at the wear characteristics of the tracks to see where one more set of primary tires would make a difference. So those are the five tracks where the changes were made.”