The RACER Mailbag, August 31

The RACER Mailbag, August 31

Insights & Analysis

The RACER Mailbag, August 31

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Q: Last week mention was made of trying to get a Tasman-like series started down under for IndyCar during its offseason. I have a better suggestion: The Tasman Series has already been revived via S5000, and while presently a shadow of its old self, with some push from Roger Penske to get some Indy boys to take part, you could certainly make something beneficial to IndyCar out of such a tie-up — especially considering that three of the series’ front-runners are from Down Under!

And I think we can agree that the S5000 sound will be very attractive to the American race fan. Maybe the next generation of Indy Lights should consider such engines now that Mazda’s not involved. (We’re certainly not getting Ford involved in IndyCar itself, after all!)


MP: I love the idea. Although I did recently speak with someone who’s raced the S5000 cars and they did not have complimentary things to say about the vehicle.

Q: By now, I’m sure you’ve been asked a few dozen times why IndyCar doesn’t have a USA channel documentary like NASCAR. Turns out, many-time most popular driver turned-announcer Dale Jr is the producer. So I guess that means the people’s champ, popular driver turned announcer, The Mayor himself is on the clock? Hinch, if you’re reading this, I helped co-associate produce a 15 minute student film project about using cafeteria trays to go snow sledding in 1996, should you need the help. My rate has gone up, though. I no longer work for Bud Light. IPA will do.

Shawn, Maryland

MP: Wait, I think Hinch expects to be paid in booze, not the other way around. Kidding aside, I will admit that when I hear millions are being set aside for new bathrooms or whatever at IMS, I do wonder why the willingness to commit similar funds to produce docu-style IndyCar shows seems to be lacking. Improving the look of your store is great, but when you’re lagging way behind in advertising that you have awesome products to consume inside that store, I get confused on where the priorities should fall.

They sprayed beer on the podium at IndyCar’s Sao Paulo race, which presumably means that Hinch has just drenched the crew with his prize money. Phillip Abbott/Motorsport Images

Q: Read an article a week or so ago that mentioned it was unlikely that Honda would provide any engine contracts next season above 13, which would take away a third potential Coyne/HMD entry, unless another team drops an entry. I also heard something similar on the Chevy side with the Paretta Autosport if that team wanted to go full-time.

I’m disappointed that Honda and/or Chevy would not try to find a solution to be able to add another engine or two to help grow the IndyCar field, if this is true.

If they can support up to 17-18 engines for the Indy 500, why would they not be able to support 14 or 15 full-time? I suspect it might have something to do with already making a last-time buy of components, but would hope that they might work on a way to support an extra engine contract or two for the growth of the series?

Also, any new updates or status on a third engine manufacturer joining IndyCar? It has been a while since we have heard anything from anyone. Really hoping that there is a third manufacturer that is interested in joining and working on a program.

Rod, Fresno, CA

MP: Thanks, Rod. I’ve written a few times about how both brands have been ramping down, instead of ramping up, as the 2.2-liter TTV6 formula nears its end. As I wrote a few months back, Coyne told us he was looking to go to three cars, and there’s more on that story to follow.

Supporting extra entries for two weeks in May is a lot different than doing it for an entire season; staff from other series like IMSA, for example, get pulled in to support those additional 500 entries and then return to their full-time programs. I wouldn’t drop a third manufacturer update into the Mailbag, but you might be reading about what I have to offer in a story prior to the Mailbag’s Wednesday publishing date.

Q: Why don’t Formula 1 and the F1 teams employ some 21st century electronics to resolve some of the problems that they have?

Formula 1, Formula 1 officials, and the Formula 1 drivers all look silly over the track limits debacle. But many current street cars will warn you if you’re straying out of your lane. That exact technology may not be suitable for Formula 1 cars, but F1 tracks could lay an electronic cable around the complete boundaries of the circuit under the current white line, and F1 cars could have proximity sensors built into the hubs of their wheels. When the car approaches the limits of the track, electronics could not only notify the officials and the team, but could send a signal to a display on the car’s dashboard. A yellow light means the driver is within six inches of the boundaries of the track. A red light means the driver has gone beyond the boundaries of the track.

If this system is in place through all three practice sessions, the drivers will soon learn exactly where the boundaries of the track are, how far they can push those boundaries, and how they need to control the car through the preceding parts of the track to avoid going over the boundaries.

Similar technology built into the cars for proximity detection could notify a driver when another car is close to them. It could identify exactly which car and driver that is, notify them if they’re being lapped, or give them clear indication that the other car is in their way and liable to be contacted if they turn in.

And while you are at it, how about rear-view and side -view cameras with a display in the cockpit to replace those useless tiny analog mirrors that they now rely on?


CHRIS MEDLAND: You’re not the first to suggest something like that but logistically it would be a nightmare. A road car reads road markings at much lower speeds for starters, but even if the technology exists with enough accuracy to the millimeter that drivers would want, it’s not always possible to do around the edge of every single track due to the mix of permanent and temporary circuits. Plus there are some corners or areas where drivers are or aren’t allowed to cross lines for specific reasons, and where curbs are adapted/moved etc.

I see the sentiment of your point about proximity too, but then we’re detracting from driver skill. Giving more help when it comes to wheel-to-wheel racing isn’t something we should be doing – it will reduce the need for a driver to make the difference and also reduce mistakes or incidents that create exciting scenarios.

But I do agree with you on the camera front. The mirrors aren’t really fit for purpose and if it’s to aid visibility then that’s a smart bit of a tech that I don’t think would be a bad addition at all. That’s less of a warning device but more a compensation for the lack of view drivers now have due to the higher cockpit sides that were introduced for safety reasons.