Push to Pass was used at Edmonton - IZOD IndyCar Series photo/LAT USAEnlarge Photo
Although the racing has been exceptional this year with new Dallara chassis, new Chevrolet, Honda and Lotus engines, an excellent driver corps and the inevitable grid swaps due to "unapproved engine changes," the IZOD IndyCar Series continues to tweak competition rules as though it were lacking for jaw-dropping on-circuit action.
Two races ago the series re-introduced "push to pass" for 120 seconds per race and, for this weekend's Honda Indy 200 at MId-Ohio Sports Car course, INDYCAR, the sanctioning body for the IndyCar Series is introducing a five-second delay to the overtake assist for this 85-lap contest over the 2.258-mile, 13-corner permanent road course.
This week 100 seconds will be available for drivers with a maximum use of 20 seconds per actuation. There is no recharge time between actuations, INDYCAR said.
Adjusting engine mapping to facilitate the change, "After that five seconds, when the driver gets to full throttle or already is at full throttle, the overtake will come on. That's to stop from using it as a push to defend," said Trevor Knowles, INDYCAR's director of engine development. "They'll have to plan ahead."
The objective here appears to be a lessening of push-to-pass as a defensive tool rather than an overtaking tool, which is what it was meant to do when introduced by (then sole) engine manufacturer Honda on its normally aspirated engines. Currently it allows a driver to add turbocharger boost and additional RPMs with the press of a button on the steering wheel. The system was used in both Canadian races - Toronto and Edmonton - and will continue through INDYCAR's Sonoma and Baltimore road and street course rounds, as well.
"You can push the button before you get to the braking zone and when you get on the throttle it will be on overtake," Knowles explained. "If you're the car in front trying to defend, the TV won't show when the competitor has pushed it. It will only show when the overtake is active. If he responds, he has five seconds before his overtake cuts in."
A prominent example of how the system works this weekend is at the Keyhole on the MId-Ohio circuit. It's a long straight leading into a looping right-hand turn that connects to another straightaway. The Keyhole is 0.44 of a mile from the Turn 2 braking zone, down the straight and into the entrance of Turn 3.
The new five-second delay is intended to add surprise and strategy to the Honda Indy 200; Knowles said INDYCAR will consider, at a later time, adding an overtake lockout and recharge period, "But we didn't want to introduce too many things at one time," he said.
"IndyCar is enhancing the push-to-pass parameters this weekend with a 5 second activation delay to reduce the use of the feature in a defensive manner," said Chris Berube, Chevrolet Racing program manager for the IZOD IndyCar Series. "This should keep the racing interesting and will require more strategy from the drivers in the cockpit to make the best use of the extra boost."