Following IndyCar's announcement earlier this week about rulebook modifications for the 2012 season, the series' new president of competition and race director, Beaux Barfield, has further explained his approach to determining what constitutes blocking during races, in an interview published on IndyCar.com.
Rule 9.3 (B) in the 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series competition regulations relating to blocking states: "A driver must not alter his/her racing line based on the actions of pursuing drivers or use an abnormal racing line to inhibit or prevent passing." Barfield didn't tweak it for the 2012 season, though there is a philosophical change. No lines will be painted on the track for reference and drivers will not be mandated to be on a line in specific areas of the track.
“[Blocking is] still really open for interpretation,” said Barfield, who joined IndyCar in January after being the Race Director for the American Le Mans Series the past four years. “I didn't feel the need to change the wording, but it would be my responsibility to make it very clear at the drivers' meeting exactly what my expectations are.”
Barfield and IndyCar vp of technology Will Phillips led respective competition and technical groups in reviewing the rulebook. The revised rulebook jettisoned wording that gave the race director discretionary power. Barfield will further discuss the rulebook and introduce his Race Control team at the "State of IndyCar" media presentations in Indianapolis next week.
“A basis for the strong stance on blocking was that our cars have become sort of notorious for being difficult to pass, so a little bit of defensive maneuvering leads to processional-type races,” Barfield added. “I've revisited that type of no-passing racing. My opinion is that it is dealt with better technologically – either with power to pass or aerodynamics or whatever the case is – not in how a driver intuitively tends to drive or behave on the track.
“That doesn't mean I'm allowing this to be wide open with dangerous weaving. I'll deal with dangerous moves, but the defensive-type moves that people I think are more accustomed to are basically being restored to our kind of racing."
Barfield pointed to the controversial collision between championship contenders Will Power and Dario Franchitti at Toronto last season as an example of his approach.
“Will was put in a position as he was leading that was clearly stated in the drivers' meeting that the drivers had to be on the left side of the road when they started their braking going into Turn 3,” Barfield said. “As such, that left the door wide open for Dario, who's pursuing, to put his nose right in there. Whether he needed to, meant to, or wanted to, that led to Will being turned around in the corner.
“Based on the fact that I as the race director demanded Will to be there, I've put him in a position of essentially being a sitting duck entering Turn 3. Now, am I not also responsible to take action against Dario for touching Will after Will positioned his car exactly where I told him to be? Suddenly, one officious program leads to another officious program.
“Based on the stance on blocking at Toronto, it's my opinion that there should have been a stronger stance on contact as well. The incident all by itself, forget the blocking rule, I would have had difficulty penalizing Dario for contact because to me it was incidental. He was rightfully there, he didn't lock up the brakes, he got to the apex and Will continued to come all the way for the apex. Dario was there and had nowhere to go and therefore the contact is incidental. Based on leaving him as a sitting duck, if I don't allow you to defend your position, I don't allow you to protect yourself as it amounts to, it's my radical opinion that the over-officiousness led to a lot of the issues that occurred in Turn 3 at Toronto.
“Not that just taking this stance will alleviate that, but it's a big step in the right direction for the kind of racing that drivers are comfortable and familiar with and for what our fans want to see.”