The Indy Racing League has taken further steps to improve the quality of racing in the IndyCar Series by introducing a "push to pass" system.
Following a series of processional races – particularly on ovals – in the first half of the year, the IRL had already added various aerodynamic options for teams to use from this weekend's Kentucky Speedway race. But it has now gone further and introduced a power boost system in conjunction with engine supplier Honda.
For the remainder of the season, each driver will be able to access increased rpm and a power boost of 5-20hp for a limited time in each race (at Kentucky, the allocation will be 20 bursts of power for 12 seconds at a time), with the amount of additional power depending on whether drivers are in fuel-conservation mode when they activate the system.
"If you're on the rich side, you get five horsepower because the engine already is producing close to its maximum, where you can get up to 20 horsepower if you're running lean," IRL senior technical director Les Mactaggart said. "It's to provide the driver, if they're already making a passing maneuver, an additional tool to complete the pass. It provides the teams options which they have to choose how they're going to run the race so it brings more strategy from a team aspect."
The system is similar to the push-to-pass device employed in Champ Car during its final seasons, but Mactaggart admitted that the effect would not be as dramatic.
"Because of the architecture of the engine, you can't have the 100 horsepower that Champ Car had, because you could just increase your boost levels on a turbocharged engine and that's how you get the extra power," he explained. "When you're already producing 100 percent power with a normally aspirated engine, there isn't anything else other than spark advance to get more horsepower."
However, former Champ Car driver Graham Rahal said the extra power would still make a difference.
"You wouldn't think so, but five horsepower is a pretty big deal, even on these ovals," Rahal told the Indianapolis Star
. "Every little hp is going to help you. It will improve the racing because people forget that it's not only something that's used for overtaking, it's also for defending. It can be interesting. There's no doubt in my mind it's a good thing."