Cotman seeks pit changes

Tony Cotman, the new vice president of operations in the Champ Car World Series, has called for a further review of the championship's pit stop regulations after several years of largely inconclusive tinkering by series organisers

Cotman seeks pit changes

At present, the maximum number of laps that a driver can run between pit stops is mandated, and for much of the 2004 season a minimum number of stops had to be made under green flag racing conditions. Cotman recently returned to the Champ Car scene to take up his current post after several years in the IRL IndyCar Series with Andretti-Green Racing.

"Granted, I haven't been in the series the past two years, but from a fan or spectator or a television point of view, I have had no idea what's going on with the pit windows." Cotman said in an interview with Champ Car's website. "And if I don't have any idea what's going on, how do we expect the regular fan in the stands to know what's going on?

"The goal is to take it out of the hands of the officials and put the onus back on the teams. There's definitely more than one way to win a race, and if one of them happens to be one team outsmarting everybody on fuel mileage, that's just part of racing."

The pit windows were introduced at the start of 2002 due to a trend of drivers taking lucky victories by refuelling under yellow early in the race and then subsequently stretching their fuel mileage. The most notorious such result was perhaps Max Papis' win at Laguna Seca in 2001, where he came from 25th on the grid to win - but only passed one car on the racetrack. It was felt that the rules were encouraging drivers to cruise and save fuel rather than race hard on the track.

"Maybe teams can look at their strategies in a different light," said Cotman. "I'm not saying we should all sit there saving fuel all day because that's not necessarily going to be the way to go. But I believe there's more positives than negatives by far."

The rules have been regularly refined since pit windows were introduced but the occasionally arbitrary results continued. Alex Tagliani's Elkhart Lake victory in 2004 came because the leaders were caught out by a rule insisting on three green flag pit stops. Eventual champion Sebastien Bourdais expressed his frustration with the system at the time.

"The rules are crazy," he said. "It's just like a Las Vegas casino. Anything can happen."

Cotman would also like to see the pits closed as soon as the pace car comes out, before being opened again once the field has been gathered in line, but this change would primarily be on safety grounds.

"Right now we race back to pit lane," he said. "Yes, we pick up the race leader but really there's no restriction for the race leader to slow down. So you've got guys extracting a car out of the fence, with trucks parked on the side of the track, and here we are racing back to the pit lane, and I believe that's the wrong thing."

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