Interview: Indy Lights new car delay explained
Plans to introduce a new-spec Indy Lights car will remain on hold until broader decisions are made about the general future of the IndyCar Series, according to Indy Lights director Tony George Jr
Manufacturers were invited to tender for the new chassis and engine package mid-way through last year, with the original intention of introducing the car in 2014.
The current Dallara chassis was introduced in 2002, meaning that the '13 season will be its 12th year of competition.
The series announced last month however that the new package has been postponed indefinitely.
While no solid reasons were offered at the time, George told AUTOSPORT that it has been suspended until wider decisions are taken about the series' future strategy.
"There are a lot of things going on here," he said.
"This is a big decision that is going to require long-term commitments, and I think that [IndyCar] management is still deciphering where we need to head.
"Any time that you create a long-term plan, all the other, smaller, short-term plans that go into that may need to be altered to some degree.
"I expect to have a better idea in the coming weeks once they have the time to really devote to the development system, and we can develop how that plan is going to look going forward as part of a larger plan."
While the companies involved in the tender process have been reluctant to speak on the record, there have been rumblings of discontent about the lack of communication from the series about how the plans for the new car were progressing.
George admits this could have been handled better, and says that his main concern about the delay is the impact it has on teams and suppliers that are dependent upon the Lights series.
"Any time you can't provide sound direction isn't good for any business," George said.
"The phone calls and the concern from constituents, whether they be young drivers or teams, has been something that, at this early point in my career, I have had to manage and deal with.
"It is certainly something I could do a better job at, but I'm learning."
He admits, however, that there is no firm timeframe yet for the new car's debut.
"We're going to continue to just look at all the options for the series," he said.
"That is going to come down to tracks, promoters, manufacturers and engine manufacturer interest, and this ongoing development of the long-term plan and where Indy Lights fits in."
COUNTING THE CARS
In the meantime, one of George's main tasks is to try to stop the grid size with the current car from sliding.
Lights grids have been shrinking for several seasons, and there are currently only seven entries confirmed for 2013 with three weeks remaining before the opening round in St Petersburg.
George anticipates this to almost double, although he concedes that even that is not ideal.
"I think we'll be around 12 for most of the championship, and I'd say higher than that at Indy and some of the other important races," he says.
"But I think any healthy championship needs 20 cars or more. Especially at this level, with where the budgets are at, and in this economy, 20 would make everybody happy.
"Really, the sky is the limit when it comes to car count.
"If you want to reset the deck with having the Road to Indy in place, and being able to establish a long-term direction with a series like Indy Lights, I think there is no reason to believe we would have no less than 20 cars."
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