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IRL announces new feeder formula

The Indy Racing League has announced a new racing series designed to develop new drivers and teams.

The series, similar to CART's Indy Lights, will be called the Indy Racing Infiniti Pro Series and will begin in mid-2002 with as many as seven races. In 2003, the new series plans to hold 12 events.

The one-make racing series will feature a Dallara chassis and Infiniti engine package. The IRL said a team can run the full season for US$800,000 as drivers and teams gain experience to one day move up to the Indy Racing League.

The V8 engines will produce approximately 450bhp for the slicks-and-wings single-seater chassis, serving as a training ground for the 650bhp IRL machinery.

"The launch of this new series is the natural evolution of the Indy Racing League," said Tony George, the president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and founder of the IRL. "It was a goal of the Indy Racing League to debut the Indy Racing Infiniti Pro Series with a sound business model in place. With our partners at Dallara and Infiniti, this will be a successful series that will add value to promoters when they host an Indy Racing League weekend.

"We expect this to add value to our fans and sponsors and create an exciting atmosphere to our Indy Racing weekends."

The costs and development for the Indy Racing Infiniti Pro Series will be controlled tightly by the Indy Racing League.

"In discussions we've initiated with many of the tracks that host Indy Racing League events, the response has been extremely enthusiastic," said Brian Barnhart, the vice president of operations for the IRL. "It would be easy to let emotion take over and try to debut the series sooner, but we want to allow teams adequate time to form, take delivery of cars and market their teams.

"We have talked with many of our track promoters and have received extreme enthusiasm and interest in it."

The developmental series will compete on tracks 1.25-miles and bigger to help give aspiring drivers a chance to learn the art of driving Indy-type race cars. The cars will run in the 180mph range compared to the IRL cars that run between 215-225mph.

The cost of the chassis will be US$115,000 per chassis, which includes a Pi data acquisition system onboard the car. Tom Walkinshaw Racing (TWR) will build the engines and lease them to the teams. The engines will run on gasoline instead of methanol.

Races will be 100 miles in length and the events will be held the same day as the IRL events. Barnhart said interest among potential team owners has been high and as many as 20-25 cars could be in competition by next year.

The Indy Lights Series, which began competition in 1986, is being phased out by CART at the end of this season in favor of the Formula Atlantic series. Some of the existing teams in Indy Lights have expressed in interest in joining the IRL's developmental series.

"We've had a lot of interest from the current Indy Lights ownership," Barnhart said. "There has been rumors of a support series coming. Conquest Racing is competing in the IRL this weekend and they are an Indy Lights team. I think we will attract ownership from current Indy Lights owners. I think a lot of the current Indy Racing League owners have expressed interest in this and I think it's something the USAC sprint, midget and Silver Crown Series will have as well.

"I see a high level of interest in participating in this new series. The drivers out of USAC learn how to race wheel-to-wheel in close competition in one of the best proving grounds for racing. But it is still a pretty drastic step to jump into an Indycar with the engine behind you and jump up to 650 horsepower and have the aerodynamic experience. The purpose of this series is a mid-level, training ground for Indy cars."

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