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IndyCar and the Non-Defence Rule

May 2, 2011

EJ Viso battled with Ryan Briscoe during the sao Paulo race. IndyCar / Chris Jones

While today’s IndyCar Grand Prix on the streets of Sao Paulo was certainly an interesting race, my enjoyment of the race was once again marred somewhat by the rules of the sport.

As the race entered its final stages, KV Racing’s EJ Viso found himself in an aggressive battle with Marco Andretti (Andretti-Autosport) for 2nd place. Initially, Andretti held the lead of pair and defended vigorously – very vigorously infact.

On number of occasions, Viso had brief looks down the inside of several corners, only to be chopped off by Andretti. Very tough defence indeed and certainly close to the bone, but no worse than we have seen the likes of Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna do in the past. Andretti received no penalty for nearly taking Viso’s front off on a number of occasions.

However, my irritaion was piqued once Viso passed the American for 2nd place. While Viso took a number of odd lines, he was eventually penalised for taking a defensive line; on occasion making Andretti take the outside line into turns – those that remember the IndyCar race at Edmonton last year, will know that drivers are not allowed to defend their positions into corners should a following driver wish to attack.
As Andretti challenged, Viso made Andretti work hard for it – fairly in my eyes – and that earned the Venezuelan a drive through. Viso fell down the order to 13th, while a poor pitstop dropped Andretti to 14th at the chequered flag.

Like the penalty received by Helio Castroneves at Edmonton last year, the “non-defence” rule makes the sport look incredibly foolish. Removing the possibility of defending a position nullifies some of the great skills involved in motor racing, thereby lowering the impression of the series.
This is not a post knocking the officiating of Brian Barnhart, Tony Cotman or Al Unser Jr – they are applying the rules; this is a criticism of the rules as they are written. Should IndyCar really want to be taken seriously on the world stage, it needs to lose the “non-defence rule” – either that or maybe the drivers should get out of the sport.

Such irony that in a weekend that the IndyCar drivers paid tribute to the great Senna, such a rule played a large part in the overall result of the race – a rule that would surely have appalled Senna himself.
As long as this rule exists, IndyCar will always appear to be something of an amateurish – if expensive sport.

Notes from the race will appear tomorrow.

From → IndyCar Series

4 Comments
  1. The non defense rule is designed to increase the potential for passing and improving the show. A leading car is charged to keeping the established racing line and if the trailing car can get past you using a suboptimal line then that means his car/skill is superior and hence has earned the track position.

    Road racing at most levels and geographies need to consider the show. In particular in the states where there is a precedent for racing fans to prefer oval action. It bothers me much less than the DRS which unlevels the playing field to the trailing car’s favor.

    Alternate tire rules and P2P can be distributed in even proportions to the entire field. The “Racing line” rule as I would prefer to refer to it does not unlevel the field, if the leading car is the better car and he takes the racing line, then he should come out of the turn in the same way he entered. Leading. With the DRS a slower car over the same territory is rewarded for being slower.

    OK I am getting redundant, but you get my point…

    • Leigh O'Gorman permalink

      Actually, I completely agree with you regarding the DRS. IndyCar, like many forms of single-seater motorsports has spent years ignoring the reasons as to why these cars are difficult to pass in.#

      Obviously the cars are ancient and haven’t been looked at in years, but that still does not excuse this ridiculous ruling. It mocks the talent that these drivers possess – and it is something that should be taken into account with the new aero kits.

      This sport is not easy. In fact, it should be very, very tough – and that difficulty is something that needs to be emphasised. Drivers having to let the person behind through as if they were Sunday driving makes them look second-rate.

      • Brian McKay permalink

        Leigh, I think that you’re spot on. I’ll not say a word about the officiating but only say that the rule is dumb. I believe that the leader should be allowed to drive on the left half of a track or the right half – whichever (s)he prefers as long as (s)he isn’t using both (like Power turn 1-2 in Leeds, Alabama).
        Yes, yes, yes, I know that the drivers are briefed b4 races what not to do (Edmonton comes to mind) according to the rule. ‘If you’re leading, you must not drive the right side b4 a right turn or the left side b4 a left turn.’
        I just DON’T the rule.

  2. Leigh, thanks for this excellent post about what you correctly label the “Non-Defence” Rule. I thought about writing about it but you’ve put it more eloquently than I could have. I didn’t think Castroneves did anything wrong at Edmonton and I don’t think Viso did anything wrong yesterday. You can have passing without this rule – Sato passed Power on the outside, didn’t he? IIf someone is making multiple moves or weaving fine, but let them defend their position!

    This rule has me seriously contemplating my future as an IndyCar fan. I want to see good passing, not “oh I’m sorry let me give you the line and let you through…”

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