This past weekend, the Indy Racing League officially hired Tony Cotman to be the league’s technical director in charge of developing all of the rules and regulations pertaining to the construction and operation of the new chassis and engine packages for 2012. It’s certainly not a new role for him. He was Vice-President of Operations of the Champ Car World Series where he oversaw the development and production of the extremely competitive and cost-effective Panoz DP-01 chassis. Can he do the same thing here in the Indy Racing League? Probably, but this is going to be a completely different type of development than Cotman saw with the Panoz chassis.
“I understand how important developing the right rules are in a timely manner for this process,” said Cotman. “Introduction of the new car and engine are not far off, and we have a lot of work to do. Having a strong team and committed chassis and engine partners will make my tasks that much easier. I look forward to developing and implementing rules that will provide opportunities for new manufacturer involvement and increased competition in the 2012 season.” — Read the full release at IndyCar.com.
I fully expect complete regulation on the cost of all parts of the rolling chassis being built by Dallara (keep in mind that the gearbox is included in the chassis cost), the engine leases, and for the individual aero pieces. I also have full confidence that those prices will be fair to the teams and to the suppliers alike. Where I have my only concerns about the process is in the smithing of the actual regulations and the consistent enforcement of those regulations. Mr. Cotman has a sterling reputation when it comes to being even-handed, approachable, and consistent, but although he will be fabricating the rule book, he won’t be the one enforcing it. The modus operandi for the league thus far is that the rules and regulations by which teams and drivers compete are not for the public to know, not are they to be adhered to with regularity and consistency. This was never more evident than with the Penske roll-bar issue at the beginning of the season, and more recently with the blocking controversy at Toronto and Edmonton. If I could be so bold as to offer a couple of recommendations to Mr. Cotman and to the Indy Racing League, they would be these:
- Make the technical and sporting regulations public. Allow the media and the fans access to the rules by which all competitors must adhere. The confusion that resulted from the call at Edmonton does the sport no good and does not lend to its credibility.
- Once the rules are in place, the race officials should be held accountable for the quality of their officiating during a race weekend. Rules should be enforced, and penalties assessed, with consistency. Many officiating bodies in stick-n-ball sports will have meetings post-game to evaluate the quality and consistency of the calls. I don’t know if the IRL does this or not, but if they don’t now would be a good time to start.
So all in all, I’d say I’m cautiously optimistic. Those of you who know me, and understand the depths of my inherent skepticism, understand that’s a very rosy outlook for me. There were a lot of people out there that could have served very well as the new Technical Director, but I think just maybe that the league got it right this time. Welcome back, Mr. Cotman!