As the President of Competition and Operations for IndyCar, Derrick Walker has an important job ahead of him. Heading into the 2014 season, Walker is all hands-on ready to tackle the task at hand as he has started to address some of the concerns at hand.
When Derrick Walker joined IndyCar’s management team, he said one of the first things he noticed was race control and the concerns that the fans had. A lot of fans and teams were continuously frustrated with the decisions that were being made in an unfair matter – in their view.
“I was pretty keen to actually get inside and find out how it works ’cause I’ve always been on the other side of race control, never actually spent any time around it,” Walker commented. “When I joined IndyCar after the 500, I had the pleasure of sitting in race control for pretty well all of the races thereafter to actually observe how it all happens, see dramas unfolding, how we tackle them.”
Walker said he quickly noticed some concerns – one of them being that they couldn’t always see clearly what happened before making a decision, while needing more procedures and guidelines to make things as consistent as possible.
Going into this year, IndyCar has invested a lot of money into new equipment so they can have a lot more views to watch of an incident, as well as better-quality views, better replay, trying to capture all the views that are possible.
“A lot of times race control, and I see it in other series, they make decisions based on a few views, but don’t have them all. Sometimes the fan gets better views than we do in race control. The simple fact were the limitations on how many screens we’ve got, how many inputs we actually tap into,” Walker explained. “We’re addressing that. This year we have a whole new load of equipment. We’ve established some criteria which we’ll roll out between now and the first event. We’ll explain some of the differences of how it actually works internally. Long-term, hopefully by this time next year, we’ve actually got, I would call it, state-of-the-art race control which is a mobile unit.
“We have a lot of equipment. We have to cart it upstairs, everywhere you go. The space you have isn’t always enough. We’re going to put it in a trailer, give it enough room and stability and have it at all of the races. That’s a big undertaking and huge investment on the part of the IndyCar. We’re just getting going on the 2015 race control, which as I say will be mobile. ”
Walker added that they’ll also have access to data from the cars sooner, rather than only having access to that after the race.
Last year, IndyCar introduced the idea of standing starts for some road/street courses, rather than the rolling starts that we’re used to. Walker said that they got positive feedback from teams and fans on the idea last year, however some of the locations last year weren’t ideal due to not having enough room on the front straights.
“From the management of the event side of things, competition side of things, the worst-case scenario is when the lights go, everybody ends up at turn one on top of each other, or two or three cars hit and block the race, it’s a fiasco,” Walker explained. “That’s the danger you live in with standing starts with very little room.”
Long Beach is one of hte tracks that wanted a standing start last year, but didn’t have one. However, that has changed for 2014 as Walker announced that Long Beach will be one of the events with one. Walker feels that standing starts are possibly a better fit for Long Beach than the rolling starts as a result of the track layout.
“That’s part of the problem with Long Beach, is getting the field coming round, getting all the field on the front straight, letting it loose. It never works very well,” Walker commented. “If you do a standing start, I think it will be a much better start. We’ve spread out the field to give them enough gaps, stagger the lines. So I think we’ll see a good race and a good start.”
Walker added that the Indy road course race at the beginning of May is also on tap to have a standing start, as well.