Driver Weight To Count Under New IRL Rule

League Wants To Eliminate Lighter Racers' Advantage

In an attempt to keep lighter drivers from having an unfair advantage over heavier ones, the IRL IndyCar Series will institute a minimum car-and-driver weight requirement this coming season, 6Sports Director Dave Furst reported Tuesday.

The minimum combined car-driver weight has yet to be established. The rule will require lighter drivers to add weight to their cars to meet the established number.

Cars carrying less weight are considered to have an advantage over cars carrying more, especially in road and street races. This has caused some to say that lighter IRL drivers such as Danica Patrick had an unfair edge over heavier ones.

IRL President Brian Barnhart said he doesn't want the new rule "to be viewed as a Danica rule."

"It's clearly not," Barnhart said. "It's the direction the series is going, with a third of our events on road and street races, and it's our obligation to provide as level a platform as possible."

The series already had a minimum weight requirement for cars, but drivers' weights weren't included in the count.

Patrick, speaking to 6Sports by phone from Phoenix, Ariz., said she didn't think the rule change would make much of a difference.

"They can do whatever they want. They are the ones that make the rules, but I still think that if (driver weight) made a big enough difference, I'd have obviously gone out and won a bunch of races and qualified on pole every time," said Patrick, who has yet to win an IRL IndyCar Series race.

"Obviously I'm losing what could be called an advantage, but like I said, if it made that big of a difference, I would have done a whole lot of things that were in first place," she said.

IRL Adding Extra Cockpit Panels To Protect Drivers' Legs

The IRL also is fortifying the inside of its cars with extra panels to better protect drivers' feet and legs.

Each panel is 7 mm thick and comprises 15 layers of the synthetic fiber Zylon, which will extend from the pedal bulkhead to the back of the seat on each side of the cockpit in all IndyCar and Indy Pro Series cars this season.

"Safety continues to be our highest priority," Barnhart said Tuesday. "We continually look for the latest innovations to improve what is already a very safe racing environment. The side intrusion panels are another level of protection for our drivers."

The panels will provide almost twice as much surface area protection as similar panels being installed by Formula One, the IRL said.

The IRL IndyCar Series opens its 2008 season on March 29 in Homestead, Fla.