How to Tell the 2000 IRL Cars Apart

There are currently three makes of chassis participating in the IRL. All three have been involved with the league since the "new car" specifications were introduced in 1997:

From the side: There has been a significant change in the 1999 G-Force sidepods: a large and very visible air exit has been added to the rear portion of the sidepods. This opening is big, almost square, and it looks kind of retro; it puts me in mind of the early-70s Eagle. It completely replaces the tunnels that the previous G-Force models had which took the sidepod exhaust air out between the rear wheels. Also for 1999, the rear wheel air deflectors are back and have been revised; they can easily be distinguished from the Dallara by the fact that the deflector's side plate (the part that faces you as you look at the rear wheel from the side) is perfectly triangular and has a leading edge that is straight, as opposed to the similar part on the Dallara which has an S-shaped leading edge. (Last year, many G-Force teams found these air deflectors ineffective and removed them altogether. Dallara teams don't do that, so if you see a car running without any deflectors, it's almost certainly a G-Force. However, it remains to be seen whether teams will do that this year. It is possible that teams may use them at some tracks and remove them at others.) An additional distinguishing feature of the sidepods is the leading air intakes, which extend farther forward than the leading edge of the cockpit and the rear-view mirrors.

The most noticable feature of the Dallara sidepods, as compared to the G-Force, is the lack of an air exit that is obvious from the side. (On the Dallara, the air exit is on top of the sidepod.) The leading edge of the sidepod air intakes do not extend as far forward as the G-Force air intakes do. The Dallara has a rear wheel air deflector similar to the G-Force, as noted in the previous paragraph; the distinguishing feature is the S-shaped cut to the leading edge of the side plate.

The Riley & Scott can easily be distinguished from the other two cars by the "flip-up" pieces that stick out from the sidepods. These start about halfway back on the sidepod, and curve upward and inward to deflect air away from the rear wheels; they are vastly different than either the G-Force or Dallara. In addition, the sidepods themselves are not nearly as long as on the other two cars.

From the front: An easy way to distinguish cars from the front is to look at the engine airscoop (above and behind the driver). In 2000, all three makes have chosen very distinctive and unique airscoops. Dallara stays with their trademark airscoop which is circular in cross section and resembles a jet engine air intake. Many (although not all) of the teams using the Dallara have painted a band around the scoop's leading edge in a contrasting color, making it even more distinctive. The 2000 G-Force design adopts an airscoop whose opening is in the shape of a perfect equilateral triangle (all sides and angles equal). It is perched up quite high compared to the other makes (although of the 2000 cars have their airscoops elevated compared to previous models). Meanwhile, the Riley & Scott airscoop retains its characteristic half-moon cross section.

In addition, differences can be seen in the nose appearance. The G-Force has a longer and wider nose than the other two brands. The Dallara and R&S are more similar with narrower noses, but the Dallara's can be seen to curve downward more, and the R&S's nose is blunter. On short tracks, differences can be seen in the noses; the R&s S has a double-decker wing as opposed to the more traditional "shovels" on the other two makes, and the Dallara's front wing has angled sections near the nose. (The superspeedway wings probably won't have this, although I have not seen them yet.) The characteristic bumps on the G-Force's nose (which accomodate suspension parts) are also visible from the front. Furthermore, the G-Force has one other very obvious characteristic which is very apparent from the front: the angle of the tops of the sidepods, which are not level but slope in towards the driver.

From the top: The easiest way to distinguish the cars is to look at the curvature of the sidepods with respect to the car's front-to-back centerline. The R&S has the most curved sidepods; they appear to enclose the cockpit in a diamond shape, and the rear wheel air deflectors are very visible from above. (The overall effect is that it makes the rear of the car appear to be wider than the other two makes, although it isn't really.) The top view is the only direction from which the R&S sidepod air exits are visible.

The G-Force has very straight and narrow sidepods. From the top, the slant where the sidepod air exits blend back in with the side of the car should be visible. The G-Force is the only car of the three which has sidepod air exits not visible from the top. At the very rear of the car, the engine cowl extends back a bit farther than the other makes.

Like G-Force, Dallara has redesigned their sidepods for 2000. The old top-mounted radiator air exit is gone (it's been moved to the side), and the top of the pods has been changed considerably, On the new cars, the front edge of the pods curves back in a D-shaped curve from the root (where it fastens to the top) to the outside edge. The center section of the sidepod, alongside the cockpit, is now straight, and the rear portion slants back gradually towards a point behind the rear wheels (somewhat like the original 1997 G-Force did).

Word of warning:

If you are looking at pictures from different races and trying to tell the cars apart, don't be fooled by the type of front wings being used. All three cars come with two front-wing packages, a set of large "snow shovel" wings from short tracks, and a set of small straight wings for superspeedways. The wing packages are closely regulated by the IRL, and as a result wings of a given type from each make all look very similar.

Engines: If you are at the track, it is possible if you pay close attention to distinguish between an Aurora-powered car and an Infiniti-powered car by sound. To this writer, the Infiniti seems to have a more throaty exhaust note, with a bit more bass than the Aurora. (This could vary, however, depending on what the teams do with their exhaust systems.) The difference is not noticable on TV.

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What Are Those Weird Codes that Look Like G/A/F and D/A/G ?

To keep costs down, the IRL does not allow teams unlimited leeway in what equipment they can run. Chassis and engine designs have to be submitted and approved by the IRL before being declared legal for competition; therefore, which equipment a team chooses to buy becomes an important part of the team's strategy, and can tell the knowledgable fan much about the team's potential and competitiveness. There are three primary categories where teams have choices to make about which brand to buy. Each team can choose these three things:

The codes are a shorthand way of expressing what equipment a team is running; they are often referred to as the C/E/T codes. The first letter indicates the chassis choice, the second the engine, and the third the make of tires. The codes for the currently available choices in each category are:

D = Dallara
G = G-Force
R = Riley & Scott

A = Oldsmobile Aurora
I = Nissan Infiniti

F = Firestone
G = Goodyear

In race results from 1996, the IRL's first year of operation, you will see different codes for the "old cars". These are chassis and engines that are no longer legal for IRL competition, as of calendar year 1997:

L = Lola
R = Reynard

B = Buick
F = Ford Cosworth
M = Menard
MI = Mercedes-Ilmor (Note: In my race results, I use "L" to represent this, due to the necessity for auto-formatting to use a single letter code.)

Tires are the same as current.

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