Plans to shorten F1 weekend rejected; testing set for changes

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Plans for the Formula 1 race weekend to be reduced from four to three days have been rejected as the teams discuss changes to the sporting regulations for the 2015 season.

According to German publication Auto Motor und Sport, the proposed changes were rejected at a meeting in England yesterday between the main players in Formula 1 (the teams, the suppliers, the organizers, and the governors). However, changes to both pre-season and in-season testing are set to be ratified by the World Motor Sport Council in the coming weeks.

In Canada, reports emerged suggesting that, in order to aid cost cutting, the Thursday programme for teams and the media in Formula 1 would be removed. Instead, media duties and briefings would take place on Friday morning in place of the first practice session. There would be just one practice later on Friday evening, allowing fans to come to the track once they had finished work.

This would have removed a day of travelling out for all involved in the sport, thus cutting costs. However, it would also have put an increased burden on the teams with just a single session, which, given the times that it was due to start, may not have been entirely representative. For the media, it also meant that any news broken in the morning on Friday could have been made redundant by the events in practice later that day. Instead, the weekend schedule is set to remain the way currently is for 2015.

A ban on tire warmers had also been proposed, but this too has been rejected. Pirelli will instead pay teams €200,000 each to put its logo upon the warmers. This sponsorship should ease some of the costs.

Testing has been altered, though. This season, teams had three pre-season tests (one in Spain, two in Bahrain) plus eight days worth of in-season testing, spread across four days following a grand prix. For 2015, all of the tests taking place over the winter will take place in Europe – most probably in Jerez and Barcelona, as has been the trend – and teams will get just four days of in-season testing.

The rejection of the changes made to the race weekend schedule appears to be for the best. It would have placed a greater deal of pressure on the teams and personnel travelling to races, without saving a huge amount of money. In the grand scheme of things, this approach to cutting costs was a very small-scale one.

The changes made to testing are similarly sensible. Less running in-season will aid cost cutting, as will keeping everything in Europe. The reason for holding two tests in Bahrain this year was largely due to the rain-affected tests in 2013; Bahrain rarely is affected by wet weather. Clearly, the teams are happy to accept washouts that may occur in Spain at the beginning of February.

Any possible changes made to either the sporting or technical regulations for next season will need to be ratified by the World Motor Sport Council. For now though, it appears that the routine weekend structure is set to remain in place, and other ideas will need to be put forward to address the cost crisis in the sport.

Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws
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More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.

Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.

After a career-best season with the World of Outlaws, Erb and Lyne secured the points championship at US 36 Raceway in Osborn, Mo. with three races remaining in the season. The consistency and success of their season came down to pinpoint focus. Lyne and Erb are a team of two living out a David vs. Goliath tale. In order to be as successful as possible this year the duo knew they had to do as much as possible with the resources they had.

“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.

“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”

Dennis Erb clinched his 2022 championship before the World of Outlaws World Finals. Jacy Norgaard – World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Taming Time

This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.

“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.

“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”

This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.

“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”

At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.

“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”

Heather Lyne became the first female crew chief to secure a national touring late model championship in 2022. Paul Arch / World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Breaking Through

Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.

“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”

Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.

“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.

“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”