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New Year, New Cars, New Opportunities at the Mickyard

The inaugural 1997 IRL race at Walt Disney World is heralding the new era for the League. The biggest change that people will notice are the new cars - with chassis by the British G-Force and Italian Dallara companies, and with new engines from Oldsmobile and Nissan it's easy to feel enthusiastic about a series which is finding its own feet following the acrimonious split from CART.

In testing it's seemed like the G-Force/Oldsmobile Aurora pairing is the way to go. However, the Nissan Infiniti engines have hardly had any running and are still a little bit of a wild card. Throw in a range of new and experienced Oval racers and you soon realise that the IRL championship can in no way be as predictable as the F1 which we're more used to covering in the UK.

Over winter, Scott Goodyear set the fastest testing time with speeds at the Mickyard of 168.145 mph and Galles Racing's Davy Jones right behind at 167.777 mph.

In the race itself many have raised concerns over the potential reliability problems that could be faced. Both the engine packages are very new and you really have to feel that it could be a lottery out there. It even looked at one point as if only twelve or so cars would be starting. Had that happened, and if reliability became a factor, then it could easily have turned into a race that echoed F1's Monaco GP last year in which Olivier Panis took a surprise victory.

Other favourites for the 1997 Indy 200 at the WDW Speedway must include the always impressive Tony Stewart, last year's Indy 500 winner Buddy Lazier a favourite, and a good chance for current points leader Mike Groff.

Dave Coveney.

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