The T97/20 was raced from 1997 through 2000 in the Indy Lights Series. Though the car was a new design built from 'the ground-up', it did borrow some of its design from the T96/50 Formula 3000 car. Performance of the T97/20 was similar to the T93/20, but this is where similarities ended and differences began. The car was constructed to comply with the regulations of the series. The Series was very focused on safety, and the designs highlighted this concern. The chassis was a monocoque design comprised of aluminum honeycomb composite and carbon fibre. The front of a car had a nose that was designed to give the driver adequate protection in a crash. The shell was built to high structural integrity and given a strengthened footbox, which had a double bulkhead. The overall design of the very was aerodynamic and attractive, giving more downfoce than its F3000 counterpart.
The cars were powered by V6 engines, though they could accommodate larger, V8 units. Mounted in the rear was a Buick 4.2-liter V6 engine capable of producing 425 horsepower. Each engine was sealed to prevent any tampering or modifications by the competitors. The engines were leased to the teams at a cost of $46,000 per season. A rebuild of the engine cost an additional $8,000. The ARS (American Racing Series) warranted the engines for 1,000 miles or for a total of three race weekends. Mated to the engine was a conventional Hewland gearbox mounted longitudinally and offering five gears for the driver. The total weight of the vehicle was around 650 kgs without the driver.
During the 1997 Indy Lights Championship, it was a close battle for the top three positions throughout the season. Three Brazilians walked away in the top spots separated by only a few points. Tony Kanaan beat his fellow Tasman Motorsports teammate, Helio Castro-Neves, for first place by earning 156 points to Castro-Neves' 152 points. In third was Cristiano da Matta from team Brian Stewart Racing with 141 points.By Daniel Vaughan | Jul 2007