Author: JC

Alexander Rossi and The Great Motorsport’s Myth

I was surprised and a bit disappointed, that Alexander Rossi did not get the full time ride with Manor Grand Prix.  Rossi had a successful series of runs at the end of 2015, where he handily beat teammate Will Stevens.  His “ride”, however, was taken this year by a paying driver, Rio Haryanto.

When you look at at the racing records of Alexander Rossi and Rio Haryanto, there is no comparison.  In Formula BMW, Rossi won both the US and World Championship, Haryanto only won the Pacific Championship.  Rossi’s best championship finishes include a 4th in GP3, a 3rd in Formula Renault 3.5 and a 2nd in GP2.  Haryanto’s best finish is a 4th in GP2.

Online, the arguments began.

Haryanto, much like Pastor Moldano, has his national government paying for his ride in F1.  Moldano had the Venezuelan state oil company, PDVSA, pay his way.  When oil prices fell, the state could no longer pay and he is no longer in the sport.  In the case of Haryanto, the Indonesian state owned oil company Pertamina is footing the bill.

For the sport, I wonder if this is this good, bad or somewhere in between?  Are paying drivers really a problem?  In the end, this may be a good thing for Alexander Rossi.  I’ll get to that shortly.

A Quick History Lesson

Let’s look at this from a historical perspective.  In the early years, racing started out as a way for the new automobile industry to prove the strength, speed and durability of their cars. Racing has been used as a marketing vehicle for automakers from the very beginning of the sport.  Due to that, money has been integral to the sport since day one.  Racing has always been a business first and a passion second.  Win on Sunday, sell on Monday!

Drivers were hired for their speed and expertise.  Still, there are many who have essentially bought their way onto the track.  They paid for the sponsorship and wanted to drive the car.  Because we look at racing through the rose tinted glasses of “sport”, we expect the best drivers, and those with the best records and thus potential, to be highly valuable in this market.  That is, unfortunately for the fan, not the case.  Racing is a business. The first rule of business is first and foremost to stay in business.  When teams need money, they find a way.

Teams at the tail end of the grid need any money they can so to stay in business and therefore be able to compete.  Teams have taken many routes to get the money to just be there.  NASCAR is a perfect example of how economics can trump competition.  For many years, the “start and park” teams raced only a dozen or so laps, in order to get the guaranteed finishing money.  They pulled in to the pits so not to damage the cars and even save the tires for the next race.  In 2015, last place for the Daytona 500 earned $262,000.  They used the finishing money in order run the next race.

The “start and park” teams have been there for a long time, we never really noticed them.  That was until the economy dropped out in 2008, that we, the fan, saw them as an issue.  However, without those teams, Tommy Baldwin Racing and Front Row Racing would not be here today.

I believe when issues like this rise to the level where the fan see it, it is an indicator of the poor health of the sport.  As with my NASCAR example above, when the sport and the economy recovered from the financial doldrums, the issue eventually was resolved.

It is the same for F1.  With the loss of teams in recent years (Catherham F1 and HRT)and Marussia/Manor needing loans from Bernie Eccelstone to finish the season, 2014 and 2015 was extremely rough.  Though the financial problems are far from over, there is beginning to be an acceptance of issues.  People are talking and Bernie is still saying stupid things.  At least the problems can be addressed.

Drivers paying for rides are everywhere.  Sports car racing, for example, survives because of these pay to play drivers.  While imperfect and somewhat controversial, the FIA has developed their Driver Catagorization (rating) system in recognition of this.  IndyCar, too, has its pay to play drivers, with the Indy 500 itself littered with names like Patrick Bedard, Don and Bill Whittington, Randy Lanier, and John Paul Jr.  Bedard was a writer for Car & Driver who raced in 1983 and 1984.  Whittington, Lanier and Paul paid for their rides, at least early on, with money gained through their drug smuggling operations.  All three did serious jail time for their crimes.

Throughout the history of auto racing, there are three key truths.  Racing is about the money, not the sport.  Talent is secondary to money.  Regardless of what any sporting body says, fans are not the stakeholders of the sport.

Alexander Rossi

As for Alexander Rossi, I don’t want to see his talents wasted at the back end of the grid.  Manor Grand Prix has a history of financial issues and I don’t believe they will improve significantly in the near term.  While their car now has Mercedes power and they have a Mercedes factory driver in 2016 DTM Champion Pascal Wehrlin, I do not see it being very competitive this year.  Add to that, if they continue with financial issues, that could overshadow any effort on Rossi’s part.

Why pay to fail?  A year or two in Indycar, with consistently good finishes, could be the ticket to an F1 test, as it was for new team owner Michael Andretti.  That route has worked for F1 Champion Jacques Villeneuve.

While we rail against pay drivers, keep in mind that three time F1 Champion Niki Lauda started out paying for his rides at March and BRM!

The Perfect Girlfriend

I will start this story with the admission that I do, in fact, own a 1986 Ferrari Testarossa.  Like many a man traversing through middle age, I had the opportunity to get one of my childhood dream cars. The first thing I learned, as a new owner of the Italian standard for luxury sports cars, nobody feels sorry for you when you own a Ferrari!  Guy’s, just keep that in mind.

With my wife out of town and my boys at a sleep over, I had the house all to myself.  It’s early Saturday night, and I decided to take my Italian girlfriend out for an evening drive.  Afterwards, we went to my favorite pub, TirNaNog, in Daytona Beach.  Leaving the Testarossa parked out front, I walked in for a pint.  I talked to the British ex-pat regulars for a while, discussing politics, religion and all those things we’re told to avoid in polite conversation.  As usual, I heard about a dozen different variations of the F-bomb, and enjoyed them all.

In walks a 30-something hipster and his girlfriend and with them, a herd of tatted scarf clad millennials.  After ordering their pints of PBR, the leader of the pack looks around and loudly asks the entire bar, “Whose Ferrari is that out front?”

“Mine,” I said.

“Nice car!”


“My GT-R is better!” he proudly boasts.

WOW!  I really should have seen that coming.  I look out the window, and, lo and behold, parked in front of my Rosso Corsa Italian is Godzilla herself, a dark silver Nissan GT-R.  Believe it or not, I was the one thinking “show-off!”  Go figure…

That has me thinking though, and at the pub, my brain and mouth are very rarely properly coordinated.  So, it’s ON!

“My friend,” I begin, “your car is better than mine, and in so many ways!  The GT-R has a twin turbo charged 3.8L V6 making 478bhp at 434ft/lbs of torque.  Her 6 speed dual clutch transmission can change gears in milliseconds, and it is attached to computer controlled 4-wheel drive system that actually makes Sebastian Loeb jealous.  With a 0 to 60 in 2 point very little seconds, I am told Nissan stole a launch control button left over from the Apollo Moon mission.

“She has more processing power than a Boeing 787 and I believe the air-conditioning has artificial intelligence.  It has power everything, and the front seats can move in so many different directions, it could be its own ride at Disney.  Oh, and that display!  WOW, what a piece of art meeting science.  My boys video games aren’t nearly as cool!

“At 30 years old, the Testarossa is an entirely different being.  Her 48 valve, 4.9L, 180º V-12 has 380bhp.  Her exhaust is not suppressed by turbo-chargers and inter-coolers, and the sounds she makes leaves men weak in the knees.  With a leisurely 0 to 60 of just under 6 seconds, she’s no longer among the quickest.  When you see the color of her cylinder heads, you realize you have a real life redhead on your hands, in both beauty and temperament.

“That wonderful piece of artistic engineering is attached to a traditional 5-speed synchromesh manual transmission with a chrome gated shifter and a small black knob mounted atop a thin steel shaft.  Your hand falls onto that knob as if Michelangelo himself designed it, putting it  there for you to caress her.  Her light clutch and short throw shifter make the act of changing gears like foreplay.  There is a search for perfection and you keep doing it and doing it, constantly trying to get it just right.

“She has neither power steering nor ABS.  The power windows with a mind of their own and the air conditioning has an intelligence that is more malevolent than artificial.  It is either off or set to Arctic freeze, or maybe, she wants to roast a turkey today.  You just never know!  Oh, and the radio, with its 2 speakers, sucked in 1987 and has not improved with age!

“Wrapping that package, however, is a work of absolute beauty.  Though her goal is a high top speed in a comfortable setting, she was drawn of pure emotion.  This car was one of the last Ferrari’s designed mostly on paper, using a pencil.  Artists were still in charge at a time before computers, when passion, not aerodynamics, ruled the design process.

“Let’s face it, your GT-R is the perfect girlfriend!  She is modestly attractive, and is as comfortable in tight jeans and a white tee shirt as she is in that small black dress she keeps for special occasions.  She can party all night long just as easily as she can get up early in the morning to take the kids to school, and pick up groceries on her way home.  She is easy to get along with and there is little to complain about.  When things do get crazy, she’ll hold her own and still get you home, safely, and tuck you into bed.  Maybe give you a little peck on the forehead.

“The Testarossa, on the other hand, is not your girlfriend.  As boys, we had her picture on our walls, above our beds.  We spent nights staring at her; wishing, dreaming, fantasizing.   She’s the one in the knee high boots with 4′ heels and the black leather miniskirt!  She enticed us with her beauty and exudes pure sex.  We longed to just get close to her, be with her, even for a moment.   We just knew we’d never have her.

“She is very high maintenance and requires a great deal of attention.  When the world gets wet and things get wild,  I can’t tell if she wants to tie me up and hurt me or demand that I take control and dominate her.  Then, without warning, she’ll change her mind!  What’s worse, I can’t get enough of it, I want more!  She’s an addiction that’s hard to explain.  It never gets old!

“Even with your girlfriend beside you, you stare at the redhead; wanting, needing, fantasizing! You can’t hide it, you want her, for just one night.  You know you can’t have her.  She’s right there, in front of you!  No longer the poster above your bed.  Jealous, your girlfriend won’t have any of it!  I can see it in her eyes, and yours.

“Your perfect girlfriend checks all the right boxes.  My supermodel, on the other hand, is imperfect; equally as beautiful as she is neurotic.  At the end of the evening, she is a Ferrari.  That, alone, says it all!

“So, cheer’s my friend.  This round’s on me.  Enjoy!  Lucky for us, swapping cars, even for an evening, is a lot easier than swapping girlfriends.  Maybe someday, you’ll have your chance!”

I paid my bill, and headed home to an empty house.  My hipster friend caught up with me at the light on International Speedway Boulevard at Peninsula.  Looking over his girlfriend, he opened her window, gave me a thumbs up and yelled “Nice car!”  The light turned green and he was gone, the GT-R’s taillights leaving a long red streak into the night, like the Millennium Falcon going into hyperspace.  Smiling, I realized hadn’t even released the clutch.

The Future of LMP2 is in IMSA’s Hands

While the future of IMSA is now tied to the successful implementation of the new FIA/ACO LMP2 rule, it is ironic that the future of the LMP2 formula itself is in IMSA’s hands. They are inseparably bound together due to many of the same forces which have F1 in the mess it currently stands.  The talks are ongoing, and we are all hoping to finish up the final rules soon.  It has been a chaotic rollout of information.

I was shocked by the the initial rules that rolled out in April of 2015.  Honestly, I thought it was some kind of late April Fool’s joke!  The choice of 4 chassis manufacturers surprised me, but it was the single engine manufacturer that threw me to the ground..

Later we found out that Jim France and Scott Atherton negotiated the IMSA variation, called DPi (for Daytona Prototype International), which allowed a level of manufacturer support not allowed in the FIA version.  “WhooHoo!!!” I said. Now that is in doubt, and a number of teams and manufacturers are in limbo, with decisions for 2017 needing to be made NOW.

The issue at hand is the cost to compete and who should compete where.  Regardless of which series a team is involved, anybody involved in sports car racing want to be able to race in one race, The 24hours of LeMans!  The goal of the LMP2 rules is to allow cars from the four international series the ability to race against each other, including at LeMans.

The ACO and FIA have very definite opinions as to who they feel should compete in which class.  The automobile manufacturers will be in LMP1, with its bespoke hybrid systems and totally custom cars. Rebellion and ByKolles LMP1 Privateer efforts are  notable exceptions.  Professional privateers will be in LMP2.  LMP3, the future of Prototype Challenge, is the spec prototype series with significantly lower cost.

The reality is something very different.  To compete with Audi, Porsche and Toyota, F1 levels of money are required to meet the formulas complex hybrid requirement, whose technology is at, or above, F1’s level of complexity.  Even the LMP1 Privateer formula are so restrictive that there are only 2 team participating for the LMP crumbs. For the long run, this is not beneficial for the sport.  Jim France, Scott Atherton and company see that, and understand the long term implications.  As we speak, IMSA searches to find the fine line where manufacturers and privateers alike could join IMSA’s ranks AND race at LeMans.  That seems to be proving difficult.

In my humble opinion, the FIA and ACO are sticking to an belief which continues to prove troublesome.  Nissan, the most recent entrant into LMP, quit after single season due to poor results.  There is more to their leaving the series than meets the eye.   It is in part due to an extremely aggressive (revolutionary?) vehicle design by Ben Bowlby, and Renault/Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn’s purchase of the Lotus F1 team for a true factory F1 presence.  In the end, it was not financially productive for Nissan to spend F1 money in LMP1 when that money could actually be spent in F1!

On this side of the pond, we have a different set of requirements.  At the 2016 Rolex24, we had 7 different motors in 6 different Prototype chassis’s. LMP2 is our top tier, and we have manufacturers interested in prototype racing in the US.     If the manufacturers wanted to spend F1 levels of money on racing, they would, and there is little we can do about it.  But Ford and GM, for example, are not going to spend millions of dollars in either top level series.  They are already spread thin in motorsports.  Honda, Mercedes and FIAT/Chrysler, through Ferrari, are already in F1.  As such, I don’t see any new manufacturers entering into LMP1.  Worse, Audi looks set to leave the sport in the near future, possibly for F1.  With only two manufacturers and two privateer teams, that might spell the end of the currently LMP1 formula, making the new LMP2  rules even more important.

Now think about this, has anyone wondered why Ford, with its history of success in all forms of motorsports (F1, LeMans, IndyCar and NASCAR) decided to build a new road car for GTE rather than a prototype for LMP1?  Why is Ford focusing on a LeMans class win rather than go for the overall win, as it did over 50 years ago?  Look at the Audi LMP1 and Mercedes F1 budgets.  Building a new road car from scratch, and racing it, is cost competitive to the cost of LMP1/F1, especially when you can sell the road car in the showroom!  Does anyone get the hint here?

Now back to IMSA here in the US.  As I understand it, the DPi rules allowed any manufacturer to put it’s homologated GT3 motor into any of the 4 approved chassis’s, along with model specific bodywork.  With that in mind, we could see a Cadillac prototype, using their V6TT from their ATS-V!

There seems to be more manufacturer interest in IMSA’s prototypes than anytime since the late 1990’s!  These rules have piqued the interest of several manufacturers not currently in US prototype racing, including Audi, Bentley, FIAT and Nissan!  The possibilities are spectacular!  Especially if they can go to LeMans!  It would be very fan friendly.

With that being said, this indecision between the FIA, ACO and IMSA has put worldwide  prototype racing in limbo. The current teams can not go forward with their plans to tie up with a manufacturer until the rules are settled upon.  And potentially new teams will have an even more difficulty getting up and running.  And this effects those other series, as they too are waiting on the rules to be finalized.  Many of those teams, such as SMP, are interested in doing the Daytona/Sebring/LeMans trifecta.  The rules must be flexible enough to allow this.

Time is running out, and it’s the fans who suffer for this.

And now for a little Glastnost

2016 Rolex 24 qualifying is a product of glasnost! Really! If you don’t know what that is, you needed to pay more attention in school! Michael Aleshin, the Russian ace of IndyCar, took the pole in the Russian team SMP’s BR01 LMP2 car, built by BR Engineering outside of Moscow!

I am a child of the 80’s. I lived through the atomic bomb drills in school. Russia was the enemy. Then Ronald Reagan told Mikhail Gorbachev to “Tear Down This Wall!”, and suddenly, very suddenly, we had peace. Glastnost!  What is unfortunate is that it took over 30 years for a Russian driver, with a Russian team AND car, to race in The US.1JCC0666

Congratulations, Mikhail! And good luck. We’ll all be watching. I, in fact, will be on turn 5!

Driving Ratings Explained

Over this past season, there has been a great deal angst surrounding the FIA’s Driver Categorizations, otherwise known as the driver ratings.  It is an international system, the intent of which  is to better define who is a professional and who is an amateur.  This system is used primarily for the Pro/Am classes in IMSA (PC and GTD), and ALMS/ELMS/WEC (GTE-Am).

What the FIA has done is a noble attempt to create order in an otherwise chaotic system.  However, it’s execution has been flawed for several reasons, some of which I will address later.  Much of what I have recently read has discussed the issues involved in the use of the system, rather than how these ratings are derived.  I will now attempt to pull that rabbit out of the hat in an effort to explain what data is used and how they assign a driver their rating.

General Information

Drivers are required to provide the FIA with an application for rating, along with an application fee of 150€, a list of accomplishments and achievements in FIA recognized racing series.  Keep in mind that there are over two thousand drivers who have official ratings.

For this system to work, all of the FIA member series must provide standardized data to the FIA’s Panel of Stewards of the Competition (yes, that is the real name) for every recognized event.  This data will include all of the drivers finishing positions, their 10 faster lap times, and the gap between them and the class winners.  Using this information, the series will list the time ranges for each class for that event.  Also included in this data are the weather conditions and any other factors that would influence the outcome of the race (such as red flag events or extended follows).

Using all this information from the driver and racing series, the Panel of Stewards of the Competition will then review and rate the drivers.  Drivers may request a a revision if the driver feels they have been wrongly catagorized.  It is up to the driver to provide any information pertinent to this review as well as pay a fee of 250€ for revision.  The driver may be have their rating adjusted by the FIA, should their results differ greatly from those used in the initial review.

We all know the break down; professionals are Platinum and Gold and Aamateurs are Silver and Bronze.   When I refer to a Professional Series or Professional Championship, I am referring to the following classes:  WEC GTE-Pro, ELMS and ALMS (Asian) GTE-Pro and IMSA GTLM classes.


To be a Platinum rated driver, a person must meet two of the following criteria:

  • Have an F1 Super License
  • Have a full time ride as a factory or works driver
  • Won LeMans in a professional class
  • Won a Professional Series championship (WEC, IMSA, ELMS or ALMS)
  • Won the Porsche SuperCup
  • Finish top 5 in Indycar, F3000, WEC Championship, IMSA (DP only)
  • Top 3 major single seater championship
  • American LeMans Series P1 or GT Champion
  • any 3 criteria of the Gold rating

To be a Gold rated driver, they must meet only one of the following criteria:

  • Any single Platinum criteria requirement
  • Top 3 in any secondary single seater championship
  • Won a major GT or Sportswear championship with drivers of the same rating or lower.
  • Raced in a major international championship with wins, possums and poles
  • Won regional or national single seater championship
  • Finished top 3 in Porsche SuperCup, DTM, BTCC or Carrera Cup


To be a Silver rated driver, a person must meet one of the following requirements:

  • 30 years of age or younger while not meeting any Gold or Platinum criteria.
  • Won a regional or mMajor National championship or series (Skip Barber, Ect.)
  • Won a major Endurance Race (LeMans or Daytona)
  • Won a non-professional drivers series (Ferrari Challenge, Lamborghini SuperTrofeo, GT3 Cup, Etc)

To be a Bronze rated driver, a person must meet the following criteria:

  • 30 years of age or older when first racing license is issues with little or no single seater experience.
  • No significant racing results
  • 30 years of age or younger with less than 1 year and experience and/or fewer than 5 races participated.


The following following apply to all categories.

  • Any driver over the age of 50 will behave their category reduced by 1 level.
  • Any driver over the age of 55 will have their category reduced by 2 levels.
  • Any driver over the age of 60 will be a Bronze.


Many writers have discussed how and why the system is being used.  I won’t beat that dead horse for too long.

As we know, IMSA, ALMS (Asia), ELMS and the WEC use the rating system in an effort to equalize the competition in their respective Pro/Am classes.  In WEC LMP2, there must be at least 1 Silver or Bronze rated driver.  In GTE-AM, there must be at least 1 Silver and 1 Bronze rated driver.  In IMSA GTD and PC, there must be at least 1 Silver or Bronze rated driver.  If there are 5 or more drivers listed (as in the Rolex24, for Example), there must be 2 Amateur drivers.

LeMans uses the rating for the same purpose.  However, LeMans is such a big international race, it does use the rating for an additional reason.  LeMans rookies, regardless of racing experience or pedigree, are required to show the race stewards that they are qualified to participate.  All rookies must participate in one of several simulations prior to doing their on-track test.  This is done at the Aotech Simulator, located in St Pierre du Perray, just south of Paris  Platinum drivers, though required to do the simulation, are not required to do the on track test.  This helps Platinum rated LeMans rookies like Scott Dixon and (potentially) Tony Kannan, who have Indycar obligations the same weekend as the test.

So there we have it!  This is the how, and why, the drivers are rated the way they are!  Soon, I will get in to some of the issues the ratings have caused.

Welcome 2016! A Look Towards the Upcoming Season

Welcome 2016!  As a fan, I have been waiting all year for this!  (I know, it’s only 10 day in, but I do go there!)  The next two years are going to be interesting, and with the Roar Before Daytona finishing today, I see we’ve come a long way.

What’s New

The most obviously new thing here is Daytona International Speedway’s new grandstands.  I was up at the top of the turn 1 stands last year and was amazed by the view!  At the very top, you’re almost too far from the track.  I did have to have a friend help me because my vertigo kicked in and I was shaking my beer flat….  Oops! The aluminum stands have that stadium seating where you get a great view sitting while the guy in front of you stands up.  It’s almost like floating in the air, 15 stories high!!!  It is truly awesome.  This year I aim to get pictures from the start/finish line from as high up as I can get.  The fan concourses inside are big and roomy.  While I can’t speak for the Daytona 500, the Rolex will be fun to watch from up there!

But the action is always in the infield!!! The Speedway enlarged the Sprint Fan Zone, almost doubling it’s size.  They also will have 2 giant Jumbotrons  being built for the main grandstands, however I doubt they will be ready for the Rolex!

Infrastructure aside,the important thing for IMSA is the new for this year GT3 cars in GTD!  My quick count has 7 makes: Aston Martin, Audi, BMW, Dodge, Ferrari, Lamborhgini and Porsche.  Mercedes-Benz came to the November test with both their AMG-SLS and AMG-GT, but the AMG-GT won’t be ready until Sebring in 3 months.  Also, the 3 pointed star won’t pay the $1 million IMSA buy-in, which will be used to market the sport and pay for the television coverage.  (The IMSA coverage is a point for a future blog)

That said, looking at the times from the Roar and the times between all the marques, in all the classes, they are very competitive.  Lamborghini consistently topped the practice times in GTD, with Ferrari and Dodge just off the pace set by the brand of the bull.  The race should be exciting.

What’s Improved

Again, looking at the overall lap times, the Prototype class will be a battle!  The Michael Shank Racing Honda/Ligier topped 3 of 5 practices.  The other two were Wayne Taylor’s Corvette DP and the DeltaWing!  And that’s not all!  Throughout the test, I saw both the DeltaWing and the re-engined Mazda prototyped sons instantly towards the top of the scoring pylon.  Also, the Russian built (and driven) BR Engineering BR01/Nissan was quick at times.

I also welcome Mazda back after 3 years in the doldrums of racing.  While they tried mightly with their diesel motor, the new LMP2 rules required a change.  It’s amazing what their new AER built, direct injection, 2.0T motor can do!  It was near the top of the scoring pylon all weekend.

That brings the list of prototype motors to 7; Chevy, Ford, BMW (yes, them too!), Honda, Nissan, Mazda and the Elan motor in the DeltaWing. More interestingly is the 7 different chassis running; Coyote (Action Express/SDR Racing), Dallara (WTR), Riley (Starworks/Ganassi), Ligier (Shank/ESM), Lola (Mazda), DeltaWing and the BR01(SMP).

I can’t leave out GTLM.  It seems like all the cars are new this year, with little carryover from last season, leaving the Corvette team with what is essentially the same car as last year.  However they did have to heavily modify the car to meet new FIA requirements including, among other things, a roof mounted escape hatch which allows for a back board to be used in driver extraction.  (I hope NOT to see that in use, ever!)

Rahal/Letterman/Lannigan Racing has the new M6 GTLM replacing their Z4. CORE motor sports has the new Porsche 911RS as well.  GTLM stalwart Risi Ferrari is waiting (as patiently as possible) for Michelotto to finish their new 488 Turbo in time for Daytona.  The plan is to have it flown to Orlando in time for qualifying.  Talk about cutting it close.  In the meantime they are working with GTD Scuderia Corsa with their new Ferrari 488 Turbo in order to get a feel for it.

But the big news is the ALL new Ford GT!  OMG, it is beautiful!  Team Ganassi has 2 of the new cars and a Ford factory effort to back it up.  This is the high profile roll out for an effort in both IMSA and the WEC!   Ganassi is running a total of 4 cars at the Rolex, 2 Ford EcoBooste DP’s and 2 new Ford GT’s.  After Sebring, Ganassi will have the 2 Ford GT’s here in the US and, in conjunction with Multimatic Racing, will run 2 additional cars in the European series!  WOW!  Talk about busy!

The Golden Age Of Racing Returns

I really feel that we are entering the next Golden Age of sports car racing!!  People are excited.  I am excited!  With all the teams and the close times I saw in testing, I see a great year ahead!  I feel much better about the future.  Seeing the LMP2 cars from Ligier and BR, knowing that the Riley/Multimatic effort is well along the way, 2017 looks to be good for the prototypes.

The numbers look like this: 7 cars and 7 different engines in prototype, 5 different cars in GTLM, and 7 different cars in GTD!  That is variety, and variety is the spice of life!  So it goes for sportswear racing in the US!!!  Good stuff!

Now What Really Stinks

I am totally disappointed and disheartened to see defending GTD Rolex24 and NEAC Championship winning drivers unable to defend their titles!  Cameron Lawrence and Al Carter are without rides, as of the Roar.  There are many good to great drivers who are unable to get good rides this year, and that always happens.  However, it is very rare to see drivers unable to defend their titles due to a lack of a ride.

Scott Pruett, after a 2 race guest spot with Action Express to beat Hurley Haywoods record 5 Rolex 24 wins, will be moving to the new Lexus Factory GTD effort, run by Paul Gentilozzi’s Rocketsport Racing (RSR) group and under the Lexus F-Sport banner.  Scott Pruett will be the team’s AMATEUR driver, with former Ganassi Indycar driver (FIA Gold rated) Sage Karam as the teams professional driver.   You heard that right, Pruett is the Amateur on the only GTD FACTORY team!  So the team actually has two professional drivers.  That, as a whole, simply sucks!

The factory efforts should be in GTLM and a driver like Scott Pruett should never have been labeled a Silver by the FIA!  With GTD as the Gentlemens class, Paul Gentilozzi should have been THE gentleman himself and not hired Scott Pruett as the amateur, but should have recognized that Pruett is the consummate professional and built his team that way, hiring a true amateur to work with Scott Pruett.  That sucks!  I want to see Lexus race, but not like this!  I feel the whole thing is a cheat.  But that’s just me!

I mean, REALLY?!?!  This is the reason that there is so much angst with the driver ratings and this is why championship winning drivers will be watching from the sidelines, unable to defend last years efforts!  When a 5 time Rolex winner and 4 time series champion is listed as an amateur, how do true amateurs expect to get rides?!?  Winning the Rolex and a Championship is SUPPOSED to be the springboard for an amateur to get a good ride, maybe becoming the professional.  But instead they get a seat in the stands.  So Jim France and Scott Atherton, YOU have some work to do!!!  I hope you actually see this problem with this and work on a solution! There is the appearance of impropriety here, which you can never win.  So, step to it!

The Missed Opportunity – A Story From My Childhood

When I was a young lad of 11 in the early 1980’s, my uncle took me on an adventure. He was flying to DC to look at a new car, and he had asked me to join him. His friend had a private plane, a twin engine Beechcraft prop, and he happened to be going in that direction. I said yes, and off we went.

We landed in DC in the early morning and were met by a very stately black Bentley. I was amazed. It looked like a Rolls Royce, but with the flying “B” on the nose and a driver who wished he was at LeMans. We toured DC’s various neighborhoods, and though it seemed to take hours, I realize today, it was the only way to avoid DC’s, well, lesser appreciated parts (AKA “The Hood”)

We arrived at a dealership or warehouse, I’m not really sure. I was having a blast. It was an automotive addicts candy store. Cars of every type and style. Old and new, familliar and very strange. I was beside myself and wanted to get in all of them. I didn’t even know what most of them were! My uncle, however, was interested in only one, a blue Ferrari.

At 11, I was a dumbass punk, without a clue what we were even looking at. My uncle spent over an hour going over one old car. Under the hood, under the rear end. He sat in it. He looked under the dash board, he pulled the dipstick and looked at the oil on a paper towel. Hell, he stuck his finger deep in the exhaust and sniffed the soot. Weird!

After a few hours of them talking, we left for lunch. We went to one of DC’s nicer spots (as a punk ass kid, how could I really tell, it had cloth napkins…) and they discussed cars even more. They were telling stories of Daytona and LeMans, the Targa, Nurburgring and races I had no idea even existed. They told jokes, some were even dirty! I was interested, though didn’t have a clue. I was having fun. The man selling the car suddenly looked at me! He asked, “what do you think?”

WOW, he spoke to me! I sat straight up, looked as calm and cool as I possibly could. I looked him dead in the eye. I boldly spoke.

“He’s going to paint the car RED!” I proudly proclaimed. “He likes all his Ferrari’s red!”

I proudly looked over at my uncle, smiling. Then noticed him looking at his napkin, covering his eyes with his hand and shaking his head. There was no more laughter, no more jokes. The conversation just ceased.

The bill was quickly paid and we were quickly hustled out. The ride in the Bentley was quick, we drove through the roughest parts of DC and directly to the airport. With just civilties passed between my uncle and the driver, we got back on the plane. It was a quiet trip back home.

I’m now 46, and even today, that day is joked about in our family. My uncle still tells the story of how he almost bought a Ferrari 275 GTB/4 for a song and a joke, and his young nephew just had to open his mouth!

Haters Gonna Hate

Haters Gonna Hate!  This is my open letter to the dimwits in cyberland.  As one of  those who post comments on a lot of boards, I hear that a lot!  Its been espscially prevalent since the Logan/Kenseth thing got going and now that KyBu won the Championship, I see a lot of this.

My opinions are just that, Mine.  You don’t have to agree, and I often expect most not to agree with me.  I actually like that.  But, before you say it, state what exactly haters hate!

Why?  I try to back up my opinions with facts; statistics and relative information.  Me, myself, I won’t say something if I haven’t researched it, at least a little.  Does that make me correct?  Sometimes, sometimes not.  I will admit when I am wrong.  I have mis-read the stats. I have taken ositions which, in hind sight, were just wrong.  I have even changed my opinion based on someones response to me.  That’s really cool, if you ask me!

But I never resorted to “Haters gonna hate”.  That’s what you say when your fandom eclipses logic.  It’s a cop out!  They can’t make an argument in favor of their guy, so to cut the argument short.  “Haters gonna Hate, so don’t bother me!”

To you sir, I say, don’t waste my time.  Just shut up.  If you want to contribute to a discussion, add a real thought.  Why do you think I am a hater?  Where is my logic wrong? Make an argument.  Passion is great, blind passion is foolish.

And it makes you look like like an idiot!

The Crash was the Red Flag For A Bigger Issue

A week has passed since Sunday’s race debacle between Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano, and I have had a chance to reflect on what happened, why, and wonder where we may be going. I have listened to various radio and TV shows and read volumes online, including Facebook and Twitter. I have heard what the crew chiefs, drivers and fans have said. I have already vented a bit on my previous blog, but now I have some more succinct thoughts on the subject. I see this wreck not as a standalone incident, but a red flag for deeper issues.

I was glad to see NASCAR react by issuing a 2 race suspension. I am also pleased that the suspension was upholding though the two Kenseth appeals. This shows me that all of those people in the management of the sport are in agreement about the magnitude of the issue. But they may be in the minority.

Acceptance of Bad Behavior

I am concerned. I believe that I have gotten a good and accurate temperature of fan opinion on the NASCAR channel and its various shows: The Morning Drive (my favorite), Trading Paint and Dave Moody’s show. It’s too hot now and it is not good.

Here is MY opinion: There is too much hate in the sport. It has gotten too personal. It used to be “just a racing thing”, but now drivers “have it coming to them, just wait”.  It hit me with this incident.  I have felt it building in the back ground for some time.  This is just the red flag thrown onto the field, and really catching my attention.  Few seem to notice, though.

Poor sportsmanship has become the new “passion”. When the drivers act poorly, it’s because they have “passion”. REALLY? That’s not passion, that’s a Bully mentality and it is just wrong! I work hard so my children don’t act this way when they grow up!  But that is what it is. It’s a bully mentality, and the sport seems infected with it.

This includes the teams, at least crew chief on down, the drivers and so many of the fans. Just listen to the Martinsville team radios as well as the massive cheering of the fans. It has gone beyond a simple acceptance of bad behavior, beyond even embracing poor sportsmanship, the fans encourage this bad behavior.

What Matt Kenseth did was akin to the wrestler bringing the chair into the ring and slamming it onto the head of his opponent. It’s cheating, plain and simple.

Consider this. I drive 80 miles a day. If I were to vocally threaten someone  for 2 weeks, then lie in waiting for them to drive by, and with my car proceed to t-bone that person across the road, where would I end up? In the real world, I would be in JAIL facing charges of attempted murder. It would be road rage. So it’s alright on the track, but not in the real world.

#FREEMATT & the Role Model

Matt feels he has been unfairly punished for what he did. I saw a tweet of Denny Hamlin with his #FREEMATT tee shirt. The #FreeMatt has gone viral. Many DRIVERS are posting with that hashtag. It proves to me that too many drivers think this behavior is acceptable. What they are accepting is Road Rage. So many of the drivers have actually gone on record to say that they either believe Matt did nothing wrong or that he shouldn’t be punished by anything more than points and fines. Points and fines are two things that, at this moment in Matt’s season, are nothing more than a slap on the wrists.

Don’t they realize that they are role models? Both the Driver and Crew Chief are revered by all fans. Do I really want my 2 boys to follow a sport where the role models are supporting of this behavior? HELL NO!!

It’s Not Just The Driver

The wreck brought to light a deeper issue of behavior, of both team and the fan, in our sport. Let’s face it, the Crew Chief sets the tone of the team, and when he starts to get verbal and physical with another driver, it’s a green light for everyone else on the team. His choice of words carry a heavy weight with those he is responsible for. And the fans hear it on the radios. I heard it through the fans, cheering for the cheapest of cheap shots I’ve ever seen. I heard it on the team radios after the wreck.  Wow!

Where Do We Go From Here?

So what do we do? Does NASCAR see this as a long term issue? Does the Media? I don’t know. I think the sport I have followed for so many years because it didn’t show all the bad behavior so often seen in other professional sports. I bring my kids to races because I think race fans were different. I was obviously wrong. It is going the wrong way.

But, what can NASCAR do? Writing a code of conduct for the teams and drivers would be a start. One that includes the in car communication, inter-team communications and how everybody acts while under the races spot light. Other than that, I think Denny Hamlin does have the right thought, though. It really is becoming, as he said this week, the Wild West.  It is not due to any failing on the part of Brian France or NASCAR.

Matt used the term respect after acknowledging he lost the appeal. In refernece to Joey Logano, he says he wasn’t respected. Well, respect is a two edged sword. A respectful person gives respect to everyone, including those who don’t return it. Many in NASCAR Nation seem to have forgotten that.

Gloom, Dispair and Agony On Me…..

First, I want to congratulate Jeff Gordon for his win and his entry to thr 2015 Championship Final!  A win is a win, and he won through perserverence and luck.  I am glad to see him win.

Now I have to apologize to him for what happens next.  For the umpteenth time in the last several years, a great win has been overshadowed by circumstances beyond the winners control.  For NASCAR, it seems bad luck is followed by worse luck.  The series seems to chase bad news, especially during the Chase.  NASCAR seems bedeviled by the actions of teams trying to game the system or, sometimes just bad luck (Sorry Tony).  Its embarrasing!

The Kenseth/Logano thing just pisses me off.  I was a Kenseth fan, until this!  I’m angry for several reasons.

I love a little bumpin’ and runnin’; contact is not a bad thing.  Bent metal chasing a lead is something truly unique to NASCAR, and I love it.  But what Kenseth did IS NOT RACING.  Nine laps down, he cruised the apron like a sniper waiting for a kill, which he got.  He was upfront and honest about it, at least until he pulled the trigger, then denied any wrong doing.

It was very selfish of him to decide the championship on his own.  Not by racing Logano, but by t-boning him from the apron.  This is the kind of thing an immature person with low self esteem would do.  He looked ike a spoil sport and a sore loser.  It’s playing dirty, getting in those cheap shots, when you already know you can’t win the game.  Zero class from a former NASCAR Champion who represents the series.

The team is at fault, too.  Playing Monday Morning Quarterback, Kenseth, his crew chief and spotter should have watched the tapes of Kansas and Talladega and figured out how to defend against Team Penske!  But I didn’t hear anyone say “Matt, don’t do anything stupid” or “WHAT THE HELL!!!”.  I had higher expectations of Joe Gibbs.  He’s had to work with Kyle Busch, who has his own record.  Roger Penske would NEVER tolerate this.

There is no fine high enough to correct this.  Probation is meaningless, and with the season essentially over for Kenseth, parking him will make no difference.  Personally, I feel Kenseth should be excluded from the 2016 championship.  I don’t care if he wins every race next year.  What he did was the pre-meditated removal of another competitor from the championship in a manor that is totally outside the context of racing.  This will send a message about where the limits of “Boy’s Have At It”is.

The hardest thing for me to deal with, though, was the crowd.  They were cheering for him.  CHEERING!  There has always been talk of NASCAR being the WWF of racing, and this will only prove it the sports detractors.  Let’s bring the pom pom’s to the train wreck.  Doom, Dispair and Agony on me.