Category: Sebring

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.

Looking Ahead

The US sportswear racing season is over. It is during this downtime between seasons, I enjoy looking to what’s going to be different for the upcoming 2016 season.  There is a lot.

What’s in a Name?

The IMSA series has its 3rd name change in as many years.  I loved the change to the Tudor!  Its easy to say and exudes the class of the Swiss made watches it represents.  But it is gone.  In its place comes WeatherTech.

WeatherTech, however, doesn’t roll off the tongue quite the same way.  They have a strong history in racing, sponsoring the Alex Job team for several years and almost everybody knows who they are.

That said, WeatherTech is a bit of a hero company for me.  My background is in manufacturing and WeatherTech is an ALL-American company!  A family company too. They use Toyota’s lean manufacturing philosophy to make great products for cars and trucks.  They represent what is good about American businesses and they have a DIRECT connection to racing.  I like that!  No, I mean I LOVE THAT!

Welcome WeatherTech.

The More Things Change, The More They Remain The Same

The prototypes generally get top billing, and this year is no exception.  The new international rules for LMP2 coming in 2017 will have a number of teams looking at changes now so to be competitive by then.

I think IMSA did the right thing by keeping the engine and bodywork options open.  Unlike the WEC, IMSA is manufacturer driven. If our manufacturers were interested in the F1 budgets of LMP1’s high tech hybrids, they would be there.  Mazda is a perfect example, running their diesel LMP2 to develop the concept.  The did get caught out with the rules change outlawing diesels and are now working on the gas version.  The story for Prototypes, though =, is still being written.

The change from GTD to GT3 this season will transform the series.  The influx of new cars already listed and the potential for cross over from Pirelli World Challenge has me just giddy with optimism.

Last year’s GT mix (GTLM and GTD) was a great mix with Porsche, Audi, Ferrari, Dodge (Viper), Chevy, Aston Martin and BMW all fighting for wins!  So far, we have Lamborghini committed to running, with Cadillac testing at Sebring with the Pratt&Miller team.  Flying Lizard?K-Pax are discussing a possible McLaren for at least the NEAC.  I also want to believe that Dyson Racing won’t completely turn its back on IMSA with the brutish but beautiful Bentley!

The field is full of opportunity!

History Returns

Saving the best for last, the Historic 24 is in November.  IMSA has heroically added its name to the race and it should be somethings see.  I for one will be there with my boys.  Camping in the infield old-school style.  I will post pictures.

Here is how it works.  There are 6 classes ranging from 50’s cars to more modern cars from the 2000’s.  Starting with class A and going through F, each class runs for 1 hour.  Once all classes have run, they start over and repeat the process for 24v hours.  Each class runs 4 hours total over the 24.

There will be some great old, and not so old, cars there!  This may be IMSA’s next hidden treasure.

A Brief Look Back At 2014

I sit here on the last day of 2014 looking back at at the year.  Overall, it was interesting and enjoyable.

The Good

GrandAm merged with ALMS and created the IMSA/Tudor Series and the North American Endurance Cup (NEAC).  It brought together the widest range of machinery we haven seen since the days of the GTP Uber-Prototypes.  To unify endurance racing in the US was necessary for both to survive.

While there were areas of concern, especially after Sebring (See “An Open Letter To IMSA“), it ended where it should have started, with P2’s being competitive with the DP’s.  The new P2 Coupes look great and can run with the DP’s, even win against them.  I want to believe there will be a better balance of power (BoP) going into the 2015 Rolex and Sebring races.

Having P2’s race in both the World Endurance Cup (WEC) and the NEAC puts some well known American Teams on the world stage.  In particular, Scott Sharps ESM and Patrick Dempsey’s efforts will show how racing in the US stacks up against the European ands Asian LeMans Series’.  For years, I have felt that our lack of representation internationally was bad for our domestic racing scene.  I look back at the days where the same teams racing at LeMans were at Daytona and Sebring, and our drivers had a yardstick which to compare to themselves to those across the pond.  This is a big plus!!  The dream of having an American winning LeMans, even a class win, now has traction!

Ford has become involved in the series with what I believe is the sweetest jewel of an American built engine.  The 3.5Ltr twin turbo-charged V6 is simply the best small(er) displacement motor around.  I have it in my Lincoln MKT and love it.  Any new manufacturer in the series is good for the series.

Porsche is back in the prototype classes with Mark Webber and the 919!  I simply love it!

WEC/Tudor double header at COTA.  Now we can compare the DP’s to the LMP1’s on the same track on the same day!  We can compare the GTLM’s to the GTE’s too!  Simply awesome.

The Bad

The initial officiating at both Daytona and Sebring was horrendous!  I figured Alex Job Racing would have left for the Pirelli World Challenge (PWC).  They didn’t, but several did, notably Flying Lizard, Turner Motorsport and Bob Stallings/Gainsco.  The officiating was the start, the costly changes to all the BoP changes and, well, the general cost increases for the “low budget” GTDaytona made the PWC’s format very appealing.  While GTD and PWC comparisons are generally apples and oranges, money is money and GTD is costly.

With that said, we have lost at least 7 teams: the 5 mentioned above, Level 5 motorsport (due in part to owner Scott Tuckers pending legal issues) and Pickett/Muscle Milk Motorsport (I have no idea why they left after Sebring).

The Ugly

The wreck of the Red Dragon at Daytona!  It was violent and a near death experience for all involved.  That anyone survived surprises me.  I Wish the best for Memo Gedley and Matteo Malucelli’s recovery and hope to see them both in race cars soon!.

The soap opera that is F1.  Need I say more…



Looking Towards 2015

the 2015 season kicks off in 3 weeks and I start fidgeting with excitement just before Christmas….  So, what do we have to look for?

What We Lost

Well, we are losing 3 teams to the Pirelli World Challenge!  GTD Champion Turner Motorsport, for one.  Flying Lizard and Bob Stallings/Gainsco have also left IMSA for 2015.  That’s 3 teams with 5 cars, 4 of them in GTD alone.  With them goes 10 drivers. (Anyone who argues that GTD has not gotten too expensive, remember this!  They left due to the costs of the series.)

We lost the Dodge/SRT Viper team in GTLM.  Thats a shame, right after winning the GTLM championship and screwing Jonathan Bomarito out of a championship that he rightfully won WITH Kumo Wittmer.  They both ran the same car throughout the season.  To put them in separate cars, though…  I understand the strategy but after all the work to get there only to split the drivers for the last year is an insult to the drivers.  It’s like pulling your best wide receiver for the Super Bowl!  No sir, I don’t like it!

Scott Sharp’s Extreme Speed Motorsports (ESM) and Patrick Dempsey Motorsports leaves full time Tudor for the WEC.  Both intend to do all 4 of the Patron North American Endurance Cup (NAEC) races.  OK, ESM kinda has to as driver Ed Brown is Patrons CEO.  However, I think that’s a good sign.  They are moving up from Tudor’s regional series to the World Cup of Endurance racing.  If they are competitive, and I see no reason for them not to be, it speaks volumes to the quality of the racing in the IMSA/Tudor series on the world stage!

What We Gained

We have a new prototype team and the return of two former stalwarts.  RG Motorsports is fielding a Riley/BMW for Ohio neurosurgeon Richard Gewirtz.  While they have yet to name drivers, its a start.

Starworks Motorsports is back, this year with a Riley-BMW in cool Martini colors!  After last year’s debacle with the Riley-Honda that struggled at both Daytona and Sebring, they bring a solid, competitive, package for 2015.  Its a package that will work, something they couldn’t do with the Honda in the DP chassis.

Krohn Motorsports returns with a Ligier-Judd for the full season!  The solid green cars return with the state of the art P2 package.  With the speed that OAK Racing showed with their coupes last year, this should be very competitive.

What’s Changed

Michael Shank losses Ford but gains Honda!  Not only that, they go to the Ligier-Honda P2 package. They should be fast!

Chip Ganassi (Ok, I AM NOT Spelling out the entire name…) drops Memo Rojas and his TelCel sponsorship and gains American Ace Joey Hand and Ford as primary sponsor.  This is a very interesting story to follow for 2015.  Ford IS releasing a new GT car at next months Detroit Auto Show with plans to attack LeMans in 2016.  That year is the 50th anniversary of Fords first win with the GT40.  Ford is teaming with Chip Ganassi to make this happen.  Ironically, Chip has both Chevy NASCAR and Indycar teams.  Though Roger Penske (a hero of mine) splits Ford in NASCAR and Chevy in Indycar, I see a big change in the future on the other side as neither manufacturer usually tolerates this kind of conflict of interest.

The FIA drivers ratings are kind of screwy.  ( I can use that word, my blog).  How is it Jordan Taylor goes to Platinum with only a win this season and Joao Barbosa drops to Gold after winning the championship?  Why are there so many top line drivers NOT able to get rides and so many people who, frankly, I don’t care to know, getting (or paying for) rides.  I mean, REALLY!  Ryan Eversley, Guy Cosmo, Spencer Pumpelly and others are not going to be here.  I think GTD should be broken up to a GTD-Pro and a GTD-Am (or Pro/Am).  But, maybe if the purses were bigger…  A story for another day!

What I Expect

I expect there to be another year of GREAT racing, with fewer controversies.  I think the P2 Coupes will be even more competitive with the DP’s.  I feel the Depth in the Prototype class is better than in many years, including 2014.  I think fewer cars in GTLM and GTD will actually improve the racing throughout.  2015 is going to be a great year.

Something to look forward to will be 2016, which is just out of sight.  With GTD going GT3, I feel many PWC teams, many who have wanted some endurance races, will come over.  Maybe only for the NAEC.  But the depth of machinery will be very exciting.

Open Letter to IMSA

Dear IMSA,

I am a lifelong sportscar racing fan.  My earliest memories are of Al Holbert dicing it with the Rob Dyson, Bayside Disposal car, the Group44 Jag and the Kreepy Krawly March.  I have been to many a race, ate many a hotdog, been rained on and got sunburns that lasted weeks.  I climbed the fence on Daytona’s front stretch to get a better view of the Nissan’s flying underneath me at 200+MPH.

As a lifelong sportscar racing fan, I found the 64th running of the Sebring 12 Hours simply confounding. Like Charles Dickens Tale of Two Cities; It was the Best of times, It was the Worst of times.

Daytona, we have a problem.  More than one, actually.

I am personally very enthusiastic about the “Merger of (in)Equals”. That being Grand-Am and ALMS joining under the IMSA banner, bringing together a pair of very diverse racing series, each with its own unique history, under a very historic banner.  I truly feel that this new series may be the most technologically advanced, diverse and compelling racing series in the world.  More so than NASCAR, IndyCar and F1.  You have all the keys to making it work. However…

At Sebring, I saw a large number of doubters, many camped in Green Park by Sebring Pit Crew’s “Shrine of Extremely Low Expectations” containing among other things, a dart board framing a picture of Jim France, blaming the NASCAR family member for all problems, both real and perceived.  Let us not forget history: it was a France (specifically Jim Frances father Bill France Sr.,) who, along with John and Peggy Bishop, started it all to begin with and formed IMSA in 1969.  Jim France is following his passion.  He has invested a great deal of money into road racing.  For the sake of fairness, I am from Daytona Beach and when a France screws up, it’s in the paper.  We in DB do have a Love/Hate relationship with the France family, but by and large, it has greatly benefitted Daytona Beach and Volusia County and it has also benefitted the racing community as a whole.  Enough on that.

After Sebring, here are my personal observations.  There is more of everything!  There are more people at the races then I have seen in years.  That’s good.  Last year was the last chance to see the mighty Audi’s and I expected a great turnout.  This year with the combined series, I expected a lot of people, and got them.  However, it was a much more tamed group than recent years, though I did see a number of sofas and recliners ablaze by the end of the race!

There are a lot more cars on the track, which is both good and bad.  Good because it’s good for the series and makes for constant racing.  With as many cars on track as there were, with vastly different speeds and racing experience, (suggestion here) I would like to see the “No Contact” rule reviewed and possibly dropped.  There is going to be contact, whether we like it or not.  The Bronze level drivers racing among Platinum drivers can be a recipe for disaster. Don’t get me wrong, we need them as they directly sponsor or pay for the drives they get, keeping many of the cars on track.  But we may have to expect some ugliness from time to time, and the rules need to reflect this.

The officiating has been extremely embarrassing to fans of the sport.  As if the “No Contact” rule alone is bad enough, its implementation has been horrendous.  The officials need to allow time for teams to challenge a call.   Ask Alex Job!  An overall poor level of officiating along with a refusal to not only review the available material but to not allow him to challenge the call, caused him to lose the race.  Yes, I said “caused him to lose the race”! This “No Contact” rule I don’t like was wrongly applied.  Again.  After the debacle in Daytona, someone should have learned by now, only weeks after Rolex24. Had there been room to challenge a wrong call, he would have at least had a chance to win.  IMSA and Sebring track official’s took that opportunity away.  So they cost him a win and the financial benefit of winning.  To add insult to injury, the cars which actually caused the infraction were never punished and were allowed to win the race.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Alex Job took his cars to the Pirelli World Challenge!  Now that would be bad for the sport!

The racing has been close.  The balances of performance (BoP) are good, not perfect, but close enough to be fair.  This takes time and it is a moving target.  As IMSA changes the BoP, the teams find an advantage that may need another BoP.  And on and on.  However, it was a good sign that of the top 5 Prototypes, 3 were P2.  There was no run away as there has been when the P1 Audi’s were racing.  There was some close racing that was very enjoyable, and some bone headed moves by some of the Bronze drivers.  But I enjoyed much of the racing there actually was.

Which brings me to my next officiating issue: the full course cautions.  Let’s face it, the red Corvette pace car lead the most laps.  While 3 of the cautions are understandable, running 5 of 12 hours under Yellow is unacceptable.  It’s not called Race CONTROL for nothing.  Control the Race.   Realize the impact cautions have on the final product and use more local cautions.  This was where everybody makes a NSACAR connection with the mysterious cautions for “debris” on the track.  If rules need to be changed, change them.  While the race was closer than expected, it’s the second time in two races a caution impacted the outcome of the race.  If you’re going to call a full course caution at the end of the race, I have a suggestion.  There’s enough traffic to go through during the race.  Why lock it in during cautions?  The current way benefits only the leader. Group them by class, so the 2nd, 3rd and 4th place cars have a clear chance to challenge for a win. From my point of view, THAT would have been an even better race!

Oh, lastly, on the North American Endurance Cup, scrap the points system.  It’s confusing and contrived.  There is no logical way the winner of a race should get less points than the 2nd loser (third place finisher).  You will lose fans with it.  You’ve lost me.  At this point, I really don’t care how close it’s supposed to make the final race.  F1 is doubling points and did a good job of annoying both their fans and the teams.  You’re making the same mistake.

Now don’t let the above listed issues get in the way of the fact that I really had a great time at Sebring.   The atmosphere was fun, the weather was great and I saw some very entertaining racing, saw some very state-of-the-art machines and met some of the world’s best drivers.  I will be back!  I will be watching all the races too (I’m not even getting into the TV/Radio thing….) Despite the problems, I still feel that IMSA is off and running in the right direction.  Changes do need to be made, but…  I look forward to the sprint portion of the series.


A Sportscar Fan