Category: WeatherTech Series

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.

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!

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.