Category: WEC

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.

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…



Ford’s Return

Ford is back!  I am excited because the car Henry built is making another concerted effort to win the big one, LeMans! One of my favorite books is “Go Like Hell” by A.J. Baime.  It is the story of Ford, Ferrari and LeMans.  To be able to watch Fords attempt glory is too cool to ignore.

I have to back up a moment here.  I have a Lincoln MKT.  Old man car, I know. (REALLY, I know…)  My friends make fun of me.  BUT, tt has what I believe  is Fords VERY BEST motor!  The 3.5 lire twin turbo is a jewel of an engine and needs to be in a sports car.  Fords Q-car.  I can drive past the local gendarmerie without them bothering to consider whats happening.  (That said, I NEED to be careful now…) The best motor NOT in a Mustang.  The F150 IS NOT A SPORTS CAR!!!  REALLY!  That said…

I saw it in a Michael Shank Racing Riley chassis 2 years ago at the Rolex and had hoped, one day, it would race.  It did last year.  After Michael Shank’s awesome closed course speed record, Chip Ganassi saw the potential and joined MSR as the Ford team.  Chip Ganassi is such a huge operation, with IndyCar, NASCAR and Tudor, Ford seemed to drop MSR for a better opportunity. (MSR did win for Ford with A.J. Allmindinger, though.)  It may be the best opportunity for them to win!  (MSR’s switch to Honda power  in the P2 Ligier is too cool, but a story for another time.)

It is official, Ford is a title sponsor for Ganassi’s #1 car with Scott Pruett and Joey Hand.  I grew up watching Scott Pruett driving Jack Roush’s killer SCCA and GTO Mustangs in the 80’s and 90’s!  A sort of homecoming…  It all seems to be coming together for a mid-life revival!

Next month, Ford appears to be ready to announce its plan to attack LeMans with a new car to be unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show.  Chip Ganassi Racing seems to be in the drivers seat as Fords designated team.  I have no idea if it is going to be an LMP2 design, using a version of their EcoBoost engine, or a GT3 based on a very secret GT40-esque design.  I am leaning towards something that can go for the overall win.

The trickle down effect is simple.  Ford is going to have a huge presence at the Rolex24 at Daytona.  And with that, I am excited!!!