No. 984
February 20, 2018

About The UjianNasional

Author, commentator, influencer. The Consigliere. Minister of the High-Octane Truth. Editor-in-Chief of .

Peter DeLorenzo has been in and around the sport of racing since the age of ten. After a 22-year career in automotive marketing and advertising, where he worked on national campaigns as well as creating many motorsports campaigns for various clients, DeLorenzo established on June 1, 1999. Over the years DeLorenzo's commentaries on racing and the business of motorsports have resonated throughout the industry. Because of the burgeoning influence of those commentaries, DeLorenzo has directly consulted automotive clients on the fundamental direction and content of their motorsports programs. DeLorenzo is considered to be one of the most influential voices commenting on the sport today.

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By Peter M. DeLorenzo

 Now that the Automobile Club De L’Ouest has well and truly screwed IMSA yet again, it's time for the powers that be in Daytona Beach to get a grip on reality and walk away from their French racing counterparts. It's clear that the new rules revealed at the Circuit de la Sarthe last week for the proposed 2020 LMP1 regulations for the 24 Hours of Le Mans and FIA World Endurance Championship have nothing to do with IMSA, or the interests of its competitors. This is yet another blatant example of the utter disdain that the France-based racing honchos have for their so-called "affiliates" in America, and if Jim France and Scott Atherton & Co. don't call a timeout to this madness then something is inherently wrong.

The new rules scheduled to begin in 2020 onward for the top class in endurance racing will revolve around prototype-based cars with styling cues designed to offer instant brand relevance for each manufacturer fielding a car. The examples given at the press conference included “super cars, luxury GTs, hypercars and concept cars.” (Think the McLaren Senna as a starting point.) The new formula will require all-wheel drive, a hybrid KERS system operating on the front axle and a common ECU with homologated software. In a token gesture to cost containment, a manufacturer's hybrid system must be available to privateer teams at an "affordable" cost. Engine architectures will be "free," meaning that both normally aspirated and turbocharged engines of either small or large displacements will be eligible. There will be a fixed maximum performance target of 700HP, however, with an additional 271HP from the hybrid system.

There's more: on the aero side, the ACO states that “dimensions and aerodynamic rules are set in order to provide enough freedom for the brand design and are relevant with the dimensions/proportions of a top-class GT car.”
 This means that mobile aero devices will be accepted, but downforce and drag will be fixed, with only one set of bodywork per season to be homologated. The ACO/FIA are looking to have these machines lap the Circuit de la Sarthe at 3 minutes and 20 seconds. In case you're wondering, the pole for this year’s race was 3m15.377s by Toyota.

Now this is where it gets interesting, or flat-out crazy, depending on which side of the Atlantic you're on. In a classic example of delusional thinking by the ACO/FIA, these proposed LMP1 regulations, if approved, will be locked in for five years until 2024, with "cost control" being the goal. And what does "cost control" look like to the French? They're estimating a target cost of $35 million for the season. And they want a gold star for this because it's a significant drop from what Toyota is spending now, and what Porsche and Audi have recently spent (estimates run to $200m per year). The FIA/ACO, to their everlasting delusional credit, actually expects privateer teams to be able to compete alongside manufacturers in the class, because customer programs should be available.

Uh, who's kidding whom here? Or better yet, WTF? Only the ACO/FIA would think that privateer teams would sign up for this exercise in futility with eyes wide open. Nothing about these rules suggests that this will be anything but a manufacturer participant class. And by the way, those costs? How likely do you think that $35m will be the ceiling for this class? I'm guessing the real number will be double that, if not more. 

And where, exactly, does this leave IMSA and its own top racing class? How about like a house standing by the side of the road? I have grudging respect for Scott Atherton & Co. for developing a rules package for its top class - DPi - that actually works. I was initially skeptical, but it's competitive, fast and cost effective within reason. It wouldn't be too wild of a prediction to say that none of the competitors currently competing in IMSA's top class would be willing to sign up for a new rules package and cars that will cost easily ten times as much. And that number is likely only the beginning; factor in development costs and you're looking at closer to a $100m.

I've written repeatedly in this column that it's time for IMSA to go its own way. If manufacturers want to throw their lot in with the ACO/FIA and sign up for this furious money burner, then they're free to do so. But remember, that means that they will be forced to run with the WEC for better, or worse. 

IMSA controls Sebring and Daytona, the two premier endurance road races in this country. It also presents a viable series to a broad swath of competitors, and it should be commended for that. What does IMSA need the ACO/FIA for at this point? Validation? Credibility? The answer is no, and hell no. The ACO/FIA has gone out of its way to screw over American racing interests repeatedly and maliciously. Oh, make no mistake, the French love the money that they can talk American manufacturers into spending on their endurance shows, but when it comes to actually taking into account the Big Picture and what would be considerate and reasonable for their American racing guests, they can't be bothered. 

This has to stop, right here and right now. 
It's time for IMSA to go its own way.

And that's the High-Octane Truth for this week. 

(Ford Racing Archives)
Le Mans, France, June, 1967. A.J. Foyt and Dan Gurney during a pit stop for the No. 1 Shelby American Mk IV during the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Gurney and Foyt's Ford led from the second hour of the race, becoming the only American team, car and drivers to win the world's most prestigious endurance contest. After winning it all in 1966 with a 1-2-3 finish, the Ford team was loaded for Le Mans in 1967. The all-new Mark IV was entirely designed and built in the U.S. (It was a direct development of the "J-Car" prototype in which Ken Miles tragically lost his life while testing at Riverside the previous August.) Powered by a big-block 427 engine with over 530HP, the Mk IV was a formidable machine. Ford brought four factory entries to Le Mans, two from Shelby American for Gurney/Foyt (No. 1) and Bruce McLaren/Mark Donohue (No. 2); and two from Holman & Moody for Mario Andretti/Lucien Bianchi (No. 3) and Denny Hulme/Lloyd Ruby (No. 4). Gurney and Foyt's now-famous No. 1 Mk IV had a distinctive "bubble" in the roof to accommodate the helmet of Dan Gurney, who, at 6'3" needed the extra room. The win was particularly sweet for Gurney and Foyt because the European press openly dismissed them as not having the discipline to run a 24-hour race. But the always clever Gurney devised a plan that, if they adhered to it, would have them in the hunt if not the outright lead. Foyt followed Gurney's plan to perfection, and the two of them won by four laps over the No. 21 Ferrari 330 P4 driven by Ludovico Scarfiotti and Mike Parkes. The No. 24 Ferrari 330 P4 driven by Willy Mairesse and Jean Beurlys was third, and the No. 2 Ford Mk IV of McLaren/Donohue came in fourth. One week later, Dan won the 1967 Belgian Grand Prix in his No. 36 Eagle Gurney-Weslake V12. It was and remains the only time that an American citizen built and raced a car of his own construction and put it into the winner's circle of a World Championship F1 race. That one week in June also remains the high point of American achievement in international racing.

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