No. 1005
July 17, 2019

About The UjianNasional

Author, commentator, influencer. "The Consigliere." 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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Editor-in-Chief's Note: My column from last week is still resonating far and wide in the racing world and so we've decided to leave it up one more week. Introspection for all forms of racing has become an urgent need, because I can easily see the sport fading from view if substantive changes aren't made. That the French have controlled international road racing for many decades is a fact, but it's not necessarily an arrangement that needs to continue in its present form, especially when it comes to the influence that the ACO/FIA has over IMSA. When it comes to sports car racing, the interests of the participating manufacturers, the team owners, the drivers and the enthusiast supporters aren't being served. It's that simple. And IMSA has a real chance to go its own way and carve out a rejuvenated series, one not beholden to what the French overlords think or say. The time is now. -PMD

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. 

(Pete Lyons photo)
Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, September 3, 1967. Stirling Moss drives the Camaro pace car for the start of the Can-Am at Road America. Bruce McLaren (No. 4 McLaren M6A Chevrolet); Denny Hulme (No. 5 McLaren M6A Chevrolet); Dan Gurney (No. 36 All American Racers Lola T70 Mk.3B AAR-Weslake Ford); George Follmer (No. 16 Penske Racing Sunoco Lola T70 Mk.2 Chevrolet); Mark Donohue (No. 6 Penske Racing Sunoco Lola T70 Mk.3B Chevrolet); Chuck Parsons (No. 26 Carl Haas Racing McLaren Elva Mark III Chevrolet); John Surtees (No. 7 Team Surtees Lola T70 Mk.3B Chevrolet); Peter Revson (No. 52 Peyton Cramer/Dana Chevrolet Lola T70 Mk.3 Chevrolet) and Jim Hall (No. 66 Chaparral Cars Chaparral 2G Chevrolet).

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