No. 960
August 22, 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 Ujian-nasional.info 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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Fumes


Monday
Apr102017

THE GIANT HOLDING PATTERN THAT GRIPS RACING.

By Peter M. DeLorenzo

Detroit. For a sport that loves to portray itself as a hotbed of visionary thinking, technology and innovation, the sobering reality is that racing is stuck in a perpetual funk of non-change. Since technology swallowed the sport whole in the 70s, racing has become a game of managing specifications and expectations in equal amounts. Designers plug in a set of parameters based on the specs given by the sanctioning body - usually revolving around limiting speed and cost - and spit out racing machines that look a certain way and are "equalized" to the thousandth of a second on the race track.

Everyone has become comfortable with this too. Budgets can be fine-tuned, sponsors can be hunted down and racing teams can plan for the future, even though that future might only extend out to the next twelve months. Racing is a business, after all, and as I've been reminded many times over the years by car owners who actually hang their asses out in the breeze to build a sustainable business, "It's easy to lob grenades from the cheap seats, but until you try to run a racing team and are responsible for the lives of many people dependent on your expertise, you don't have a fucking clue," or something along those lines.

And they're right, of course. Running a racing team is a singular pursuit that requires a level of expertise and a willingness to succeed that eclipses many other less volatile professions. This is why racing sanctioning bodies agonize over rule changes, balancing the need to juice "the show" while keeping in mind that any changes may involve costs that may seriously impact their participating racing teams. As a result, racing finds itself in this giant holding pattern where innovative changes are almost anathema, or something that occurs only at figurative gunpoint.

Can anything be done about this? It is very doubtful. Let's take IndyCar, for instance. The new look of the cars for 2018 is a huge step forward, even thought it utilizes design cues from the past. But the engines will remain the same because even though another manufacturer is rumored to be coming aboard, those engine specifications are strictly defined to manage horsepower vs. cost and reliability. That's just the way it is. The days of innovative, blue-sky car designs and alternative propulsion ideas showing up at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway are permanently part of the past.

The same can be said for major league sports car racing here in the U.S. The FIA and the ACO (the overlords of Le Mans) hold sway over international sports car racing, and for the most part IMSA - except for its DPi machines - acquiesces to that concept, so any moves to usurp that power don't carry much weight or last long, if they surface at all. Could IMSA go its own way to carve out a series that flaunts its differences with the FIA and the ACO? Yes, that certainly could happen, but since manufacturer support for major league road racing in this country runs hot and cold, the likelihood of IMSA doing that is slim and none. Because the reality is that IMSA is absolutely dependent on manufacturer participation, and anything that might upset that delicate balance is not a value-added activity.

And Formula 1? The owners and the participants in that series are so obsessed with the money at stake and the comfort of the accommodations at the various tracks they visit, that the fact that their cars sound underwhelming and their racing weekends are so regimented that it has become an exercise in tedium doesn't even register. Yes, they're talking about doing something about the engine "problem" - by 2020, but I don't think we should hold our collective breath that they will make the right decision. There are too many egos and assholes involved - aka Sergio Marchionne - to expect a positive result.

NASCAR, of course, is in its own racing bubble that defies explanation. I am frankly tired of writing about NASCAR because it's a monumental waste of time and energy. The whole "segment" racing idea may be a revelation to the participants, but it counts for exactly zero outside of the NASCAR circus. I view it as so much eyewash because the powers that be at NASCAR have demonstrated repeatedly that they are incapable of meaningful, substantive change. It's much easier to come up with a gimmick like "segment" racing - and make no mistake, it is a gimmick - than it is to tackle the festering problems of a form of racing that's in a death spiral.

That is, of course, the fundamental problem with NASCAR. The powers that be in Daytona Beach simply refuse to accept that NASCAR is in a downward spiral, despite the glaring signs everywhere you look. Every time NASCAR is confronted with more evidence of the decline of its series, they come up with reasons not to cut the most ridiculous schedule in all of motorsports ("we have longstanding agreements with tracks that cannot be altered"); for not dealing with the fiasco called "restrictor-plate" racing ("the fans like it"); for not adding more road races (see the excuse for not changing the schedule, above); for not advancing its technology ("we need to give our teams years to prepare for any substantive changes, besides, why fix it if it ain't broke?"); and on, and on, and on. As I've said repeatedly, until the content whores at the television networks come to the realization that they're being scammed by NASCAR and decide to adjust their budgets downward accordingly, nothing will change. As for innovation? In NASCAR? Please. Though some of the smartest people in the racing world are at work in the NASCAR garage, innovation will not be entertained or even tolerated, not even at gunpoint.

So this is the reality of racing in 2017. The concepts that fueled the sport when it was on its upward trajectory - innovation, blue-sky thinking, visionary technology - are now set aside in favor of restrictions, regulations, cost management and taking into account the direction of the political winds.

Once upon a time the allure of racing almost took on romantic overtones. Now? That seems like a galaxy far, far away.

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


 

Editor's Note: Many of you have seen Peter's references over the years to the Hydrogen Electric Racing Federation (HERF), which he launched in 2007. For those of you who weren't following AE at the time, you can read two of HERF's press releases and . And for even more details (including a link to Peter's announcement speech), check out the HERF entry on Wikipedia . -WG

 

Publisher's Note: As part of our continuing series celebrating the "Glory Days" of racing, we're proud to present another noteworthy image from the Ford Racing Archives. - PMD

(Courtesy of the Ford Racing Archives)
The "J-car"-derived Ford Mk IV undergoing aerodynamic tests in Dearborn, Michigan, in early 1967. The Mk IV would win the 12 Hours of Sebring and the 24 Hours of Le Mans that year.