Response To Performance Equalisation Feature
Thank you for
Gary Horrocks’ thorough and interesting piece on the ALMS
attempts at Performance balancing in 2006 GT1 (here)
– writes dsc reader John Love.
As a fan, racer, former sanctioning body executive, attorney, and
motorsports consultant I would like to offer a few personal thoughts
1. The idea of performance balancing based upon
tires is ludicrous. Unlike engines, chassis, and aerodynamics the
performance of tires can change significantly due to the track conditions
and temperatures. Tires are a moving target. The tires that worked
well at Sebring may never be mounted at Houston. It is folly for
anyone to forecast and project the relative performance of competitor
tires weeks in advance of a race and establish “handicaps”
based upon those forecasts drawn from history.
2. The addition (or reduction) of weight to a race
car has significant impact on the performance of every element of
the car. The tires, brakes, chassis set up, fuel mapping, race traffic
and pit strategy are all impacted by such penalties. And it should
be noted that significant resources are expended in trying to compensate
for the additional weight, or reduction in air restrictor, or reduction
in fuel cell size.
3, At a track with a 100 second lap time, one second
equals one percent; hence a difference of just 0.2 or 0.3 seconds
per lap equals two/tenths or three/tenths of ONE PERCENT. So, when
two cars, which typically lap within a few tenths of a second of
each other, line up for the start of a race with an EIGHT percent
difference in weight, the team having to accelerate and decelerate,
turn and brake a heavier vehicle several times per lap is going
to see a difference not only on lap times but on tire and brake
wear, fuel economy and race traffic.
4. The frequency of the ALMS changes was burdensome,
confusing and contributed to the overall frustration. Each race
became a sports car racing version of “Pinks” (the SPEED
TV show where two car owners “negotiate” the rules before
each round of a drag race with the winner taking the loser’s
car and “pink” title slip).
5. The use of “performance balancing”
serves to perpetuate a fraud of sorts on the fans and TV viewers
watching the race. They aren’t seeing the real race, but a
managed “competition”. The faster car and, in many cases,
tire, is being punished for their previous success.
6. If you are a manufacturer racing in the series
as the basis for communicating the merits of your successful technology,
you are deprived of the platform and your competitor celebrates
their victory. If they beat you heads up, then they beat you and
deserve credit. But, isn’t it rather misleading when someone
beseeches the rule makers for “balancing’ because they
are behind and then basks in the glory of their negotiated “victory”?
Would it not have been misleading if Aston Martin had won the championship?
7. Is a team or manufacturer better off investing
in technology and development or sitting back and negotiating the
rules? Where is the incentive to improve and to compete? Is a newcomer
entitled to be “balanced” to an immediate par with the
champions or even given an advantage? How do you “balance”
teams; drivers; technical partners; testing; experience?
8. The continuous IMSA balancing had the net effect
of frustrating current competitors and scaring prospective entrants.
Will they be balanced? When? How? On what basis?
9. The root cause of this mess was a short field
in GT1. That led to the balancing. A secondary claim then appeared
for “the show”. The series must take a much clearer
stand on its philosophy. Is it a sport or it entertainment? If sport,
then rules are rules. If it is to become entertainment through managed
competition then it will ultimately lose the true competitors, including
manufacturers, and lose the true sports car fans. Sanctioning bodies
live and die based upon their rules, their clarity, consistency
and duration. Rules drive costs, competition and define the product