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 and comments:

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 for marketers.

 

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