SPO: Separation of Pro and AM in IMSA and WEC


Hello Everybody! It’s been a couple weeks, but here I am! Don’t worry, there was so much going on the last couple weeks, I couldn’t possibly get down to every detail.

That being said, I think we need to have a talk about Prototype racing globally. It’s become clear that there needs to be a shakeup in IMSA and WEC with their P and LMP1 classes respectfully. This won’t be more so a discussion about BOP/EOT, as I’ve beaten that horse to death so many times, I feel like that old guy going on about the war.

For a quick refresher, these are the problems in IMSA:

  • Daytona Prototype International (DPi) cars are based on the ACO Spec LMP2 chassis, but with bespoke powertrains, ECU’s and bodywork. Development is allowed, within certain parameters.
  • ACO Spec Gibson-engined P2’s are left as-is and are used as the baseline to balance the DPi’s.
  • DPi’s are pretty much factory teams using Gold/Platinum rated drivers in their lineups.
  • P2’s are essentially privateer teams using a combination of Pro and AM rated drivers in their lineups (European teams coming in for NAEC for the most part use Pro-Pro where possible).
  • In a year and a half of racing with these rule sets, DPi machinery have won all but one race, and that one team, Spirit Of Daytona have since switched to DPi Cadillac cars.

Now, when you boil it down, the end result is money vs not enough money. With DPi’s being developed all year long, there is a moving target for BoP. IMSA has thrown down some pretty massive swings to try to reel in the DPi’s and it hasn’t even come close to working. As Racer.com pointed out not too long ago, the DPi’s are some 60hp down on where they started at Daytona, and they still beat the P2’s into submission.

Although it’s still early into the Super Season, here are the problems with WEC’s LMP1 class:

  • Toyota is the lone survivor in the LMP1-H runners, with Audi and Porsche leaving in consecutive years to run Formula E (or full time in Audi’s case).
  • LMP1-L (privateer) cars are back en masse for the first time in years, with everybody in brand new chassis and engines.
  • With Toyota being the lone team in LMP1-H, the ACO decided to merge LMP1-H and LMP1-L into a single class for this season. They are using the Toyota (which has supposedly been in a development freeze, with exception to reliability) as the baseline to balance the LMP1-L’s.
  • ACO’s Equivalence of Technology (EoT) is based on how much kinetic energy is produced (not lap times) over a lap of Le Mans, scaled to each track.

Here you are basically trying to get an even chess match between HAL9000 and a elementary school student. One is obviously going to come ahead, no matter how you slice it. The ACO slowed the privateer teams not once, but twice before Spa. What that produced was a disgrace in BOP with the winning Toyota’s covering two full laps more than the first place privateer. We aren’t even counting the penalty to the 2nd Toyota that forced it to start the race a lap down, which just makes it worse.

The common theme between the two series’ problems is that you are getting factory teams up against privateer teams. Even if you get the cars to be even on raw pace, the OEM’s will find the littlest of things and produce systems to produce an advantage. Case in point, with Neel Jani pointing out that the Porsche’s (and presumably the Toyota’s) have an in-car meter to show the driver how much fuel (and energy) they need to save each lap to make sure they don’t go over the limit set by the ACO. There are no such systems in the privateer cars, and they have to guess how much they have to save.

No matter what series you look at, when it comes to factory teams running against privateers, factory teams ALWAYS win. In F1, OEM’s almost always sweep the top spots in the overall standings. In Blancpain, they finally realized this issue and limited how many factory teams can run.

An AM outfit in IMSA’s Prototype Challenge Series. Note the number of crew members.

So how to fix these issues…

In IMSA, it is actually really simple, and you can fix it in a couple ways. The first would be to separate the points for DPi and the Pro/AM teams. This way the privateers are actually running for something other than to be the best of the rest. You can also lift the BOP restrictions on the DPi’s and let the factories duel it out. The drawbacks to that are that we will see an explosion of yearly budgets in DPi, and that’s not what they want. There was a reason why DP’s in GrandAM were so successful.

The other option is to force the DPi manufacturers to provide a minimum number of customer cars for purchase so the privateers can run in the same cars. You will still have Pro-Pro vs Pro-AM but at least the cars will be equal.

This second option is actually the route that the ACO should take with the next set of Prototype rules in my opinion. If the manufacturers are all getting together to make the new rules, they will be leaving the privateers behind. We’ll end up with the LMP1-H/LMP1-L sham again and that will leave the privateers to return to LMP2.

They can just build a few extra cars per year and give them technical advise as needed. It worked so well in the 70’s and 80’s, why can’t we just return to that?

Either way, both are in a sorry state of parity, and unless they fix something there really isn’t a point in the privateers showing up if they want to try to win.

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