I know it’s been a few weeks since my last post, and a lot has happened. We had a boring Le Mans, a couple IMSA races (YAY AN LMP2 WON A RACE!) and finally, some F1 races which while the races were boring, the championship has gotten spicy!
For the sake of giving this post some content, I will quickly summate the last few weeks and then get to what’s been on my mind as of late.
Firstly, we had the 2018 edition of the 24hrs of Le Mans. If you read my 2018 predictions, you can clearly see I was VERY wrong about the outcome of the race. A huge part of this is the incorrect way the ACO is “balancing” the LMP1’s. It’s a joke. There was absolutely no way Toyota wasn’t going to win the race. If the EOT was spot on, Toyota would have won by 2 laps, assuming no mechanical issues. However, the gap was 2 laps to the second car and then another 10 laps to the first privateer. EOT /= BOP. We sadly have learned this the hard way. Hollow victory, albeit very well deserved in a mid-naughties Audi kind of way.
IMSA finally got BOP right in Prototypes! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOT! After getting it terribly wrong AGAIN in Detroit, something happened and we had an Oreca P2 on pole for Watkins Glen, and it won the race. The DPi’s dominated the race on pace, but this time, the P2’s were able to stay close and pounced on them at the end to take the victory. I was really hoping they would keep the BOP for Mosport since that would have made the race so much better than last year’s race. Despite a small bump in power for the DPi’s, the LMP2 Oreca’s proved to be the better car, as they won AGAIN! Having watched that race live at the track, that was some of the most amazing races I’ve watched in recent memory. The way Braun charged through the field was sensational. I hope the race next year is just as good.
F1 had some more laughable races, especially the French GP, where the circuit layout was heavily criticised. I agree that Paul Ricard was an odd choice for F1. Not enough passing zones. The only thing that made it interesting was the fast cars coming though the field after a hurricane of activity in Turn 1. Austria saw the first Mercedes double DNF since Nico nailed Lewis in Spain in 2016. We saw 3 DRS zones for the first time ever (which still didn’t help that much). Again, another circuit I question in this era of cars. The standings now have Vettel back on top of the driver’s championship, which will be interesting to see how he can handle it for the last half of the season. FINALLY, we have the news that Raikonnen will be replaced by LeClerc at Ferrari next season. I applaud Ferrari and it will be awesome to see how he can handle a good car next year.
Silverstone was a messy affair with Hamilton getting taken out by Raikonnen, but managed to come home in 2nd. Some other notable crashes from Haas and Sauber made the whole weekend one to remember for all the wrong reasons. Speaking of races to remember, Haas’ American development driver got in some hot water for crashing a teammate. He got a 2 weekend ban from F2 and his team are looking to axe him for the rest of the year. I wonder what will happen with his F1 ride? Who knows…
I now will get on to the meat of this post, talking about new rule sets coming in the near future. First up is the new “Hypercar” rules to replace LMP1. The jist is that the class is getting simplified to 1 hybrid system with restricted development, hypercar body styles and a severe drop in budget for OEMs. On the surface, it may look like a return to GTP or GT1 with a Group C flair, and this is something I am truly looking forward to seeing in action.
Now, whether or not IMSA will adopt the rules for the WTSC is another issue. I personally hope that it happens, but I don’t think it will happen because North American based OEMs don’t like to spend money on racing to the tune that the Europeans do. DPi has been very successful (despite them winning all the time, but that’s a separate issue) and I doubt that IMSA will want to break the formula for the sake of common rules with the ACO.
This new rule change will be a huge benefit in Europe, as we’ve seen a catastrophic drop in manufacturer involvement (although we really have Dieselgate to blame) due to astronomic budgets for developing new cars every year. Not only will the budgets be cut to 25% they are for OEMs, but the manufacturers have to allow privateers to purchase their powertrain systems for their cars. Can this return sportscar racing to true factory-customer relationships like we saw in the 70’s and 80’s? I certainly hope so, as it would add an element to racing that hasn’t been seen for years. I predict the second coming of Group C cars in the fact that they were relatively inexpensive and produced incredibly great racing. We’ll find out at the drop of the 2021/2022 season.
Now the final interesting bit of news comes in the form of finalising of the new Class 1 regulations between DTM and SuperGT GT500 cars. Starting 2020, they will be eligible to compete in each other’s series, with select exhibition races in 2019. This has been years in the making, and allows for the formation of a world championship, if they so choose. This also eliminates the “small” problem that DTM will have to endure for 2019 where only 2 manufacturers are committed to DTM, as Mercedes left to go to Formula E full time. Starting in 2020, up to 5 OEMs can compete in either series.
This is great and all, but what does this mean? This is a huge achievement that started with GTA (SuperGT), ITR (DTM) and IMSA all the way back in around 2013. However, IMSA quickly backed out, because the US OEMs were very uninterested. DTM and GT500 had always been close in regulations as of the mid-naughties and the problem was that they were locally bound to each series and couldn’t race anywhere else. Manufacturers like Audi wanted to race elsewhere in addition to Europe, and getting DTM to team up with SuperGT could be seen as step 1.
The opportunity arose and quick discussions between GTA and ITR led to a 90% common set of regulations for 2014. This created very similar cars in both series, with the engine specifications the only major difference. From 2019 onwards, the rules set will be 100% common, although Honda will get a waiver to run their Mid-Engined NSX until 2020.
This is due to the fact that MR layouts are not allowed, and haven’t been allowed since 2013. Honda was able to run with MR because GTA allowed them to, and even with hybrid systems at first, which was not allowed either. This means that Honda will have to develop an FR layout platform that will adhere to the rules (bring back the S2000?).
Now step 2 was to either create or transform a current North American series, in order to create a truly global set of regulations. This is where IMSA came in, and they were very enthusiastic (at first) to create a sprint series like DTM over in North America. The problem was, the American manufacturers were not interested in making cars for the series. Who knows, maybe there will come a time where they will, but honestly, it will take other manufacturers like Audi and Honda to get the ball rolling.
It’s the only type of major genre left to conquer (apart from Rally) in North America. We have Oval, Sportscars, GT’s, Prototypes, Open-Wheel, and smaller touring cars (although I would love to see IMSA pull the trigger on a standalone NA TCR championship), but no premier touring car championship.
Lastly step 3 would be to create an FIA World Championship for Class 1. I would love to see this happen, as it is one of my favourite classes of cars of all time. There’s something about prototype levels of downforce and laptimes in a very stock silhouette package that is so appealing. GT500 cars are just as fast around Fuji Speedway as last years LMP1-L class cars, which says a lot about the regulations (and admittedly GTA’s BOP). Now, I highly doubt they would come to Mosport, since it is a very fast track for cornering, but who knows.
That about wraps up this post. On a personal note, I got my helmet back from the painter this week! So amazing to have it back and in my hands to admire it. Awesome work by Oktane Visual for the paint and design! I look forward to getting on track next week for karting and the week following that *hopefully* for some more Chumpcar running!
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