The US sports car racing season is underway. Yesterday, the “Roar Before the 24” – testing for the 24 Hours of Daytona later this month began and runs through the weekend. This and all of the recent news about the upcoming season has had me thinking about the season ahead.
Despite all of the uncertainty surrounding the Prototype class, there is still a lot of good about the 2014 season:
- The ALMS PC class has carried over to the new unified series. Because it’s a spec class, PC is affordable way for the sportsman racer that has always kept sports car racing afloat to go racing but despite being being a spec class, it almost always has amazing racing. The qualifying and race sessions in PC last year were always worth watching even if the drivers weren’t always familiar names. Fans who followed both series know what I’m talking about, but I think that the Grand Am fans who didn’t really follow ALMS will be pleasantly surprised with what PC brings to the table.
- The ALMS GTC class and Grand Am GT class have been combined into GTD and the rules are making it a bit easier for GT3 cars to take part in the class. Grand Am GT was always featured hard racing and put on a great show and although it wasn’t around as long, ALMS GTC did the same. Just like PC, GTD will be the place for the sportsman racer who doesn’t have factory levels of funding. There aren’t but so many seats in the factory GTLM class, so that means there will be plenty of great drivers in GTD. The field will be huge, the biggest in the series so I can see GTD stealing the show on most weekends.
- Audi has shown up for 2014 with a factory back presence in GTD with R8. This is great news, there is no other way to put it. The R8 has been one of the most successful GT3 cars now it will be running with several teams in the Tudor Championship. Those familiar with Audi’s prototype efforts in the ALMS, LMS, and WEC know they won’t half step with this program. Likewise, those familiar with GMG from the Pirelli World Championship series and Flying Lizard from their days in ALMS know these type of teams will be competitive as well. Look for the R8s to be strong.
- Porsche has shown up for 2014 with what a factory backed effort in GTLM with Core Autosport. Porsche. 911. Factory backed. Need I say anything else? It says a lot that manufacturers like Porsche and Audi are jumping into the GT classes with both feet. This is not where the new series’ problems will lie. GT will likely be the backbone of the series for the foreseeable future.
- There’s a new Corvette! The C6R has been retired and replaced with the new Corvette C7R. Even in the “camoflage” livery they’ve been running in testing, this car looks sharp. For the most part, the driver line ups are the same last year except for Taylor and Westbrook in the longer races (due to their Prototype class drives).
As I mentioned above, I think GT is going to be the backbone of the Tudor United Sports Car Championship for the foreseeable future. GTLM consists of solid factory backed or well supported teams. You’re looking at BMWs, Corvettes, Ferraris, Porsches, and Vipers plus Aston Martins during some events. GTD is going to have huge fields consisting of Aston Martins, BMWs, Corvettes, Ferraris, Porsches, and Vipers (and maybe a Bentley later in the season?).
Without saying, there are negatives surrounding the series as well and most of them have to do with the headlining Prototype class:
- Apparently the driver rankings have been released yet. Based on some tweets from some drivers yesterday, some of them don’t whether how they’ll be ranked which will influence whether or not they’ll be employed in a certain class or car. In my opinion, the driver rankings should already have been released so teams could firm up their driver lineups for the season. Most of them probably have a pretty good idea of where they stand but any surprises could force changes in driver lineups.
- Balance of Performance still needs to be completed. It would have been ideal for BoP to have been sorted out for Daytona already so the teams could be more prepared for the race. Hopefully, BoP for the remainder of the season gets sorted out well before the series gets to Sebring.
- We haven’t heard anything regarding the composition of the series Safety Team. I will be very upset if the IMSA Safety Team doesn’t return and I imagine a lot of drivers will be as well. I honestly think that replacing them with local crews in the NASCAR style is a mistake. Let me make it clear that I have no doubts that they are competent and dedicated professionals but the IMSA Safety Team trained on working racing specific crashes, racing equipment, and racing injuries. If you want to augment them with locals, that’s all good and well but the core of the response should remain a team that knows the drivers on a week in week out basis and are trained to specifically to deal with racing equipment and racing injuries.
As far as Prototype Balance of Performance goes, I think some fans may be looking for the wrong thing. I don’t think it’s possible to balance the performance of a Daytona Prototype car with the performance of a P2 car at every track. There are going to be tracks where Daytona Prototypes are quicker and there are going to be tracks where P2 cars are going to be quicker. That’s just the nature of race cars. The championship should be won by the team that takes makes the most out of the advantage they have a tracks where they have it and makes the most of the weekend at tracks where they don’t. The key for IMSA will be balancing performance between the Daytona Prototypes and P2 cars over the course of the season. If they can do that, everything will be fine.
The key for everyone involved will be patience. Things aren’t going to go right at the start. No plan ever survives the first 2 seconds of execution so there is no doubt that there are going to be issues to work though. Give the officials the chance to work through them instead of flying off the handle or playing ALMS v. Grand Am politics. What we have to realize is that this is it. The Tudor Championship is the only game in town. If it fails, that’s it – there is no longer another American sports car series to fall back on. Express your opinions, point out problems but don’t drop your support. Keep your cool. Be patient. Give the series, the teams, and their sponsors support even if there are problems.
Yes, there is a lot of uncertainty but there is just as much, if not more to look forward to. Personally, I can’t wait for the 2014 Tudor United Sports Car Championship to go green at the 24 Hours of Daytona.