For fans of American sportscars, the growing divide between the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship and the Pirelli World Challenge has been the beckoning of a sort-of second Civil War in the world of professional sportscar.
Throughout 2000-2013, professional sportscar racing had long been divided between the two major sportscar series, the American Le Mans Series and Rolex Sports Car Championship. Running fairly similar cars, and both combining a season-long combination of endurance races and sprint races, the two-series split some of the more signature events in the sport: Daytona, Sebring, Watkins Glen, Petit Le Mans, etc.
When the two series became one in 2014, the long held divide in American sportscar was considered over, and fans rejoiced that alas there was only one premier championship.
Then the 2014 season continued.
LOS ANGELES, Calif. (February 4, 2015)- Taking part in a private test at the all-new Thermal Club near Palm Springs, California, World Stage Racing’s Brian Wong held the rare honor of becoming the first to test one of motorsport’s most anticipated racing cars on North American soil, the Lamborghini Huracán LP620-2 Super Trofeo.
“I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect, but wow, what an amazing car,” stated Wong. “I was familiar with what would now be known as the ‘old’ Gallardo and the Super Trofeo Series, but I honestly wasn’t terribly familiar with the program or the series. I guess with a name like Lamborghini I shouldn’t have been surprised, but the car was fantastic. Great power, great grip, they’ve really taken advantage out of the mid-engine platform. The entire Lamborghini team that was on-site was very well presented and professional, and it’s clear they’re taking the right steps for a great program.”
The new GT3-spec car, which will be showcased in the United States as part of the Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo North America series, is an all-new creation from the revered Italian marque. Built to the worldwide GT3-spec, beyond the Super Trofeo championship the car will also be eligible in such series as the Pirelli World Challenge, Blancpain GT series, or the GTD category of the TUDOR United Sportscar Championship (in 2016).
To those familiar with the highly controversial “ranking” system currently in place with endurance sportscar racing such as the World Endurance Championship (WEC) and TUDOR United SportsCar Championship (TUSC), this article is nothing new. However for those who don’t completely understand what all the controversy is or where it stems from, we thought it might be good to provide a briefing on just what the system is, and where it came from.
While “ProAm” racing is nothing new to sportscar racing, with “gentlemen” drivers populating (and funding) the sport since inception, the roots of today’s system as we know it can be traced back to 2009.
Following the economic crisis in the Fall of 2008, the 2009 professional sportscar scene endured one of its weakest car counts in modern history. With gentleman drivers choosing to hold tight on their budgets until they saw how the stock market evolved over the coming months, the normally healthy “ProAm” market all of a sudden took a turn. This was most prevalent in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS), which suffered its smallest car count in series history.
When people discuss the “costs” of racing, an outsider might assume the core of a race team’s ledger may come in the acquisition of the car, or spares, or wildly sophisticated technologies required to keep a team at the cutting edge… and in many ways they’re correct. However, at the base of all this is one massively expensive piece of the puzzle: the staff.
Technology, data, equipment, etc. is only as good as the people who can operate it, and with every nuance that a team invests in, be assured there is always a new requirement on the human element as well.
In the business of racing, there is one wildly varying element to how this is handled: to salary employees vs. hiring people as contractors.
Just days before this year’s United States Grand Prix began its first practice session , the financially troubled Caterham F1 team, who had recently gone in to administration (the U.S. equivalent would be bankruptcy, though it is different in how it works), announced it would not be able to make the journey to Texas. Hours later, the similarly maligned Marussia F1 Team would announce the same.
Thus, the controversy begins…
With two teams officially closing their doors and a number of midfield teams in very serious jeopardy, the controversy of F1 being “too expensive” is at the forefront of the conversation…. again.
The heart of the controversy lies at the distribution of F1 income. The business of Formula One, despite its challenges, is incredibly profitable. Since 2004, the various managing properties have earned over $1 billion in total revenue, and then moving the bar above $1.5 billion since 2011. This is the revenue directly related to the commercial management of the series, run by the Formula One Group, which is technically owned by a consortium of investing and holding companies, the largest of which is CVC Capital. At the helm of this is the legendary Bernie Ecclestone, who has run the commercial rights of Formula One since 1980, spending four decades in to building the most successful form of motorsport in the world.
The National Football League (NFL), easily the highest rated form of sport in the U.S., has always been an interesting source of discussion among motorsports decision makers when outlining their season plans.
Inevitably, as a racing season enters the Fall, where championship stakes are at their highest, television ratings typically begin to decline. The easiest attributable reason? Football season.
It’s a tough nut to crack, and with the NFL’s continual growth, all of the major U.S. forms of motorsport have taken different approaches to counter this.
NASCAR’s answer to the NFL began in 2004 with the creation of “The Chase” playoff format, in which the top-10 drivers (and then 12 several years later ) would be locked in to their own form of a playoff for the final 10 races, conveniently when football season began. This year, NASCAR has gone even further with this strategy, creating an elimination-based top-16 playoff, in which four drivers are removed from contention every three races, with four drivers battling it out for the finale in Homestead, Florida.