If you blinked last week, you may have missed the announcement from the World Endurance Championship that they will discontinue the age-old tradition of “grid girls” in 2015. For those unaware, grid girls are essentially young females dressed in attractive outfits, often scantily clad, who stand next to a racing car as it “grids” before a race begins. It’s a common tradition in motorsports, found in Formula 1, MotoGP, Pirelli World Challenge, and beyond.
One series who will not be on this list, however, is the premier category for sportscar racing, the World Endurance Championship. After carrying this tradition since the series began, in an effort to be more “progressive” the organizers have elected to drop the practice.
It has sparked some debate within the social media spheres, with some fans resisting the larger issue of political correctness, and other fans, most notably professionals clinging for relevance, who use this as an opportunity to grandstand on sexism in the sport.
With all of this being said, the issue has largely been ignored by the racing scene as a whole, and most likely for good reason: no one cares.
For those who watched the Super Bowl, traditionally the highest rated sporting event of the year, Nissan’s presentation of their “With Dad” campaign sparked a large amount of conversation and buzz within the racing community.
While the merits of the commercial in and of itself is for another conversation, the topic widely missed by most of the motosports public is that of the existence of a Super Bowl ad altogether.
Running at 90 seconds, an ad-buy purchase of likely between $8-12mil, the key feature within the motorsport community was the commercial’s reveal of their highly touted GT-R LM Nismo prototype, which will compete at this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.
To repeat, Nissan paid Super Bowl prices for a sportscar program.
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.