With 22 cars slated to start the GTD category of the upcoming Rolex 24 at Daytona, it’s fair to say the “bottom” category of IMSA’s WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is looking as healthy as ever.
After several years’ delay, in 2014 IMSA finally announced the adoption and 2016 implementation of the sought after “GT3” rules, a European standard of rules/homologation for many customer-based exotic GT cars. Until that point, “GT3” had quickly grown favor from many international racing series, including the Blancpain GT and Endurance Series, the top category of VLN, and here in the U.S. kicked off a recent resurgence for the Pirelli World Challenge.
With IMSA being one of the last holdouts, largely due to the existence of a few key marques that did not have GT3-compliant machinery, the presence of GT3 within the motorsport landscape is undeniable.
In the eyes of many, 2015 was an incredible years for professional motorsports. NASCAR received record ratings for their season finale, which saw a thrilling finish in which a legend retired and a driver took the title after missing several races due to injury. IndyCar saw a tremendous battle to the finish at both the Indy 500 and season finale, and sportscar racing saw some amazing triumphs from Porsche, Corvette, and beyond. Outside of convention, Global Rallycross continued to show its steady rise as one of motorsports’ most prominent and increasingly relevant forms to grab a new audience, and Formula E’s electric approach continues to show a strong, if small, foundation in the landscape.
However, the sport continues to face increasing challenges as both the business and advertising dynamic changes, here are the five questions facing the business of motorsport in 2016:
While NASCAR’s revised Chase format, implemented in 2014, has led many traditional fans of the sport to question the integrity of the championship, last Sunday’s season finale totaling an average of 7.64 million viewers made it the most watched fall NASCAR race in a decade.
Detractors will point out several factors that helped:
Could all of those factors contributed? Absolutely. Does it matter? Absolutely not.
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.