Saturday, June 4, 2011

Every Once In A While...

I have to knock back ridiculous thoughts about Sports Car Racing in America and the fantasy land people seem to live in.

I originally posted this on Murphy's blog but I thought I would share it with you -

(1) Philip Peter who runs the LMS series for the ACO has stated that due to low turnout of LMP1/2 cars at the opening round of the LMS in France and the impact of ILMC on his series that he is considering going without LMP1/2 cars next season.

(2) As Murphy stated Prototypes are hardly more popular in Europe. You just have better quality privateers see RML and Strakka. Henri won’t go anywhere without support from a manufacturer like those that support RML and Strakka (Honda) or Rebellion (Toyota). You can’t keep dumbing down the competition to the level of those that are hardly paupers to start with but just don’t have the cubic dollars/euro/yen of the larger teams.

(3) The quality of privateers in America are generally terrible. The only team worthy of praise over the years is Dyson. But even their roots are in GT cars, how come they can’t go back? Chris is a good enough driver to buy two cars, a brand new GT2(e) and a year old GT2(ProAm) car to run with at the ILMC rounds. He would still score points under that system if he’s a season competitor and its more affordable to take a GT car over to Europe than to bring a Prototype with massive odds against you doing well. A GT car will at least give you a chance to win, look at Tracy Krohn… Wouldn’t you say Chris Dyson is a better driver than Tracy Krohn?

(4) When the economy can support Prototypes they are fine. Clearly with world wide austerity, flat car sales and high unemployment you clearly see the rich did no suffer in the economic downturn but the FAN did. I don’t know how you can link what happen between the IRL and CART. IRL was idea of a Rich Man with too much money to spend. But once the family took away his wallet there was no more IRL. For CART a series of bad moves and a jingoistic culture doomed CART from the split onwards. Its fortunes really went down after key teams like Ganassi and Penske left for the IRL just because they wanted to be at Indy.

Sports Car Racing in America doesn’t have that. Don’t bring up Sebring. Sebring just happens to be around the same time of Spring Break and unlike much of Florida who don’t like College Co-ed’s invading their town Sebring seemingly doesn’t mind and benefits from it several ways, especially in the coffers. A majority of those fans are not regular followers of the ALMS or ILMC. There just happens to be a convergence of heavy beer drinking, general party environment and a good race (not always a good race…).

That said Autocon and Intersport are TERRIBLE teams. They are not poor so don’t give m that tripe that they are some fellas running this out of their garage. Even if that were true, have you seen RJ Valentine’s Garage? Its featured on the Lista web page – http://www.listapersonalspace.com/personal-spaces/peers/case-studies/rj-valentine.aspx

That still doesn’t diminish the fact that they are reluctant to spend money. Compare this with Highcroft’s approach which has often been talked about –http://www.gordonkirby.com/categories/columns/theway/2010/the_way_it_is_no256.htmland you’ll quickly understand why Robert Clark picked Highcroft and not one of the other teams in the paddock…

(5) Specialty manufacturers like Lola and Riley do keep Sports Car Racing afloat but I wouldn’t call that high quality racing. How many times has Lola been the Giant Killer? It seems to me only a quality outfit like Dyson was able to pull that off. How many of those types of teams exist? Not many, I’m still puzzled by Toyota’s decision to support Rebellion when they haven’t proven anything as Rebellion or as Speedy Sabah. They have won the occasional GT race and class victory (LMP2) but that’s it. Dyson has defeated Audi fair and square, only Panoz has been able to accomplish that. But these are teams run by people who aren’t concerned about what it cost to win, within reason.

The ALMS is designed to be a manufacturer friendly series and wants to stay that way. If that’s the case you go where the money is and for now and the foreseeable future the choice for national series will be to go with GT cars. Those ambition to take the fight to companies like Audi can battle it out on the world stage where its not cheap to start with and should be the least of your concerns if you want to beat them.

(6) I propose that the ALMS go with GT-e, GT3 and LMPC for 2012 to 2014 and reevaluate at the end of 2014.

LMPC cars are generally faster anyway, you can put them back to 2010 specs where they are equally as fast as current LMP2 cars. Its spec racing Fox but that didn’t seem to bother you watching Champ Car and IRL.. They are prototypes. Maybe in 2014 you can start considering other brands of engine say from Ford or Chrysler.

GT-e as Hindy is often fond of saying is PERFECT AND DON’T TOUCH IT. The only thing I might add in the future is ABS. Why not they already have Traction Control. It won’t make the racing any worst…

GT3 is where you’ll see the explosion and biggest expansion in the ALMS. There will still be some Porsche as there some loyalist already in the paddock such as Alex Job and TRG, they’ll just buy GT3R versions of the 911. But outside of that you’ll have mouth watering prospects from BMW, Benz, Ferrari and Audi. Not to mention Lotus and McLaren.

I like Prototypes too but not to the detriment of the series. Having uninteresting, poorly funded efforts that even Dyson can’t dominate because of a history of reliably problems does not and should not excite the fan base. Because of Muscle Milk AMR’s DNF at Sebring, Dyson only has to keep finishing races to win the Championship and even they are capable of screwing that up some how, but that’s no way to handicap a series…

Merging of Ideas, Tiered Internet and Geo Blocking

Looks like the FIA has officially jumped behind ACO's ILMC. Details are few at the moment with all to be explained in a week's time during the run up the Le Mans race next weekend.

This weekend however the FIA GT1 World Championship and FIA GT3 European Championships comes into the popular Tourist Trophy weekend at Silverstone not without making news of its own... The FIA again announce that changes were coming to the championship going forward. Its been rumored for a few months now that because of the massive manufacture support for GT3 cars that the logical move for SRO would be to move to those cars for its world championship. Well that's happen, sort-of... Again details are light and we don't know how it impacts the other championships yet, but in 2012 all 2009 and older I believe spec GT2 cars and all current GT3 will be allowed to race with the current GT1 cars. Performance balancing will ensure the playing field is level.

This should be interesting because last year at larger tracks like Spa and Nurburgring GT3 cars often turn competitive times with GT2 cars, even though GT2 cars won both events overall when all was said and done. It seem to this blogger that GT3 cars are only slightly slower than GT1 down the fastest parts of any track but the GT2 cars have more cornering power than either car so it makes up its time in the twisty bits, while loosing out on the straights. In other words balancing performance for cars built for different rules should be easy.

Some will signal the failure of the World GT1 to get the required cars for another season going forward. Vitaphone wasn't allowed to compete with just their two car team since Alfred Hager dropped out at the end of last season. While Corvette who's future was in doubt because all the GT1 cars available are in private hands was able to get two cars on the grid in Dubai from two different teams but only one Corvette and one team since. I smell hypocrisy even if Vitaphone moved over to the Blancpain Endurance Series for this season and keeps its Italian links by running 458's this season.
I always thought this was going to happen given that nobody is currently building GT1 cars besides Aston Martin. Nissan is planning a raft of GTR GT3 cars for next season, the death of Martin Birtek before the start of this season likely signaled the end of the GT1 version of the Ford GT and the on going problem of finding a Corvette to race can't continue if the collectors just don't want to damage the cars anymore.

I think by 2013 GT1 cars will disappear all together and we'll be left with this -

  • Select GT3 National Championships (Germany, France, Britain, Japan and to a lesser extent Spain)
  • The World Championship with GT2 and GT3 cars or all GT3 cars with the sprint format
  • Blancpain European Championship for GT3 cars

What does this mean for the ALMS and LMS???

Well I think the writing is on the wall... The ACO and FIA will go hand and hand with this Sports Car Championship, a World Championship. I think the ACO still feels they have to link events to the ALMS and LMS but away from the world spotlight what do these championships do? I think they going GT racing!

Just look at the facts on the ground. The best news coming away from Le Mans Test day is that Highcroft will not compete in the 24hr Race and likely won't race again this season. HPD owns the Acura chassis and I believe it will be returned to HPD here in California if it hasn't already as both HPD and Highcroft have agreed to dissolve their fairly successful relationship. Autocon has announced their intentions to complete in a few events this season and is likely Intersport a local team to the Mid-Ohio sports car course may pull their LMP1 car out of the shop for one more run. I hardly call this something to look forward too in 2011.

This is terrible! Especially on the heels of no LMP2 cars besides Level 5 and they have already expressed the desire not to race themselves too hard. Sure it could have had something to do with the Long Beach street circuit but honestly I doubt we'll see the paint swapping we saw with the Corvette teams in 2008.

All the Prototype zealots don't have much to cheer for and their high point this season is likely going to be Le Mans and Petit Le Mans at the end of the season. From that point I think its bye-bye Prototypes in ALMS and LMS as Philip Peter has expressed the same concern for his championship.

The LMS however is a Pan-Euro series competing with International GT Open and GT Sprint championships in Europe for GT2 entries. Yes the LMS has the true endurance format for GT2 cars and I'm positive the winner of the GT2 championship will get an automatic invite to Le Mans, so maybe that's enough of a carrot for some teams. I would highly suggest that event planners work HARD not to have clashing dates.

Fans like myself and even some in the media have come to the conclusion that the ALMS if it wants to continue to be a manufacturer supported series, needs to go where the action is and that's GT cars, specifically GT2 and GT3. You could keep the LMPC cars if they wish and I think the LMS having round filed its separate Formula Le Mans Championship after seeing how well these cars went when racing with the other classes in the big show will keep this format instead of spending more money for a separate championship.

ALMS fields could easily be 25-30 cars every event and when the ILMC comes to town, it could be 50-60 cars! The ALMS can also link to the FIA World GT Championship with cross competition at shared events like Laguna Seca.

In other news, I woke up this morning to watch the FIA GT1 World Championship Qualifying Race from Silverstone, the Tourist Trophy! Only to find it Geo-Blocked. Now it was mentioned on GT1's FB page that the stream would not be available in North America. They never really spelled out why and never posted it on their web site or twitter either. I'll have access to the race regardless but I got some information awhile ago that Time Warner would start offering Speed2 to its Sport Package customers. The moderator of the GT1 FB page said that it would be on Bloomberg. For those of you that have tried to set your DVR or Windows Media PC to record the races on Bloomberg, after the first couple of races of the season, Bloomberg is no longer listing it on its North American stream. I did find the last year's Spa race streaming live on Bloomberg's international feed on their web site. I am setup to receive Bloomberg's feed from their web site but I wouldn't call that a solution.

In the past I have praised and been critical of the ALMS for its streaming program and now its time to become critical of SRO for taking this tactic as well. We are moving closer and closer to a tiered Internet in America. In Canada there are only two major carriers that own a majority of the market up there, Telus and Rodgers. They are introducing data caps as well. This is not good as the companies that control the pipes want to offer more services and seeing the explosion of streaming content online will want to get in on that and turn it profitable.

Having an open and free internet is one of the most important issues of our time, but gets little public support due mostly to the poor title of the movement - Net Neutrality and the fact that people don't know what they'll miss when its gone. Sites like Netflix are taking up the bandwidth on the internet and that's just in the US. This will only increase as more content moves online and in the near future you'll have Blu Ray quality streaming available to one and all. The problem is your standard issue cooper DSL connection, which is how a majority of Americans get broadband internet will not support high bit rate HD content. The internet will have to be upgraded to more fiber to home services. Right now Verizon (FiOS) and AT&T (U-Verse) have stopped rolling out the service due to increase cost and not having enough potential customers in some lower population areas. This means this will effectively make certain parts of the internet a ghetto. Where you'll have access to basic services and web sites but won't be offered access to high bandwidth content, even if you can afford to pay the higher cost of a faster connection, its just not available to you in your area.

I have a feeling the fan base of the SRO related series is half that of the ALMS as there isn't much promotion of the series in America yet. So there won't be much push back against decisions like this.

There isn't much push back against tiered internet in America either... I'm not sure what the answer is.

But in the meantime you can support Save The Internet if these issues concern you...




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