FIA considering pole trophy and permanent numbers

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The FIA is considering a couple of changes to the sporting regulations in Formula One for next season, notably a trophy for pole position and drivers having permanent numbers.

According to Autosport, both ideas were raised during the sport’s strategy group meeting that is made up of Ferrari, Red Bull, Williams, Lotus, McLaren and Mercedes, with the decision for a ‘pole trophy’ being borne out of a proposal to give the pole-sitter a point as found in many other racing categories.

The idea of a point for pole has been banded about in Formula One for many years as a way of placing extra importance on qualifying and encouraging drivers to push for first place on the grid. Although the changes made to the points system in 2010 addressed this issue in the races, it has been felt that potentially having championships decided on a Saturday before a race could be damaging for the sport’s reputation. Under this system, Lewis Hamilton would have won the 2007 world championship whilst Mika Hakkinen would have enjoyed a more comfortable gap to Eddie Irvine in 1999.

Instead, it has been proposed that the driver who attains the most pole positions across the course of a season is awarded a trophy at the end of year FIA prizegiving. This will spark extra interest among the fans as the battle to win this trophy could outlast that of the main championships.

However, don’t go thinking this will stop Sebastian Vettel from winning everything. He would have won the award in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2013, with Lewis Hamilton claiming the most poles last year.

Further to that, the FIA is considering the introduction of permanent numbers in Formula One next season. Currently, the world champion receives the number one car with his teammate number two. Following that, teams are allocated numbers depending on their position in the constructors’ championship. In 2014, Vettel will be number one, new teammate Daniel Ricciardo is number two, Mercedes follow suit with three and four, then Ferrari and so on.

This system was introduced in 1996, but the FIA is now considering a completely new system whereby drivers have a number for their career and keep that number, regardless of the team that they drive for or their position in the championship. The only time that they would change number is if they won the drivers’ champioship when they would receive the number one car.

Such a system is used in many other top level motorsports including Moto GP, where drivers such as Valentino Rossi (46) and Marc Marquez (93) use their numbers are part of their marketing efforts. It is thought that a similar system would work in Formula One, and this number would be carried by the driver throughout their racing career. However, teams have said that the regulations would need to be changed in the event of no times being set in qualifying, where currently the results are decided on car number order.

The World Motor Sport Council is set to meet in two weeks’ time where it is thought these ideas will be debated as well as the release of the final draft of the 2014 F1 calendar.

Shank: Ahead of year two, Acura NSX GT3 ‘100 percent better’

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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A new-look lineup will greet Michael Shank Racing’s now customer-based Acura NSX GT3 program for the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season.

The car itself, however, appears a much more solidly well-rounded machine after its first full year of racing and development in 2017, which should help the team build on the performance and results achieved last year.

“It’s 100 percent better,” Shank told NBC Sports at last week’s PRI Show in Indianapolis. “Steve Eriksen (vice-president and COO, Honda Performance Development) mentioned (in a meeting), it’s so much better than we were last year. I don’t know what that means ultimately, except to say we’re more prepared.”

Owing to IMSA’s designation that the team can’t run a works, factory-backed entry as that was only allowed for one year, the MSR GT Daytona class effort in 2018 takes on a customer role.

The team has a new full-season pairing in the No. 93 Acura, with IMSA veteran and multi-time Pirelli World Challenge champion Lawson Aschenbach alongside Justin Marks, a bit of a renaissance man in his own right as a NASCAR Xfinity Series race winner and one of the principals of DryLake Group, which runs the GoPro Motorplex among other businesses.

At present, the team’s No. 86 Acura for Katherine Legge and Alvaro Parente is a Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup entry, but the team and Acura are working towards filling that car for a full season return with additional drivers to be named later.

Mario Farnbacher and AJ Allmendinger have been announced as two of the extra drivers for Daytona for MSR’s team, Farnbacher also being confirmed with the No. 93 car for the full Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup schedule.

Shank explained how methodical he has to be from a budgetary planning standpoint and how this new look lineup came together.

“It never comes real easy. I don’t want to cry too much because when you look at this, I’ve got 25 full-time people, I’ve got a fairly large budget for a “smaller team” – we’re not poor, but we just have to watch our steps,” he said.

“The reason why we’re still here after 20 years is that we’ve been conservative financially, meaning we only do what we can do and then we got to draw a line. As much as I want another set of $100,000 dampers, I got to pull back!”

“We truly, truly got lucky with that one (the No. 93 car). Justin flies under the radar a little but, but I promise you he’s going to surprise some people this year. Once we get into January – he’s got some kind of cool commitments in early January, he’s climbing a mountain in South America, one of the tallest in the world. He’s going to contend for a lot of cool stuff this year, I’m anxious to see where he goes.”

Aschenbach, for his part, is relishing the opportunity. He and Shank have known each other more than a decade going back to when he tested an Atlantic car, and he and Marks have finally synced up after years of wanting to work together.

Lawson Aschenbach. Photo: Courtesy of IMSA

“Michael’s assembled a very successful team. It’s a professional organization. It’s very well managed with a common goal of winning,” Aschenbach told NBC Sports. “Even for a seat fitting you feel at home. It made the decision very easy. I have a lot of respect for Shank, and for what he’s accomplished. He’s always in the paddock with a program. You have to give props to that, to have that staying power.

“When I started to realize I’d have to move from Stevenson, Justin was my first call, strictly because we’ve been friends for so long. He wanted to do more sports car racing. He did great in the Turner BMW last year, and I think it re-energized him to focus on sports car racing in the future.

“I tested at Sebring a few laps in the Acura. It’s definitely different than the Audi to suit that. But that’s a part of racing where nothing out of the norm. I was very impressed with the car. You can tell they’ve worked really hard in a lot of specific areas, and that lets you see how successful it is. Winning two IMSA races against the caliber of competition in the first year was an incredible effort and showed the dedication of Acura, HPD, Michael Shank Racing and the drivers assembled.”

One of the unfortunate side effects is that Ozz Negri, who’s been as much a Shank lifer as the team has been, doesn’t appear to be in the frame for another year. He’s been with Shank for nearly 15 years.

“It’s just circumstances,” Shank reflected. “We’re talking about 14 straight years of working together (with Ozz). I haven’t gotten real sad about it because I feel like times change sometimes. His contribution to our team is so much more than driving a race car. So, it’s just fortunate that’s it has to come to this. Hopefully, he’ll be a part of our team somehow, some way.”

Andy Lally (Magnus Racing) and Jeff Segal (Scuderia Corsa) have also moved on to new teams next year, although both have experience with those teams.