Yes, really: WeatherTech Porsche leaves WeatherTech series over BOP

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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Late last night, Alex Job Racing confirmed its WeatherTech-backed Porsche 911 GT3 R would withdraw from the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

So why, you ask, would a sponsor pull out of a series that it is – and will remain per its initial multi-year contract – the entitlement sponsor of?

According to the team, it’s the dreaded Balance of Performance for the Porsche in the GT Daytona class.

“We have decided to withdrawal the No. 22 WeatherTech Racing Porsche for the remainder of the IMSA season,” Alex Job, team owner, said. “The decision to stop racing was rooted purely on performance and the future prospects for the Porsche at the remaining tracks on the 2016 schedule. The conclusion was based upon the performance in direct comparison to the competition over the past eight GTD races and the possible variations of how the BOP (balance of performance) could playout over the next three races with our engineering team and IMSA.”

David MacNeil, founder and CEO of WeatherTech, remains committed to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

“This is a competition decision as it relates to the No. 22 WeatherTech Racing Porsche team in IMSA,” MacNeil said. “We make marketing decisions based upon what is best for our business. We are still the presenting sponsor of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and we are committed to growing the sport now and into the future.”

A statement from IMSA reads as follows:

“IMSA was recently informed of the decision to suspend participation of the No. 22 Alex Job Racing entry in GTD class competition of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.  One of the most significant and defining elements of sports car racing is the variety of cars, brands and technologies within our highly competitive GT categories.

“The IMSA Technical Committee was established to professionally manage the complex Balance of Performance (BoP) process to ensure fair and close competition among the many participating brands and teams.  The committee operates with a transparent, data-driven process which closely analyzes both actual race performance and related observation factors.

“We are disappointed the No. 22 car will not be competing at our next event, but remain committed to our ongoing process.”

This is then the point in the story where we look at the results of the No. 22 Porsche, driven by Cooper MacNeil and Leh Keen (until Road America, when Keen was let go and Porsche Junior Sven Mueller filled in) compared to the other three full-time Porsches in the GTD class:

  • No. 22 WeatherTech Porsche 911 GT3 R: 13, 5, 8, 7, 5, 7, 9, 11
  • No. 23 The Heart of Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R: 8, 4, 1, 4, 3, 12, 14, 12
  • No. 73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R: 17, 17, 11, 2, 8, 6, 10, 2
  • No. 540 Black Swan Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R: 2, 13, 17, WD, 7, WD, 12, WD

So as you’ll see there, the Nos. 23, 73 and 540 Porsches have made it on the podium this year while the No. 22 Porsche has not. Porsche also sits second in the GTD Manufacturer’s Championship with three races remaining.

In fact, the last time the No. 22 Porsche was on an IMSA podium was the 2015 Rolex 24 at Daytona, when it finished second. But that was 18 races and 18 months ago in January, 2015.

While BOP concerns are fair to bring up, the other point to note is the competition level in GTD has significantly risen the last year and a half, and will only continue to do so as the caliber of driver, team and manufacturers in class continues to increase.

From an objective viewpoint, it looks worse on WeatherTech than it does on IMSA.

Then there was this that came in from Ed Brown, CEO of Patron Spirits, who noted his team – Tequila Patron ESM – often fought on in the face of adverse BOP when that team ran in IMSA full-time.

Ironically, they don’t now as they are in the FIA World Endurance Championship full-time, but they have remained committed to the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup, which of course, they still sponsor.

When approached for comment, Porsche offered the below.

Three-time W Series champ Jamie Chadwick joining Andretti in Indy NXT Series for 2023

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Jamie Chadwick, the three-time W Series champion, will drive for Andretti Autosport in the Indy NXT Series next season.

Chadwick will make her debut in an American racing series in March, driving the No. 28 for Andretti Autosport with sponsorship from DHL. The 24-year-old will become the first female driver in 13 years to compete full time in the Indy NXT championship.

Chadwick joined the female free-to-enter W Series in its inaugural 2019 season, winning two races and the first of three consecutive championships. She has been a reserve driver for the Williams Formula One team and will continue in that role in 2023. She also has driven in the Extreme E Series.

Despite her success, Chadwick hasn’t landed a bigger ride in F3 or F2, and her break didn’t come until Michael Andretti contacted her and offered a test in an Indy NXT car.

The final three races of this year’s W Series schedule were canceled when funding fell through, but Chadwick still believes the all-female series was the right path for her.

“W Series has always been and will continue to be an opportunity to be racing for every female driver, so for my side, I looked at it while perhaps I would have liked to step up maybe earlier, at the same time being able to have that chance to race, get that experience, have that development, seat time… I was constantly learning,” Chadwick told The Associated Press.

“In that sense, I wasn’t frustrated at all. But on the flip side of it, now I’ve had that experience testing in the United States in Indy NXT and this is something I’m really excited about.”

Chadwick also is expected to have an enhanced role as a development driver next season with Williams, which chose American driver Logan Sargeant to fill its open seat on next year’s F1 grid.

“Andretti Autosport is proud to be supporting Jamie alongside DHL,” said Michael Andretti. “Jamie’s successful career speaks for itself, but Indy NXT gives Jamie the opportunity to continue her development in a new type of racing.

“We’ve turned out five Indy NXT champions over the years and look forward to continuing our role in developing new talent.”

Indy NXT is the new name of the rebranded Indy Lights Series, the final step on the ladder system before IndyCar.

Andretti will field two drivers next season in IndyCar that were developed in Indy NXT: Kyle Kirkwood, the 2021 champion, will return to Andretti after one season in IndyCar driving for A.J. Foyt Racing, and Devlin DeFrancesco is back for a second season.

Chadwick will be teammates in Indy NXT with Hunter McElrea and Louis Foster. She becomes Andretti’s second full-time female driver alongside Catie Munnings, who competes for Andretti United in the Extreme E Series.