IMSA to Split DPi, LMP2 into separate classes

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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Courtesy: IMSA Wire Service

ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (Aug. 3, 2018) – As part of the annual State of the Series presentation at Road America this evening, IMSA unveiled several competition changes that will take effect in the 2019 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

“As we continue to evolve the WeatherTech Championship, we’ve engaged in extensive dialogue with our stakeholders to consider appropriate refinements,” said IMSA Vice President, Competition Simon Hodgson. “The changes we will implement in 2019 are based upon the feedback we’ve received from all WeatherTech Championship class stakeholders in the paddock. We expect the changes will be popular with participants and IMSA fans alike.”

DPi-LMP2 To Become Separate Classes

After competing together in one overarching Prototype class for the past two WeatherTech Championship seasons, manufacturer-backed Daytona Prototype international (DPi) race cars will compete exclusively in the premier WeatherTech Championship class with global LMP2-spec cars competing in a separate, Pro-Am class beginning with the 2019 season.

DPi cars no longer will be balanced against the best LMP2 example, instead shifting to a class-specific Balance of Performance (BoP) process managed by the IMSA Technical Committee similar to the GT Le Mans (GTLM) and GT Daytona (GTD) classes. The LMP2 class, meanwhile, becomes Pro-Am as it is in the FIA World Endurance Championship and elsewhere around the world with no BoP applied.

Pro-Am Class Revisions

Beginning next season, the WeatherTech Championship again will feature four classes – as it had from 2014 through 2017 – including Pro-Am classes in both the Prototype (LMP2) and GT (GTD) categories.

Both classes will follow the same rules for its driver lineups. LMP2 and GTD teams will be required to field at least one Bronze- or Silver-rated driver for every non-endurance race and will be allowed a maximum of one Platinum-rated driver per car. In Michelin Endurance Cup events, IMSA will balance driver combinations for three-, four- and five-driver lineups with an emphasis on Bronze and Silver drivers. Maximum drive time for Gold and Platinum drivers now will be limited.

In the LMP2 class, the Bronze or Silver driver finishing the highest in the season-long WeatherTech driver’s championship point standings will win the Jim Trueman Award and earn the opportunity to secure an entry to compete in the following year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans that it can bring to any team, whether it competes in IMSA or elsewhere.

The rules will be the same in the GTD class, with the Bob Akin Award and the Le Mans entry going to the highest-finishing Bronze or Silver driver in the season-long WeatherTech Championship driver standings. Ties will be broken in favor of the driver with the highest season-long cumulative drive time.

Other changes to the GTD sporting regulations include dedicated track time for Bronze or Silver drivers only prior to qualifying at each event, and new requirements that Bronze or Silver drivers only will be permitted to participate in qualifying with the qualifying driver also required to start the race. Any Bronze or Silver drivers participating in the additional practice session will be allocated one additional set of dry-type (slick) tires.

IMSA Driver Evaluation Committee Developed

The WeatherTech Championship will continue to utilize FIA Driver Ratings as the basis for determining driver eligibility in the LMP2 and GTD classes, as has been the case since the series’ inception in 2014. IMSA has been an active participant in driver ratings analysis as part of the FIA Driver Ratings Committee since that time, but heading into the 2019 season, IMSA has established a new IMSA Driver Evaluation Committee chaired by Paul Walter, IMSA director, racing operations.

In a similar fashion to the IMSA Technical Committee chaired by Geoff Carter, IMSA senior director, technical regulations and compliance, the IMSA Driver Evaluation Committee will review each IMSA driver’s recorded pace based on both the FIA Driver Rating Committee’s established criteria and the IMSA Technical Committee’s standardized BoP driver’s weighted average lap time distribution. The results of this analysis then will be shared with the FIA Driver Ratings Committee for consideration before the next applicable driver rating period.

In accordance with FIA regulations, IMSA retains the right to adjust a driver’s categorization based on the specific nature of its own championship. However, IMSA will not make in-season changes to any driver’s rating.

In addition to Walter and Carter, the IMSA Driver Evaluation Committee also includes IMSA Vice President, Competition Simon Hodgson; WeatherTech Championship and IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge Race Director Beaux Barfield; WeatherTech Championship Series Manager Ed Hall; IMSA Senior Director, Racing Operations Mark Raffauf and IMSA Director, Technical Systems Matt Kurdock.

Roar Before the Rolex 24 Only IMSA-Sanctioned Test in 2019; GTD Participation Reduced By One Day

The Roar Before the Rolex 24 At Daytona on Jan. 4-6, 2019 – which is mandatory for all entered 2019 Rolex 24 At Daytona participants – will be the only IMSA-sanctioned test for the 2019 season. In addition, participation at the Roar by GTD teams will be reduced to two days with on track days being limited to Friday and Saturday only.

Any private test sessions for all WeatherTech Championship teams will be conducted under the same testing regulations as in 2018. DPi and LMP2 teams each will be allowed 10 days of testing per entered car, with nine test days for each GTLM entry and four test days for each GTD car.

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NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E and Ian James set to race ahead of electric motorsports’ curve

James McLaren Formula E
NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team
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As Formula E enters their ninth season and McLaren Racing is set to compete in last year’s championship winning car, Ian James is passionate about pushing electric motorsports forward at a critical stage as race technology begins surpassing that of the street cars.

Midseason, McLaren acquired the assets of the Mercedes-EQ team as they were already on their way to winning a second consecutive championship. With those assets in place and coming off a successful debut in the Extreme E series, James is set to usher in a new era in electric car racing.

Last week’s announcement that Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast behind the wheel of the NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team was the last piece of the puzzle.

McLaren’s electric portfolio is building with the Formula E team coming one year after they entered the Extreme E rally series in 2022 with Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour. There were a lot of lessons to learn in that series with growing pains during the first three of five rounds. Rounds 4 and 5 were a completely different matter with the team crossing the finish line first in Chile before being assessed a time penalty.

In the final round in Uruguay, they scored an elusive podium.

“McLaren kicked off the season in Extreme E at the beginning of this year, so our first [electric] race took place Neom, actually out in Saudi,” NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team Principal James told NBC Sports. “At the time, we were in very early discussions about opportunities with the Formula E team. I actually went out there to meet with Zak [Brown, CEO McLaren Racing] and that was my first taste of Extreme E.

“Since the transition, I joined them in Chile in Atacama Desert, and then Uruguay last weekend. [The second-place finish was] a lovely way to round out the season. The fact that they got that podium. It was very well deserved. It’s a great team and a great series actually. It’s just so very different from anything else. The team’s done a great job in getting set up, and it’s nice now to, we’re trying to use that momentum that we’ve got from Uruguay to get us into next season when it kicks off next year, which will be great. I think we’re mid-March is looking like the first race, so a little bit of time to get things prepped for that.”

 

James McLaren Formula E
The NEOM Mclaren Racing Formula E Team was created through the acquisition of last year’s championship team from Mercedes-EQ. – NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team

Synergies exist between the single seater and rally series. Lessons learned about battery power and sustainability in the electric SUV carry over so long as one is mindful of keeping focus on the individual needs and nuances of each series.

Especially now that electric racing technology has caught up, and is ready to surpass, the existing technology that has gone into building street cars.

When internal combustion engines gained the upper hand soon after automobiles were invented, racing paced alongside. The pressure of competition pushed the development of their commercial equivalents. The same has not necessarily been true of electric cars. Street cars were not designed to undergo the same stress as racecars – and that vulnerability showed up on the racetrack.

“Formula E has come along a long way,” James said. “I think one of the most notable developments is in the battery technology. In Gen 1, you had the drivers jumping from one car to another car midrace because the battery technology and capacity simply wasn’t where it needed to be to do the full distance. That obviously changed in Gen 2 and we saw a power increase as well to the 250 kilowatts.

“Now going to Gen 3, we have 350 kilowatts in a smaller battery. But that means that we’re relying on the regeneration of energy and for that reason, we’ve got also the opportunity to regenerate on the front axle as well as the rear axle now. So, there’s all sorts of things that are developing in the right direction.

“In terms of throttle response, actually, we’re now in a situation with electric racing and the motors that it’s instantaneous. And one of the advantages of electric over combustion engine is that the torque is instantaneous as well, so that gives you a lot more room to play with.”

No matter the power source, racing has always been about resource management. Drivers and teams select tire strategies they believe produce the fastest elapsed time and fuel conservation comes into play.

On one hand, electric racing is the same, but there is a critical difference. With the battery as both the power source and an integral part of the engine, there are multiple reasons to manage it.

In electric racing, the brain of the car is the software – and that is where James sees the greatest room for advancement.

“As we are working with our drivers and engineers – and start to look at functionality to improve our efficiency and our performance, that’s something we’ll continue to push because that development is open throughout the season,” James said. “That’s going to be our focus going forward and provides enough of a challenge for us to get our teeth into.

“What’s going to be fascinating is as Formula E continues, is to really look at which areas of development on the car are going to be the most relevant and ensuring that we can focus on those together with the manufacturers so we continue and use the series as a platform for technical development that can then feed back into the road car side of things as well.

“At the end of the day, that’s what motorsports always been, a very powerful tool for, and I see Formula E as no exception.”

James McLaren Formula E
Jake Hughes and Rene Rast were chosen for their ability to drive fast and execute the necessary strategy for energy management. – NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team

Selecting Rast and Hughes as McLaren’s Formula E drivers was not simply because they know how to drive fast. James believes both drivers have the mental aptitude to execute energy management strategies throughout the race and squeeze maximum performance.

“As with many other motorsports, you’ve got a certain amount of energy that you’re able to deploy during the race and the management of that energy is absolutely crucial,” James said. “What we’re seeing typically in electric motorsports now is the hardware side of things. The efficiencies that we’re seeing in the powertrain as a whole, they’re getting up to the sort of 96%, 97%, 98% efficiency, so the gains that you get through that further and further become more marginal.”

With much more room for improvement, software is a different matter. To make the best decisions, the drivers need data, and that is where James believes McLaren Formula E will make their greatest impact.

“And then you really switch that focus to the software and that’s where you’re going to see the most the most improvement and the most gains,” James continued. “It’s then using that software to ensure that you’re deploying the energy in the most efficient manner during race, and thereby giving the driver the most performance. And that’s something which is incredibly complicated, but I find it a fascinating area to work in.

“The benefit of being involved in racing is you can really push the envelope in a way that you can’t do on road cars. And I think that that’s where that value comes in. It means that you accelerate the development a lot quicker. We will get ahead of the curve – and we are getting ahead of the curve now – and that will mean that the electric motorsports remain part of the overall development process.

“The key to that is also making sure that the racing’s exciting and fun for the fans. If we can, we can tick both of those boxes, then it’s got a very bright future ahead of it.”