Photo courtesy of IMSA

IMSA to Split DPi, LMP2 into separate classes

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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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Three-time F1 champion Niki Lauda dies at 70

AP Photo/Luca Bruno, File
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BERLIN (AP) Three-time Formula One world champion Niki Lauda, who won two of his titles after a horrific crash that left him with serious burns and went on to become a prominent figure in the aviation industry, has died. He was 70.

The Austria Press Agency reported that Lauda’s family said in a statement he “passed away peacefully” on Monday. Walter Klepetko, a doctor who performed a lung transplant on Lauda last year, said Tuesday: “Niki Lauda has died. I have to confirm that.”

Lauda won the F1 drivers’ championship in 1975 and 1977 with Ferrari and again in 1984 with McLaren.

In 1976, he was badly burned when he crashed during the German Grand Prix but made an astonishingly fast return to racing just six weeks later.

Lauda remained closely involved with the Formula One circuit after retiring as a driver in 1985, and in recent years served as the non-executive chairman of the Mercedes team.

Born on Feb. 22, 1949 into a wealthy Vienna industrial family, Nikolaus Andreas Lauda was expected to follow his father’s footsteps into the paper-manufacturing industry, but instead concentrated his business talents and determination on his dreams of becoming a racing driver.

Lauda financed his early career with the help of a string of loans, working his way through the ranks of Formula 3 and Formula 2. He made his Formula 1 debut for the March team at the 1971 Austrian Grand Prix and picked up his first points in 1973 with a fifth-place finish for BRM in Belgium.

Lauda joined Ferrari in 1974, winning a Grand Prix for the first time that year in Spain and his first drivers’ title with five victories the following season.

Facing tough competition from McLaren’s James Hunt, he appeared on course to defend his title in 1976 when he crashed at the Nuerburgring during the German Grand Prix. Several drivers stopped to help pull him from the burning car, but the accident would scar him for life. The baseball cap Lauda almost always wore in public became a personal trademark.

“The main damage, I think to myself, was lung damage from inhaling all the flames and fumes while I was sitting in the car for about 50 seconds,” he recalled nearly a decade later. “It was something like 800 degrees.”

Lauda fell into a coma for a time. He said that “for three or four days it was touch and go.”

“Then my lungs recovered and I got my skin grafts done, then basically there was nothing left,” he added. “I was really lucky in a way that I didn’t do any (other) damage to myself. So the real question was then will I be able to drive again, because certainly it was not easy to come back after a race like that.”

Lauda made his comeback just six weeks after the crash, finishing fourth at Monza after overcoming his initial fears.

He recalled “shaking with fear” as he changed into second gear on the first day of practice and thinking, “I can’t drive.”

The next day, Lauda said he “started very slowly trying to get all the feelings back, especially the confidence that I’m capable of driving these cars again.” The result, he said, boosted his confidence and after four or five races “I had basically overcome the problem of having an accident and everything went back to normal.”

He won his second championship in 1977 before switching to Brabham and then retiring in 1979 to concentrate on setting up his airline, Lauda Air, declaring that he “didn’t want to drive around in circles anymore.”

Lauda came out of retirement in 1982 after a big-money offer from McLaren, reportedly about $3 million a year.

He finished fifth his first year back and 10th in 1983, but came back to win five races and edge out teammate Alain Prost for his third title in 1984. He retired for good the following year, saying he needed more time to devote to his airline business.

Initially a charter airline, Lauda Air expanded in the 1980s to offer flights to Asia and Australia. In May 1991, a Lauda Air Boeing 767 crashed in Thailand after one of its engine thrust reversers accidentally deployed during a climb, killing all 213 passengers and 10 crew.

Lauda occasionally took the controls of the airline’s jets himself over the years. In 1997, longtime rival Austrian Airlines took a minority stake and in 2000, with the company making losses, he resigned as board chairman after an external audit criticized a lack of internal financial control over business conducted in foreign currency. Austrian Airlines later took full control.

Lauda founded a new airline, Niki, in 2003. Germany’s Air Berlin took a minority stake and later full control of that airline, which Lauda bought back in early 2018 after it fell victim to its parent’s financial woes.

He partnered with budget carrier Ryanair on Niki’s successor, LaudaMotion.

On the Formula One circuit, Lauda later formed a close bond with Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, who joined the team in 2013. He often backed Hamilton in public and provided advice and counsel to the British driver.

Lauda also intervened as a Mercedes mediator when Hamilton and his former Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg feuded, argued and traded barbs as they fought for the title between 2014-16

Lauda twice underwent kidney transplants, receiving an organ donated by his brother in 1997 and, when that stopped functioning well, a kidney donated by his girlfriend in 2005.

In August 2018, he underwent a lung transplant that the Vienna General Hospital said was made necessary by a “serious lung illness.” It didn’t give details.

Lauda is survived by his second wife, Birgit, and their twin children Max and Mia. He had two adult sons, Lukas and Mathias, from his first marriage.