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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Cooper Webb leaps from obscurity to Supercross lead

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Cooper Webb could not even locate the radar tower before the 2019 season began – let alone expect to see his number dead center in the radar screen.

His ascent to 450 competition came with little fanfare. Finishing 13th in Supercross in 2017 and then eighth in Motocross, Webb did not turn many heads as a rookie. Last year was more of the same.

Through Round 7 at Arlington, Webb failed to record a single top five. That elusive result would come the following week at Tampa with a fourth-place finish. Two weeks later, he stood on the podium at Daytona for the only the second time in his Supercross 450s career. But at season’s end, Webb was only ninth in the standings in both Supercross and Motocross.

No one expected much from him when Anaheim rolled around this year.

Webb started the season much the same as he ended 2018. A fifth-place finish in Anaheim I in muddy and equalizing conditions was followed by a modest 10th at Glendale, but the rider from North Carolina believed in himself.

In professional racing, nothing is more difficult than winning the first race. Webb’s first taste of victory came in Heat 1 of the Triple Crown at Anaheim II. Everyone remained skeptical – it was only one heat race after all. The skepticism turned to interest when he won Heat 2. Then Webb finished third in Heat 3 to take the overall victory. It was his first win in the 450 class.

That was all it took to unleash his potential. Webb won the following week in Oakland and then again two weeks later in Minneapolis.

The Supercross riders left Minnesota and headed straight down Interstate 35 to Arlington with four of them separated by two points. All eyes were focused on Ken Roczen, Eli Tomac, Marvin Musquin – and, oh yeah Webb who sat in second.

Someone was likely to stumble in Arlington and the odds on favorite to do so was Webb. That seemed to be confirmed once the feature started. While the three more experienced riders led by Tomac scooted away from the field, Webb was mired outside the top five for the first six lap.

It was Tomac who tripped and fell, however. Webb passed the stricken rider and surged to fifth on Lap 7. He was in fourth by Lap 10 and third on Lap 16.  As Webb and teammate Musquin battled for the second, they slowly reeled in the leader Roczen. Once Webb broke free on the conflict with the runner-up position firmly his, he could see the red plate on Roczen’s Honda like a cape being waved in front of a bull.

Webb charged through the final six laps getting closer and closer until he edged Roczen for the closest finish in Supercross history. It was Webb’s fourth victory of the season, coming only four weeks after he scored his first career win.

Relive the final laps in the video posted above.

As incredible as Webb’s rise to the points lead is, it has been done before.

Last year Jason Anderson seemingly came out of nowhere to lead the standings after Round 2. Anderson held the advantage for the remainder of the year, while Webb has been part of a game of hot potato in which no one seems to want to don the red plate for more than a week.

The pressure continues to mount. Webb now has a two-point advantage over Roczen, who is the only rider to sweep the top five this season.

Webb’s advantage over third is a mere four points, while Musquin has a current five-race streak of podium finishes to his credit.

Tomac’s trouble in Texas serves as a cautionary tale that a single loss of focus can be devastating and Webb still lacks the seat time of his three principal rivals, but last week’s incredible come-from-behind victory is showing that Webb is riding above experience level.

Follow the complete Supercross and Motocross seasons on NBC Sports, Gold.