Wayne Taylor still critical of IMSA’s Balance of Performance regulations

Courtesy of IMSA

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – It’s known widely as a three-letter acronym, but IMSA’s Balance of Performance formula might as well be a four-letter word to Wayne Taylor.

“I do not understand why they continue going down this BoP path, it’s absolutely destroying sports car racing,” Taylor told NBCSports.com during the Roar Before the Rolex 24 test session at Daytona International Speedway. “And it’s not even just here, it’s in Europe as well. This didn’t happen in the ‘80s and ‘90s. You just brought the best car with the best engine and get the best drivers and the best team, and you’re going to win.

“How do you do that here and then another team is so much slower and they get rewarded, and you get penalized? I mean it’s bullshit.”

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In order to keep its competition tighter, IMSA relies on Balance of Performance, which essentially uses regulations to instill a level playing field among cars.

But Taylor complained widely about it last season when his team went winless in the nine races after its Rolex 24 triumph (its second win in three seasons at the season-opening crown jewel). Though his team was given some help toward the end of 2019, he still felt his Cadillac was at a severe disadvantage to Team Penske’s title-winning Acuras.

“The way it was done last year was just absolutely criminal,” said Taylor, who has expressed reservations about the BoP system for several years.

IMSA President John Doonan (courtesy of IMSA).

New IMSA president John Doonan said his technical team created new parameters for 2020 intended to discourage manipulation or sandbagging during the Roar test, which is the first opportunity to gauge the competition on track.

IMSA relies on telemetry data to determine whether to adjust weight, restrictors (modifying the airflow to the engine), turbo boosts and fuel capacity among its entrants in all four divisions.

“There’s thousands of fans coming (to Daytona),” said Doonan, who left his job overseeing Mazda’s motorsports program to head IMSA this season. We’re going to see a million people taking in IMSA events. But these folks are paying to see an entertaining sports car race. BoP is part of that.

“If we are all committed to providing value for our fans, we need to show our true performance at all times. I’ve made that expectation clear to all participants, and I hope the racing has always shown that, but the technical team has a massive job ahead of them to try to make sure that all of those different platforms can compete.”

Doonan said the goal is to have “four or five cars coming out of the last corner with a chance to win,” but varying technical specifications and track layouts can make it difficult to achieve a semblance of equality.

“(Daytona), Sebring, Road Atlanta, they’re all different characteristics,” Doonan said. “You have a car like the Cadillac DPI that has a little more grunt coming out of the corners. You have a couple of other turbo cars that take a while to spool up. It’s extremely difficult when they’re looking at the aerodynamic box, the power box, the lap time box, etc.”

In a BoP bulletin issued to teams last week, Wayne Taylor Racing’s Cadillacs seemed to receive some help as IMSA reduced its minimum weight by 10 kilograms. Meanwhile, Team Penske’s Acuras were given a slight horsepower reduction.

But the BoP could change again after Daytona, and Taylor has warned he won’t tolerate another season of feeling as if his cars are hamstrung.

“Honestly, if this BoP continues to be as ridiculous as it is, that will be the reason I leave the sport,” Taylor said. “Because at the moment, I have no reason to leave the sport. But if BoP continues on the way it did last year, I’ll be done. I cannot look my sponsors in the eye and say, ‘You know what, we have the best package, we have a chance to win every race.’

“I’ve always said I can’t guarantee wins, but I can guarantee we will race for the win. But (in 2019) with the BoP, we couldn’t even guarantee that. So I’m not going to lie to anybody.”

Taylor spoke with NBCSports.com in a Jan. 3 interview shortly before his team hit the track for the season’s opening session at Daytona:

Q: How does it feel to return as the defending winner of the Rolex 24?

Taylor: “We’ve actually won the last two in three years, so there’s a lot of pressure, but at the same time, we can only do what we can do. We have to do the very best in everything that we do. BoP is always going to play a role with the result of the race, which is so unfortunate.”

Q: Do you feel the BoP cost you the season championship last year?

Taylor: “I don’t know if cost us the championship, but it certainly cost us dearly. A lot. You can’t motivate people when you don’t have a chance. Imagine going to a race after winning many, many races, and then being lapped by another competitor in the same class who had never previously finished on the podium. Tell me how that happens.”

Q: What does IMSA say to you?

Taylor: “Well, last year, they don’t really take much notice until the end of the year when I had a big meeting with all of them, and they seemed to understand, and they said to me it’ll be different. So we’ll wait to see what happens. I have much more faith in the leadership than I had before.”

Q: It seems as if manufacturer involvement remains strong in IMSA, but some established drivers still are struggling to land rides this season. Does the decline in entries concern you?

Taylor: “Yeah, because the series has become too expensive. They’re talking about hybrid stuff, which drives the price up. And they’ve forgotten about the private teams like myself. They’re focusing on the manufacturers, and the manufacturers are not funding the teams with this money anyway.

“So I think it’s a combination of BoP and costs is why this thing is going the wrong way. Whereas they had the best formula that existed in the world, and it still can be, but just take some (expletive) input, you know?”

Q: What’s the one thing that IMSA can do to control costs?

Taylor: “Stop BoP, No. 1. Stop it. Stop hybrids. Don’t go hybrid racing yet. Nobody is together with it. Nobody has any understanding of how it’s going to work. Nobody has any understanding of what it’s going to cost. And there’s all sorts of issues with hybrids and cars turning off and catching on fire. There’s too many things, and no one is currently designing or testing any of these cars.”

Q: Do you like your chances to defend the overall title at the Rolex 24?

Taylor: “I think we’ve got a good chance. We’ve got the right drivers. The right teams. And I will say this: From just before Petit Le Mans, IMSA have really tried to take the BoP input from us now. Which they didn’t do at the beginning of (2019), and I’ve got to believe management is making the difference. And so I feel good about it.

“I’m excited that John Doonan has taken this position. He’s been a racer, a team owner, a manufacturer. He knows more about this than most people. And that’s what the series needs.”

Roger Penske, Chip Ganassi bring their storied rivalry to a new level at Rolex 24

Ganassi Penske Rolex 24
Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – To measure the impact of Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi squaring off for the first time in overall sports car wins (starting at the Rolex 24), look at the auto racing titans’ lineups.

There are 12 combined drivers across four entries representing Chip Ganassi Racing (competing as Cadillac Racing) and Team Penske (as Porsche Penske Motorsport) in the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona.

And with the possible exception of six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon, none of those behind the wheel is as famous and accomplished as the U.S. motorsports icons who will be sitting atop the pit stands at Daytona International Speedway.

In the NTT IndyCar Series, Penske and Ganassi are synonymous with success, having combined for 23 Indy 500 victories and 30 championships. They also competed in the NASCAR Cup Series for two decades with several signature wins for each.

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Until now, the rivalry never extended to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, where they competed in different classes from 2018-19 and have competed in the top category in differing times over the years.

But the 2023 season opener at Daytona will mark the beginning of a new era in which Ganassi and Penske will compete for sports car overall victories on two continents. A Ganassi Cadillac Racing V-LMDh and Porsche Penske Motorsports Penske 963 will run full time in both the premier prototype divisions of IMSA and the European-based World Endurance Championship – whose crown jewel is the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Having two of the world’s biggest sports car races welcome the Ganassi-Penske battle seems only fitting in a season in which IMSA’s new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class is expected to introduce a stiffer level of competition.

“We obviously like beating each other,” Ganassi told NBC Sports. “I think if you beat Penske, you know you’ve beaten someone. You’ve accomplished something great. It’s going to be the same as always. Just another platform at another track, but the rivalry will be just as heated I’m sure.

“On one hand, he’s always the first guy to call us out for a penalty or something. On the other hand, he’s also the first guy to congratulate me on a win, so I think it’s a healthy rivalry, but we certainly pound each other’s heads into the ground on race day. Monday through Friday it switches to more of a good relationship.”

After starting his career in sports cars, Penske also is looking forward to having a new arena to race Ganassi.

“There is a lot of anticipation and excitement about the Rolex 24 and the upcoming sports car season overall,” Penske said in a statement to NBC Sports statement. “With the new hybrid prototype formula ready to make its debut, and some great competition expected on the track between teams, drivers and manufacturers, there is a lot of momentum building right now. Porsche Penske Motorsport is excited to compete in both the IMSA WeatherTech Championship, as well as the FIA World Endurance Championship, this season and I can’t wait to see the No. 6 and No. 7 Porsche 963s in action at Daytona this weekend. We also look forward to bringing some new rivalries and storylines to the sport.

Roger Penske confers with Chip Ganassi before the 2013 Honda Indy Toronto (Andrew Weber/USA TODAY Sports Images).

“In the new IMSA GTP class, there should be a good competitive balance between Porsche, Cadillac, Acura and BMW. We have seen how the rivalry between Team Penske and Ganassi Racing has developed in the NTT IndyCar Series in recent years, and that could certainly extend to sports cars as our teams and drivers continue to develop the new formula and push the production on track in both IMSA and WEC. We will see how the competition plays out, starting this weekend, as we always enjoy racing against Chip and his teams.”

Though there have been some fiery moments over the years (Dario Franchitti vs. Will Power, anyone?), Ganassi vs. Penske mostly has been a story of respect between two organizations whose main strengths are people.

“It’s just the depth of the organizations going up against each other,” Ganassi said. “It’s not just he and I. It’s at every level of the organization.

“We’re smaller. I’d like to think we’re a little more nimble. This is all I do is race cars. I don’t have 200 car dealerships or a truck rental company or a transportation company. I just have racing is all I have.”

Heading into Saturday’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, here are the thoughts of Ganassi and Penske drivers in the Rolex 24 at Daytona:

Earl Bamber, No. 02 Ganassi Cadillac: “When I grew up as a kid, I remember watching Chip Ganassi Racing and Penske battle each other for many years, obviously following Scott Dixon and his career in IndyCar (Bamber is a New Zealand native like Dixon). And when the opportunity came up to come and race for Chip, it’s a no-brainer. It’s one of those teams you want to drive for in the world. It’s one of the biggest and most successful teams in the world. And then we’ve got Porsche, where I used to drive, with Penske. It’s going to be a phenomenal rivalry over the next couple of years and that rivalry continues between two absolute legends of our sport. Two people who have been the most successful. I hope we can get Cadillac and Chip their first Le Mans win. That’s obviously the ultimate goal for us and beat his old rival, Roger.

“Those two powerhouses of the sport, they definitely raise the bar. You’ve seen it in IndyCar for years and years. One finds something and the next pushes it forward and forward. You’ll see the same in sports car racing. We all saw what Chip Ganassi Racing did back in the day with the GT program. So no doubt we can do the same again. It’s the ultimate highest level of motorsport when it comes to sports car racing, and there’ll be no stone unturned to make sure that we’re winning these races. It will be a really great fight, great for the fans and great for the sport, because both of them love winning.”

Dane Cameron, No. 6 Porsche Penske: “I think anytime you have Chip and Roger come to town to start fighting for wins, it raises the profile of the whole thing. Hopefully it brings a few more eyes to everything. Certainly brings a lot of expectation with it as well, and I also think it reflects really strongly on the championship to show how competitive it is. They respect the championship and challenge, but when they come to town, they come to win for sure.”

Scott Dixon, No. 01 Ganassi Cadillac: “The battle between Chip Ganassi Racing and Penske is always a fierce one. I obviously know it well from the IndyCar side. But I think it’s a lot more than that. It’s impressive to see a lot of the manufacturers that have come in for this battle. I imagine if it’s not from the first race but during the season that Penske and Ganassi will fight it out pretty hard.

“I think the rivalry between Chip Ganassi racing and Penske has always been strong and in a good way. There’s been some battles and the 2010s for me and other drivers when it gets fierce. Some disagreements here and there. But it’s always been a great pure battle, which is what I think these championships are made of and what brings the fans to the track. So I’d sum it up as a very healthy rivalry.”

Alex Lynn, No. 02 Ganassi Cadillac: “Even as a little boy (growing up in England), you knew exactly who Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi were. You knew what their teams represented. For me to represent Chip and his team is a huge honor. I’m extremely motivated to try to add to his legacy and be part of the fabric of this team. I think having the battle between Penske and Ganassi is iconic. Also Porsche and Cadillac as brands, respectively, just adds to the occasion. Makes me smile even thinking about it knowing what we get to represent when the flag drops.”

Felipe Nasr, No. 7 Porsche Penske: “I think it’s fantastic especially because we’re merging the IMSA and WEC Series and giving the opportunity for teams like Penske and Ganassi to fight for overall victories. You look at the history of those teams, they’ve been on top. We always hear it from the IndyCar guys or the NASCAR side, you’re talking two big names in motorsports. You expect nothing but them fighting for wins. For sure Ganassi has strengths, and we have strengths as well. I’m pretty glad I have the opportunity to be representing Team Penske and continue to write history with them and Porsche is a great opportunity.”

Richard Westbrook, No. 02 Ganassi Cadillac: “The chance for the two most famous teams in America to go head to head in the Daytona 24 Hours and also the Le Mans 24 Hours. I expect that rivalry to keep going up more notches.”

Renger van der Zande, No. 01 Ganassi Cadillac: “Obviously, it’s such the big houses of racing in the U.S. Penske and Ganassi are taking it at each other. The rivalry is big. The best of the best. The most famous ones in the U.S.

“Ganassi is part of Cadillac. We’re the race team that runs the factory program for Cadillac. Penske is running it for Porsche, obviously a high brand as well. Those teams have their little rivalry, but they’re working for a bigger company, a bigger brand, which is Cadillac and Porsche. So those two premium brands taking on each other and then two of the best teams in America taking on each other. It’s very simple: Cadillac got the best team in the U.S. and Porsche got the best team in the U.S. So let’s see what happens. It’s going to be a cool fight.”