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

Courtesy of IMSA
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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.”

Jack Miller wins the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix as Fabio Quartararo stops his downward points’ slide

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Jack Miller ran away with the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi as Fabio Quartararo stopped his downward slide in the championship when a last-lap accident from his closest rival in the standings caused Francesco Bagnaia to score zero points.

Starting seventh, Miller quickly made his way forward. He was second at the end of two laps. One lap later, he grabbed the lead from Jorge Martin. Once in the lead, Miller posted three consecutive fastest laps and was never seriously challenged. It was Australian native Miller’s first race win of the season and his sixth podium finish.

The proximity to his home turf was not lost.

“I can ride a motorcycle sometimes,” Miller said in NBC Sports’ post-race coverage. “I felt amazing all weekend since I rolled out on the first practice. It feels so awesome to be racing on this side of the world.

“What an amazing day. It’s awesome; we have the home Grand Prix coming up shortly. Wedding coming up in a couple of weeks. I’m over the moon; can’t thank everyone enough.”

Miller beat Brad Binder to the line by 3.4 seconds with third-place Jorge Martin finishing about one second behind.

But the center of the storm was located just inside the top 10 as both Quartararo and Bagnaia started deep in the field.

Quartararo was on the outside of row three in ninth with Bagnaia one row behind in 12th. Neither rider moved up significantly, but the championship continued to be of primary importance as Bagnaia put in a patented late-race charge to settle onto Quartararo’s back tire, which would have allowed the championship leader to gain only a single point.

On the final lap, Bagnaia charged just a little too hard and crashed under heavy braking, throwing away the seven points he would have earned for a ninth-place finish.

The day was even more dramatic for the rider who entered the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix third in the standings. On the sighting lap, Aleix Espargaro had an alarm sound, so he peeled off into the pits, dropped his primary bike and jumped aboard the backup. Starting from pit lane, he trailed the field and was never able to climb into the points. An undisclosed electronic problem was the culprit.

For Quartararo, gaining eight points on the competition was more than a moral victory. This was a track on which he expected to run moderately, and he did, but the problems for his rivals gives him renewed focus with four rounds remaining.

Next week, the series heads to Thailand and then Miller’s home track of Phillip Island in Australia. They will close out the Pacific Rim portion of the schedule before heading to Spain for the finale in early November.

It would appear team orders are not in play among the Ducati riders. Last week’s winner Enea Bastianini made an aggressive early move on Bagnaia for position before the championship contender wrestled the spot back.

In his second race back following arm surgery, Marc Marquez won the pole. His last pole was more than 1,000 days ago on this same track in 2019, the last time the series competed at Motegi. Marquez slipped to fifth in the middle stages of the race, before regaining a position to finish just off the podium.

In Moto2 competition, Ai Ogura beat Augusto Fernandez to close the gap in that championship to two points. Fernandez holds the scant lead. Alonso Lopez rounded out the podium.

Both American riders, Cameron Beaubier and Joe Roberts finished just outside the top 10 in 11th and 12th respectively.