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.”

VIEWER’S GUIDE: Five things to watch in the 2020 Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona

FAMILY AFFAIR: Racing without sons leaves “void” for Wayne Taylor

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.”

IndyCar Detroit GP starting lineup: Alex Palou wins first pole position on a street course


DETROIT — Alex Palou won the pole position for the second consecutive NTT IndyCar Series race and will lead the Detroit Grand Prix starting lineup to green on a new downtown layout.

The 2021 series champion, who finished fourth in the 107th Indy 500 after qualifying first, earned his third career pole position as the first of three Chip Ganassi Racing drivers in the top four (Scott Dixon qualified fourth, and Marcus Ericsson sixth).

Scott McLaughlin will start second, followed by Romain Grosjean. Coming off his first Indianapolis 500 victory, Josef Newgarden qualified fifth.

INDYCAR IN DETROITEntry list, schedule, TV info for this weekend

It’s the third career pole position for Palou and his first on a street course — a big advantage on a nine-turn, 1.645-mile track that is expected to be calamitous over 100 laps Sunday (3 p.m. ET, NBC).

“It’s going to be a tough day for sure,” Palou told NBC Sports’ Marty Snider. “It feels good we’ve had a great car since the beginning, and it was just about maximizing. They did a great strategy on tires and everything. We need to finish it (Sunday).

“I got off a lot in practice. We wanted to see where the limit was, and we found it. It’s a crazy track. I think it’s too tight for Indy cars and too short as well, but we’ll make it happen.”

QUALIFYING RESULTSClick here for Detroit GP qualifying speeds | Round 1, Group 1 | Round 1, Group 2 | Round 2 l Round 3

The narrow quarters (originally listed as a 1.7-mile track, its distance shrunk by a couple hundred feet when measured Friday) already were causing problems in qualifying.

Colton Herta, who has four career poles on street courses, qualified 24th after failing to advance from the first round because of damage to his No. 26 Dallara-Honda. It’s the worst starting spot in an IndyCar street course race for Herta (and the second-worst of his career on the heels of qualifying 25th for the GMR Grand Prix three weeks ago).

Andretti Autosport teammate Kyle Kirkwood also found misfortune in the second round, damaging the left front of his No. 27 Dallara-Honda despite light wall contact.

“I’m disappointed for the crew because that was a pole-winning car,” Kirkwood told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee. “Man, I barely touched the wall. I touched it way harder in all the practices, and it’s just like the angle at which the wall was right there, it caught the point and just ripped the front off the car.

“If the wall was rounded, that wouldn’t have happened. That’s just unfortunate for the guys, but it’s my mistake. It’s hard enough to get around this place let alone race around it. We’ll see how it goes.”

Many IndyCar drivers are expecting it to go badly, which isn’t uncommon for a new street layout. The inaugural Music City Grand Prix in Nashville, Tennessee, was the biggest crashfest of the 2021 season with 33 of 80 laps run under caution plus two red flags.

It could be worse at Detroit, which is the shortest track on the IndyCar circuit. It also features the series’ only split pit lane (with cars pitting on opposite sides and blending into a single-lane exit), a 0.9-mile straightaway and a hairpin third turn that is considered the best passing zone.

“If there’s one day you need to be lucky in the year, it’s tomorrow,” Grosjean told NBC Sports’ Dave Burns. “A lot is going to happen, and it’s being in the right time at the right place.”

Said Dixon: “Expect probably a lot of unexpected things to happen. We’ll try and get through it. I think it’ll be similar to Nashville and maybe the last man standing is the one who gets the victory.”

With the field at 27 cars, Palou estimated the length of the course leaves a gap of about 2.4 seconds between each car, which he preferred would be double. During practice Friday, there were six red flags and 19 local yellows as teams tried to sort out the tricky and tight layout.

“I don’t know what the perfect distance is, but I would say adding 30 seconds to a track or 20 seconds would help a lot,” said Palou, one of many drivers who also said the streets were too bumpy despite work to grind down some surfaces. “We have a lot of cars. It’s crazy. It’s really good for the series, for the racing. But when it comes to practice, and we have 10 red flags, 25 yellows, it’s traffic all the time.”

It seems certain to be a memorable reimagining of the Detroit GP, which was moved downtown by IndyCar owner Roger Penske after a 30-year run at the Belle Isle course a few miles north.

McLaughlin, who drives for Team Penske, believes the race will be very similar to Nashville, but “it’s just going to be up to us with the etiquette of the drivers to figure it out along the way. I think there’s going to be a lot of passes, opportunities.

“With the track, there’s been a lot of noise I’ve seen on Twitter, from other drivers and stuff,” McLaughlin said. “At the end of the day, this is a new track, new complex. I think what everyone has done to get this going, the vibe is awesome. Belle Isle was getting old. We had to do it.

“First-year problems, it’s always going to happen. It’s just going to get better from here. The racetrack for the drivers is a blast. We don’t even know how it races yet. Everyone is making conclusions already. They probably just need to relax and wait for (Sunday).”

Here’s the IndyCar starting lineup for Sunday’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix (qualifying position, car number in parentheses, driver, engine and speed):


1. (10) Alex Palou, Honda, 1 minute, 1.8592 seconds (95.734 mph)
2. (3) Scott McLaughlin, Chevrolet, 1:02.1592 (95.271)


3. (28) Romain Grosjean, Honda, 1:02.2896 (95.072)
4. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 1:02.4272 (94.862)


5. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 1:02.5223 (94.718)
6. (8) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 1:02.6184 (94.573)


7. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 1:02.1817 (95.237)
8. (60) Simon Pagenaud, Honda, 1:02.1860 (95.230)


9. (6) Felix Rosenqvist, Chevrolet, 1:02.1937 (95.219)
10. (5) Pato O’Ward, Chevrolet, 1:02.2564 (95.123)


11. (11) Marcus Armstrong, Honda, 1:02.2958 (95.063)
12. (27) Kyle Kirkwood, Honda, 1:04.6075 (91.661)


13. (7) Alexander Rossi, Chevrolet, 1:02.5714 (94.644)
14. (21) Rinus VeeKay, Chevrolet, 1:02.1911 (95.223)


15. (20) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 1:02.9522 (94.071)
16. (77) Callum Ilott, Chevrolet, 1:02.2644 (95.111)


17. (29) Devlin DeFrancesco, Honda, 1:03.0017 (93.997)
18. (45) Christian Lundgaard, Honda, 1:02.6495 (94.526)

ROW 10

19. (55) Benjamin Pedersen, Chevrolet, 1:03.1599 (93.762)
20. (78) Agustin Canapino, Chevrolet, 1:02.9071 (94.139)

ROW 11

21. (18) David Malukas, Honda, 1:03.2126 (93.684)
22. (14) Santino Ferrucci, Chevrolet, 1:02.9589 (94.061)

ROW 12

23. (06) Helio Castroneves, Honda, 1:03.3879 (93.425)
24. (26) Colton Herta, Honda, 1:03.4165 (93.383)

ROW 13

25. (30) Jack Harvey, Honda, 1:03.7728 (92.861)
26. (51) Sting Ray Robb, Honda, 1:03.7496 (92.895)

ROW 14

27. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 1:03.8663 (92.725)