Saturday, June 27, 2015

My vision of the future of IMSA's Prototype class

ACO, the organizers of Le Mans, announced the new rules for Le Mans P2 cars starting from 2017. Without going into details, ACO will approve four chassis suppliers and one engine supplier. IMSA, the sanctioning body of the Tudor United SportsCar Championship, is planning to adopt a modified version of the P2 regulations for their Prototype class. But IMSA and ACO have different needs. P2 will be IMSA's lead class with manufacturer involvement and all-pro lineups whereas for ACO it's a pro-am class with no manufacturer involvement. The proposed solution to that issue is allowing multiple engine manufacturers and manufacturer-specific bodykits in IMSA with also ACO-spec P2s being allowed there. ACO would allow multiple engine manufacturers only at Le Mans with their performance balanced and all cars using the ACO-spec bodykits.

Le Mans-compatibility is an issue here. Spec bodykits might make balancing the performance easier but it would also mean IMSA teams using engines that are designed to use with a different bodykit with different air intakes, etc. So probably the teams using ACO's spec engine would be at advantage. Also, ACO requires a pro-am lineup in the P2 class whereas IMSA allows all-pro lineups. That might be another issue for IMSA teams willing to race at Le Mans.

So, obviously racing at Le Mans wouldn't be so appealing for IMSA teams not using the ACO-spec P2. And the ACO-spec P2 with pro-am lineup wouldn't probably be winning against manufacturer-supported P2s with all-pro lineups in the Tudor Championship. How I would do it would be to split IMSA's Prototype class into two: Pro and Pro-Am classes. The Pro-Am class would use the ACO-spec P2s and those Pro-Am teams could get an invitation to Le Mans. In the Pro class, teams would be allowed (but not mandated) to use car manufacturers' engines and bodykits. If the car count is sufficient, then Pro-Am P2 could replace the Pro-Am PC class.

In my opinion that would be the sensible solution given ACO's and IMSA's differing needs for P2. IMSA needs manufacturers to their Prototype class and ACO doesn't want them to P2. A Pro-Am P2 class in IMSA would be an American route to Le Mans for privateer P2 teams. The Pro class would keep manufacturer involvement in IMSA's top class. And if the Pro class were based on the P2 chassis, the ACO-spec Pro-Am cars might be reasonably competitive against them.

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