As if that weren’t bad enough, the eyeballs were equally faulty at Sebring when the authorities handed an 80 second “stop and hold” penalty to the GT Daytona Alex Job Racing Porsche GT America for hitting yet another Ferrari during the middle portions of the affair.
The trouble was that again although there was video that showed Job’s wasn’t the offending car, but rather the GTLM winning CORE Porsche 911 RSR, those in charge refused to change their minds until after the checkered flag had flown, at which point they conceded the error but said, “there was nothing they could do.”
Assume for a moment that they had done the right thing. Not only would Job’s team been back in the hunt, but if the CORE 911 would have been forced to sit on pit lane for 80 seconds it would not have won given that its margin over the second place Viper was less than five seconds at the finish.
Then there are the participants. For them the changing results, changing rules and the uncertainty they have brought to the TUDOR game have left many thinking it just might be the time to try something different. Perhaps, in the case of the GTD guys and gals, a switch to the Sports Car Club of America’s Pirelli World Challenge tour for which most of their equipment is eligible.
All of this leads us to perhaps the most important question of all: Is the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship providing the public and the participants with what they want in a sports car racing championship? To begin with we must accept the simple fact that motorsport in America is entertainment and that running something which approaches five hours of an event under yellow is not entertaining.
How many people will come back to Sebring in 2015? How many people will watch the series this season, either in person, or through television and the internet? If the fans choose to walk away, can the series survive? Can professional sports car racing in North America survive?
The answer is perhaps or perhaps not. For one thing the “avoidable contact’ rule needs to either be relaxed or abandoned. Yes, there are good intentions behind it. But, as they say, “rubbing is racing,” and as it stands now the regulation is not only intrusive but more importantly it reduces the excitement fans expect. Why not replace it with an “unsportsmanlike contact” rule as football has?
Still, all this is only part of a larger picture, the truth is that while in NASCAR’s world – remembering NASCAR owns IMSA and the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship – close competition is fundamental for success. In sports car racing, close competition takes a very distant back seat to technology. The sports car enthusiast wants to see the latest and greatest, not to mention the fastest “techno” on the planet, and, as history has shown, is willing to sacrifice finishes to get it.
I’m an old fart, and therefore I can be accused of being out of touch. However, given the outcry after Sebring, I may not be the only one. If IMSA doesn’t get its act together and together in a serious comprehensive manner, we who love our little part of the motorsport universe may not have it around to enjoy anymore