The Roar Before the 24 is an important event in American endurance racing. It’s the first opportunity to test new cars for the the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship. IMSA uses data from the event to equalize the cars, which only really works if teams run to their full potential. Of course they didn’t.
A little background first: One of the best things about a series like the WTSC (which was called the Tudor United Sports Car Championship last year) is the variety of machinery. This year features everything from Porsche 911s to Ferrari 488s and purpose-built Daytona Prototypes, and it’s great.
Most WTSC classes (save for Prototype Challenge) feature different kinds of cars, so something has to be done to ensure the performance of these different cars is somewhat equal. IMSA calls their system for equalizing the GTLM and GTD classes “Balance of Performance” (or “BoP” for short).
Under BoP, the series can do various things to ensure all the cars will be competitive with each other based on the data from testing and prior races, such as add weight or adjust the restrictor plate size.
There is no prior race for the 24 Hours of Daytona, so they use data from the Roar Before the 24 test session to determine BoP. This year, IMSA introduced a proprietary Bosch data logger system to aid with scrutineering, and guess what? According to Sportscar365, IMSA noticed that every single GTLM and GTD team was underperforming at the Roar.
WTSC Senior Series Manager Geoff Carter told Sportscar365:
“Ultimately, what we found across the board was an element of underperformance that was pervasive” Carter said.
“We simply took the top-five fastest laps of every car and we were able to identify in every single one of those laps, in every single car — all 54 of them — an area of underperformance. In every single one of them.”
Why would teams sandbag? For one, no one really wants to reveal that their car is that good right away to their competition. More importantly, if the series doesn’t think it’s as good a car as it is, a team won’t be handicapped under BoP as much.
IMSA’s new data logger system provides them with a better picture of what’s going on with the cars than ever before, hence the discovery. Carter told Sportscar365:
We were able to take the timing and scoring data, the vehicle data and the car configuration at that time, melt all that together and we have a much more clearer picture of what the car’s actually doing.
Instead of going from a one-dimensional analysis, we’ve almost got this three-dimensional method now by adding two other elements.
Translation: there’s nowhere to hide.
The new system costs $18,000 per car, but also allows IMSA to use similar processes for scrutineering to the FIA World Endurance Championship, where some of the WTSC teams also run for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. In addition to gathering data at the Roar, the series ran a wind tunnel test to gather aerodynamic data last year, and runs spot checks during sessions to verify a car’s configuration during testing. Carter told Sportscar365:
We pulled the cars straight off the track, ran them through the tech process, pulled some critical elements, such as wing angles, weight and ride height and did an updated [data] dump at that time.
However, with all the teams in GTLM and GTD puttering around at less than their full performance, the series also took an extra day to get additional feedback from participating manufacturers.
Despite everyone getting in trouble for underperformance, the response to the implementation of the new data loggers has been positive so far. The series plans on bringing the data loggers to the Prototype class next year.
Photo credit: Ferrari Motorsports
Contact the author at email@example.com.