(image credit: Morgan Rhodes)
Driver Rankings were created, I thought, to help the lifeblood of sportscar racing – the gentlemen drivers who fund a lot of seats and programs – match up and give them a platform to win trophies and spray a little champagne. Four ranking categories were then created: Platinum and Gold for Pros, Silver and Bronze for Amateurs. Obviously there has been a lot of turmoil over Pros sneaking in as Silvers, so some series like Pirelli World Challenge, have taken a proactive position to help stop this by making Silvers run in the pro categories and only allow Bronze to run as Amateurs. Some even take it as far as keeping certain pros from racing in specific categories. For example both IMSA and PWC prohibit Platinum drivers from running in their GT4 classes despite the fact that there is literally no difference between Platinums and Golds except for who their pay checks come from.
So, while the FIA created rankings to help protect the true Ams, they also make some extremely
questionable dumb decisions and then rank the likes of Andy Pilgrim and Randy Pobst as Bronze drivers. These two are simply not Bronze. What do Andy Pilgrim, Randy Pobst, Martin Rich, Tony Samon and John Ellis all have in common? According to the FIA, they all have the same skill at driving race cars. Obviously that is not true. Pilgrim and Pobst have won multiple World Challenge Championships, finished extremely well at Le Mans and have 75 wins between the two of them. So, we know a bronze ranking is not right, despite their ages and what the FIA tells us that should mean.
So here we are today with PWC adding SprintX to the GTS category. Blackdog Speedshop, who I do not blame at all, realized that Pilgrim was ranked as a Bronze and pounced to bring him in as an “Amateur” driver in the Pro-Am only format. Blackdog did no wrong, they just took advantage of a blatantly dumb call by the FIA and their ratings system. I have a feeling that when World Challenge made the decision to rank all Silvers as Pros, they did not realize that a driver of Pilgrim’s stature could possibly be ranked as a Bronze. World Challenge has, however, set a precedence where if they feel a driver ranked as an Am is not an Am, they will bump them up to the Pro divisions. Nick Mancuso was bumped up from GTA to GT. Daniel Mancinelli was bumped from GTA to GT. Robert Thorne, Alec Udell, Alex Lloyd, Austin Versteeg and more have all been ranked as Ams, but bumped to Pro.
The very system the FIA created to help protect true Ams is also being ruined by the FIA as they continue to rank clear Pros as Am drivers, and screw over the whole system. In today’s racing world, I do not blame Pros for wanting to be ranked as low as possible, that’s just more opportunities for them to drive and stay employed, something I think everyone understands. It’s an extremely messed up system that the FIA literally has no idea of how to regulate.
That being said, do I think PWC should go to Blackdog and say, “Hey, you cannot race with Andy as your Am”? No. But they do need to keep an extremely close eye on the timesheets and see where Andy stacks up against the other bronze and pros and step in when the time comes. Ideally driver rankings would go away, or at least be simplified to the point that these situations do not exist, but with the FIA in charge, who knows what will happen. It’s now up to the series themselves to police lineups if they want to follow any sort of driver rating system, especially when they have core customers furious at the situation.
Click on the FIA’s driver ratings regulation explanation if you want a good laugh, but also check out this line from the Bronze area on page 5:
Special cases will be examined at the FIA’s discretion. Okay guys, you just keep working on that Halo situation you got going over there.