(featured image credit: Morgan Rhodes)
After the withdrawal of KPax/Flying Lizard from the Pirelli World Challenge Miller Motorsports Park rounds, the interwebs immediately went crazy about BoP (as usual) and how PWC is screwing it up. I wanted to dig a little deeper into the story and it needed to start with what caused the uproar in the first place – altitude adjustment.
First, you need to note that it is extremely common for racing series to use altitude adjustments – IMSA, SRO and PWC (who use a modified version of IMSA’s) all use them. Here’s a little high level background – following PWC’s 2014 Miller round, the normally aspirated teams felt the altitude adjustment was off and favoring the turbos a little too much, so the series reached out to and worked with many experts and the teams and a new altitude adjustment formula was created, and then accepted by the teams. This new formula was then placed into the 2015 rulebook in January and these altitude adjustments have been used all season long for each round. Keep in mind that altitude adjustments are never going to be 100% accurate because they would need to be adjusted constantly due to temperature, rain, wind, and other changing conditions.
According to the timeline put out by Marcus Haselgrove, PWC’s Competition Director, on August 12th McLaren contacted the series with the feeling that the adjustments were incorrect and the series should be using SRO’s calculations and use 59 millibar of boost tolerance. PWC reached out to the SRO and found their calculations were only 10-20 millibars different, so PWC issued a tolerance of 30 millibars, meaning teams could go over by 29.9 millibars and still be in compliance.
On Saturday August 22nd (Miller race day 1), the team informed the series they could not get down to the level of boost and meet the maximum allowable boost. The McLarens would have been around 80 millibars over boosted, so the team asked to run at the higher boost, but with additional, undetermined ballast. Without having tested the car at the higher boost level and additional ballast included, the series felt it could not allow the team to run with that remedy. “It’s unfortunate the team pulled out from the rounds at Miller, but we did not feel comfortable allowing the team to run in the configuration they put forth that close to the race.” said Scott Bove, PWC’s President and CEO. “We have a great and long standing relationship with the team and look forward to them coming back for the Sonoma and Laguna Seca rounds.”
The series was in a hard place – they could either let a team slide around the rule book and hope nobody noticed, or be strict with the rule book. The series chose, and rightly so, to go the strict route. While it’s always upsetting to see a team, especially a high quality team like KPax/Flying Lizard, pull out at the last minute, the series management did what was best for the series as a whole. Allowing the McLaren to run the car so far out of compliance would have opened the flood gates for similar requests from the other teams and put the series’ credibility at risk and severely damaged their reputation, which is something not needed as they are very much in a growth and expansion stage building a bright and new future.
Next we need to look at the results from Miller. In race 1, the podium was full of turbos from Cadillac and Nissan. Nick Catsburg was 4th in the naturally aspirated Lamborghini, but still 2.5 seconds behind the 3rd placed turbo’d Nissan GTR of Bryan Heitkotter. Race 2 was similar with the entire podium taken by turbo cars with Cadillac winning, Nissan second and Guy Smith’s Bentley third. This time, however, the 4th place and first finishing naturally aspirated car (Ryan Dalziel’s Porsche) was 5 seconds behind. Seeing how the turbo cars finished far above the normally aspirated cars, you could argue the series needs to tighten up even more on the turbos, at least at Miller.
So this made me want to take a look at the results from the previous races and see if this same sort of dominance has been common through the season, or if Miller is the exception.
Turbos have finished on the podium 30 times compared to 21 podium finishes from naturally aspirated cars. The biggest difference is obviously in wins where turbos have dominated by taking 11 wins in 17 rounds compared to only 6 from naturally aspirated cars. There are 4 rounds that really stick out – rounds 8 & 9 (Mosport, a power track like Miller) and rounds 16 and 17 (Miller) where the turbos have been unstoppable and took 12 of 12 podium spots available. Other than those four rounds, the balance between the turbos and naturally aspirated seems pretty darn good.
When you take out Mosport and Miller, naturally aspirated took 22 podium spots with turbos now taking 17.
If any changes need to be made, you could suggest becoming more strict on the turbos at Mosport and Miller, other than that, leave it as-is. BoP can be a crutch that many people tend to lean on or are quick to blame when things aren’t going their way. It’s an imperfect science and an extremely tough object to control, but in this case, Pirelli World Challenge hit the ball on the green in two, and nailed the putt for par.