Much is being thrown around at the moment on the World Endurance Championship (WEC) stage across various social media platforms that is critical of the Organising Body and in particular the Toyota LMP1 Hybrid team. Interested bickering parties seem to know a lot about what a Body and Corporate giant are doing and colluding to the detriment of our much-loved premier Endurance Motorsport World Championship. In the interests of balance SportsCarGlobal would like to frame the other side of this debate, the intrigue, the strategy, the politics of a complex situation.
A racing team at any level will always do its best to obtain, retain and exploit an advantage. In a sport that costs millions to find fractions the opportunity to secure a seconds advantage at a swipe of a pen on paper will be grasped without a second thought. People look on the past with rose-tinted spectacles, but think about the influence over time that Wolfgang Ullrich / Audi Sport achieved, the funding provided the glamour and kudos garnered by turning the Audi into a bejeweled brand. The urge to please and retain became useful and influential. The decision to run diesel, not in the day an easy sporting bed-fellow, came from Audi, it drove the need for equivalence and we were faced with that unbeatable (some might say boring) era of dominance. Peugeot potentially decided on diesel for their platform so as to be utilising the same metrics as Audi just to take one area of uncertainty of who was getting the better breaks… Its just one example, but over a drink or bite with your friends there are literally hundreds of other that can be found. With clever meeting strategy, quiet words, concerns about a team departing, concessions can be won or given that engineers would spend months and millions to achieve a similar performance gain. The point is it has always been so.
Currently we, as fans, need to be grateful to a lot of people, teams and regulators it is not wrong to question, but please be civil polite and considered.
So Thursday in Spa, the prevailing regulations and speculation needs to be tempered by what we see on track. However beyond winning concessions, teams again will seek to hide their hard won advantages (and shortcomings) for fear they will be either taken away or played upon. Hence to find reliable data is always a struggle, a single lap does not make a stint, and a great stint does not make a winning race. So at SportsCarGlobal we turn to gifted friends like Matt at The B-Pillar for some insights based upon a hypothesis which attempts to address a team’s abilities to hide their numbers in plain sight.
We set Matt the challenge yesterday afternoon of identifying the average of a number of each cars quickest sectors (know as the ideal lap on a single lap) but because we were looking for across a number of laps we attempted to identify not just when the car was pushing on, but also an element of the stable stint performance. Below is his fascinating output for the LMP field –
Everyone is well aware that the Toyota TS050s are fastest, they should be they are utilising track developed technologies that are very much the things we hope to see on the road cars of the near-future but tested and raced to breaking point, so that they don’t when we step behind the wheel. Important point yes fastest, but its a research led test and development prototype (clue in the name) if you are not winning and sometimes breaking it you are not delivering on your corporate objectives and as such risk your programme being cut. Toyota are all to aware of the role of Lady Luck or Chance to cost them races or seek a pass on a closing door that does not pay off. These are reasons beyond regulatory meddling to keep watching, the longer the race the luckier you need to be (as Gary Player might have said had he raced cars rather than chased a small white ball round a large green and blue one!)
The above pace and gaps are not huge, they could soon be eaten up by a delayed pass of a back-marker or a flat spotted tyre that leads to a slow stint. So the message has to be hold the faith enjoy the racing, and remember what has been gifted by the regulator can also be taken away for the benefit of the show!
Beyond everything we need to be mindful of the tight-rope the custodians of our brand of Motorsport are walking. They have done a fine job in the past, and whilst that is only an indicator of their abilities, we have confidence in them, their tools and abilities to tune this Championship to continue to deliver some of the finest racing and legendary stories in Motorsport today and for the future.