Each motorsport discipline is a business competing for manufacturers, fans, sponsorship, media space and well-funded drivers. It has been a long and hard road to get here, but this is now where GT3 racing excels and it is currently pulling in money from all angles (with fans the last to slowly follow suit).
What makes GT3 racing successful in all of these areas is its inclusivity. Whatever your level of racing, you can compete, and (although SRO boss Stephane Ratel is keen to keep mass-market brands at bay) any car manufacturer can in theory build and sell a car.
In order to be this inclusive, we have had to develop two manipulative factors for the sport – Balance of Performance (BOP) and driver rankings. These factors enable championship organisers to create close racing by managing the competitiveness of each car and driver line-up.
Let’s put BOP to one side for now (that’s another discussion for another day) and focus on driver rankings. Gone are the days when drivers are split simply into Pro and Am. Two categories weren’t enough, particularly when separating young up-coming ‘pros’ from seasoned professionals. But, recent events have proved that the current Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum rankings are now failing, too.
For example, in the Blancpain Endurance Cup, the Pro-Am class can comprise:
Bronze, Silver, Silver
Bronze, Bronze, Gold
This makes a quick Silver very valuable – it’s better to run two quick Silver ‘pros’ than one Gold ‘pro’ – on the contrary, it means the number of Gold seats available is limited.
Some teams stick to the rules, employing (or taking cash from) two Silver drivers and finding the fastest well-funded Bronze they can.
Others, argue the rules and get drivers downgraded. If successful, they can run a pretty quick, fairly experienced young Silver driver, such as Devon Modell, as a Bronze. And, fair play to them, they work the system.
On the other hand, why have a system if it doesn’t really mean anything? It clearly isn’t working if we’re having to overrule it.
Is it time we look at a new system that more accurately defines the ability of a driver?
How about we have a system that works in a similar way to golf? Every driver has a number, which is determined by an algorithm rather than a humanistic judgement.
These numbers could go up to 50. As a professional driver (in the true sense of the word), you would be a 50. Everyone else slots in underneath in numbers divisible by five.
A Pro-Am class entry would require three drivers and a maximum of 100 points (so one 50-point ‘pro’ could enter), while Am class entries would be no more than 50 (so that no 50-point ‘pros’ could enter).
As well as offering more flexibility with line-ups, it would also open up more ‘pro’ seats in the Pro-Am category.
I’m no mathematician, and I certainly don’t claim this is the answer, I just think it’s time to readdress a system that is necessary but not necessarily working.
If you have any suggestions, Tweet them to us at @RacingGT or email firstname.lastname@example.org.