IMSA restates commitment to managed racing

IMSA puts the clamps on the Ford GT
IMSA puts the clamps on the Ford GT

IMSA has revealed that the timing of back-to-back races resulted in the sanctioning body enacting its "extraordinary circumstance" clause to make Balance of Performance changes to the GT Le Mans class for this weekend's round at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

BoP adjustments were announced by IMSA on Tuesday, following last weekend's Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen, which fell outside of its seven-day deadline prior to the start of each event where changes could be made.

With Ford claiming a 1-2 class finish at The Glen, and cars showing a large disparity in performance, IMSA went to work analyzing data during and immediately after the event.

"Our commitment from day one has been to have a balanced class," IMSA's VP of Competition Simon Hodgson told Sportscar365. "We've worked really hard on that.

"When you look at the number of races a manufacturer or privateer or anybody in IMSA competition commits to, doing nothing for one more race in GTLM represents 9 percent of the season.

"We're very cognizant of the fact that we have a responsibility on behalf of all of our participants and fans to get it right. They all want to see close racing as we do.

"We want to ensure that we are not having an impact on any of the championships, other than creating a level playing field and platform.

"As a result, based on the constant ongoing data analysis we're doing, we felt based on the information we had from [Watkins Glen], particularly the race… We felt there was a need for a change."

Hodgson said extensive post-race analysis began Monday morning at IMSA's headquarters in Daytona Beach, Fla., followed by technical committee meetings.

It led up to a manufacturer's teleconference on Tuesday, where they explained the changes made, prior to issuing the BoP adjustment later that afternoon.

"That, to be honest, was well-received by the people that we involved because they recognize that IMSA is committed to ensuring we have the right competition on track," Hodgson said.

BoP has been a hot topic in multiple sports car racing championships as of late, including at last month's 24 Hours of Le Mans, where the FIA and ACO made an unprecedented change post-qualifying to the GTE-Pro class.

And despite the late BoP change for the CTMP race, both Hodgson and WeatherTech Championship Senior Series Manager Geoff Carter said that IMSA will never make performance adjustments in the middle of a race weekend.

"That is outside of our regulation and outside of our philosophy and principals, so we wouldn't do it here," Carter told Sportscar365.
"And that was made very clear to the manufacturers on the call on Tuesday, considering this was an unusual circumstance… That this doesn't crack the door open for that to happen, today, tomorrow or at any track in the future."

As has been the case with the ACO, IMSA has also eliminated its previous self-imposed limit of the number of BoP changes that can be made over the course of the season.

Previously, only three adjustments, after an initial change following the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona, was permitted in each class, every season.
Hodgson said the change was "purposely taken out" of the regulations to prevent any manufacturer from manipulating it strategically.

The sudden recent performance increase of the Ford GTs, particularly at Le Mans and Watkins Glen, has also prompted some competitors to question whether the cars were sandbagging earlier this year.

Carter said IMSA's trigger points to prompting further investigation and/or issuing penalties is proprietary information, although the sanctioning body continues to monitor all data for possible suspicious activity from any manufacturer or team.

"IMSA likes to make decisions once we fully understand the situation," Hodgson added. "Even though we're measuring some metrics in real-time, the result is that we really look at it fully post-race.

"We're always going to ensure that we're going to do our due diligence and that we're making a decision we can stand by."

The BoP changes IMSA imposed for this weekend has already closed the performance gap in the GTLM class, at least judging by qualifying times.

What was nearly a three-second disparity between the class pole-sitting Ford and slowest car in qualifying at Watkins Glen has been reduced to less than 1.3 seconds in qualifying Saturday at CTMP. John Dagys/Sportscar365

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