Motorsport hasn’t been particularly engaging of late. Formula One seems to have lost the ability for a scrappy upstart to snatch victory away from a more-established team in even a single race and constant rule changing hasn’t helped anything. NASCAR, which intentionally tries to run much closer races, has similarly sabotaged itself by trying to obtain mass appeal. Both also suffer from a deficit of strong personalities piloting the vehicles and cars that are arguably much easier to drive than their forbears, making for fewer wild moments and less serious injuries.
All of this has sent your author back into the loving safety of the World Rally Championship and World Endurance Championship (along with MotoGP). However, the latter form of motorsport may be in danger of losing the oldest race in its playbook — the 24 Hours of Le Mans. While not yet marked for death, the event saw Porsche pull out last week. Subsequent reports indicate that Chevrolet is doing the same; as usual, the coronavirus is behind it all, and it does not bode well for the race’s long-term health.
This coming weekend, dozens of the best endurance racers in the world take to a bumpy old airstrip in Florida for the annual 12 Hours of Sebring. God knows I’d love to be there — but not in the stands. I’m a man of action, you know. I want to get involved.
I’m sorry to be the one to break it to you, but much like me, you aren’t going to be a world champion race car driver. Each year, there are roughly 20 drivers in the world with a seat in Formula One. Another 30 or so seats in IndyCar, and 40ish in NASCAR. Several scores of seats are available in IMSA, but bring a checkbook. If you’re reading this and you are not 10 years old with seven years of high-level karting experience, blessed with ungodly talent, or paired with a parent with ungodly money (see Stroll, Lance), you aren’t going to be spraying champagne on international television.
Facing this reality, what’s an enthusiast to do? One could always build or buy a race car or get involved in track days or autocross. But there is another option that comes with both minimal cost and risk — working on a pit crew.
While Porsche saw a remarkable comeback victory at this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, clawing its way from the back of the pack as practically every LMP1 class car suffered a catastrophic breakdown, all the real action was taking place among the LM GTE Pro cars — as usual.
Jordan Taylor, masterfully piloting the No. 63 Corvette, kept himself in the lead for much of the race but everything morphed into a sphincter clenching contest in its final moments. Aston Martin had already suffered a nail-biting off with its No. 95 car, but it was the No. 97 Vantage of Jonathan Adam that had us cursing near the race’s end. Attempting a bold and ill-advised maneuver, Adam managed to pass Taylor momentarily by diving on the inside and exiting the corner wide. The two cars even made light contact as the Corvette retook the lead and everybody in the pits started screaming.
Cadillac took a definite “more is more” approach for its return to prototype racing. By handing over its engineering masterpiece, the V8 DPi-V.R, to the distinguished Wayne Taylor Racing, LeMans veteran Massimiliano “Max” Angelelli, and NASCAR legend Jeff Gordon, it assured itself the one-two victory at the Rolex 24 in Daytona.
However, despite an ideal finish, it wasn’t a perfect day for the team.
Bob Lutz has worked as an executive for General Motors, Chrysler, Ford, and BMW at various points in his storied life. Saying he’s a man who is well-versed in the automotive industry would be a colossal understatement. And that expertise has led him to the assertion that a certain manufacturer is a cult led by a false god.
That, Audi has abandoned its wildly successful career in endurance racing for something far less popular, Ford takes a financial body blow, and Volkswagen Group continues to suffer with Porsche as its sugar daddy… after the break!
After a less than stellar result for Nissan at the 24 Hours of LeMans this year, Carlos Ghosn has stated the program — at least in its current form — is under review.