No. 1009
August 14, 2019
 

About The Autoextremist

@PeterMDeLorenzo

Author, commentator, influencer. "The Consigliere." Editor-in-Chief of .

Peter DeLorenzo has been in and around the sport of racing since the age of ten. After a 22-year career in automotive marketing and advertising, where he worked on national campaigns as well as creating many motorsports campaigns for various clients, DeLorenzo established Autoextremist.com on June 1, 1999. Over the years DeLorenzo's commentaries on racing and the business of motorsports have resonated throughout the industry. Because of the burgeoning influence of those commentaries, DeLorenzo has directly consulted automotive clients on the fundamental direction and content of their motorsports programs. DeLorenzo is considered to be one of the most influential voices commenting on the sport today.

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Monday
Mar182019

SPORTS CAR RACING IN A VACUUM.

By Peter M. DeLorenzo

Detroit. The 12 Hours of Sebring happened last weekend and a good time was had by all. A huge crowd, two big races (IMSA and WEC) and enough breathless commentary from the TV hosts to last a lifetime. So, it was all good, except there seemed to be something missing. But more on that in a minute.

The 1,000 Miles of Sebring WEC show was Friday afternoon running into the late evening. But the fact that the French in the FIA and ACO refuse to put a major North American endurance race on their schedule remains an insult that keeps festering. Lest you forget, Sebring and Daytona were once part of the international sports car racing calendar, but now the brainiacs in the WEC barely acknowledge American sports car interests, instead implying by their condescending actions that IMSA is somehow second class. 

And how or why does the FIA get away with this? By holding out access to the 24 Hours of Le Mans for IMSA competitors, dictating who will be allowed to participate in the French endurance classic. So, IMSA bends over backwards to acquiesce to the FIA's wishes. Ironically enough, for years the major factory teams competing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans would test at Sebring, sometimes the week immediately after the running of the 12 Hours, because they discovered that running a 12-hour test at Sebring was more than equivalent to running 24 hours at Le Mans. The simple fact guiding these teams that would make them test at Sebring was that if something was going to break on a car, you would find that out in a hurry on the bone-crushing track surface in central Florida.

I know that some view this perspective as a waste of time given the fact that the ship has sailed on all of this, but seeing normally intelligent and savvy racing people "going along to get along" when it comes to the FIA lording over American racing interests is glaringly reprehensible. IMSA should have told the FIA/ACO that if they wanted to bring their show to Sebring they would be happy to accommodate them as part of the 12 Hours of Sebring, as long as that meant that America's oldest and most prestigious endurance race would also be included as part of the international sports car racing calendar. But what actually happened? Sebring International Raceway was forced to go to great expense to create separate pits and a new pit lane to accommodate the WEC show. Pathetic doesn't even begin to cover it.

Enough about that. So, what about the 12 Hours of Sebring? The beginning of the race itself was marred by the rainy start behind the pace car, but that couldn't be helped. But once the field was released the racing was excellent for the most part. The GM Racing Cadillac-branded prototypes dominated the show, and the GTLM class staged its typically furious battle right to the end (see more racing coverage in The Line -WG). 

But saying that, the same issues remain for IMSA, unfortunately. Tracking the separate classes and presenting them during the race is one of the most difficult challenges in broadcast television, and it never gets easier. (By the way, LMP2 is a joke, as in, why bother at all?) And unless you're deeply immersed in an endurance race, the tedium and droning on and on is a real negative. Although to be fair, endurance races aren't meant for the casual TV racing watcher. 

Racing enthusiasts who appreciate sports car racing rightly praise the current IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Series as the best road racing ever presented in this country based on strength of schedule, the number of manufacturers participating, and the overall high-caliber of the teams and high-quality of the racing. But - and there's always a but - you can bet that the TV ratings will be dismal, because the TV ratings for major league sports car racing can't even compete with NASCAR's moribund Xfinity Series, let alone other major league racing events, which is a real shame. 

Racing in a vacuum seems to be IMSA's lot (and IndyCar's, too, for that matter, as I've said in previous columns). It certainly is not what the dedicated people in Daytona Beach, or the talented teams and drivers, or the manufacturers want, but it is an unfortunate reality nonetheless.

And that's the High-Octane Truth for this week.


AVUS, Berlin, 1937. The stunning 43-degree North Curve banking at the AVUS circuit was made entirely of bricks and dubbed "the wall of death" because of its lack of guardrails. If a driver had trouble and went off, he went off - and out. The 1937 race held at AVUS did not count for the Grand Prix World Championship, so teams were allowed to enter streamlined cars, which were similar to the cars Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union were using for high-speed record attempts on the Autobahn. This race was run in two heats. While qualifying for the second heat, Luigi Fagioli pushed his No. 33 Auto Union Type C streamliner to the pole position with a time of 4 minutes and 8.2 seconds at an average speed of 174 mph, which was the fastest motor racing lap in history at the time. Imagine that, on those tires!! It wasn't exceeded until Tony Bettenhausen bettered it in qualifying for the 1957 Race of Two Worlds at Monza in Italy. It was also bettered by four drivers during the 1971 Indianapolis 500. Hermann Lang's average race speed in his Mercedes-Benz streamliner of 171 mph was the fastest road race in history for nearly five decades, and was not matched on a high speed circuit until the mid-1980s at the 1986 Indianapolis 500.


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