With a variety of endurance racing series to choose from, Mazda Motorsports takes a look at what makes ChampCar tick
The endurance racing series now known as ChampCar started out as ChumpCar – a play on the name of the long-defunct open-wheel series run by Championship Auto Racing Teams. The fact that the founders chose that name tells you a lot about it, and while it has grown and matured from its cheap-car beginnings, it hasn’t strayed too far from its roots.
“It was started in 2009 as kind of an offshoot of the [24 Hours of] LeMons,” explains Bill Strong, the marketing and media director for the ChampCar Endurance Series. “From the beginning, we wanted to be a place where racers go to start. If they like this endurance racing, they’re either going to stay with us or they’re going to move up to other series that allow a lot more. Most of the series out there, they don’t have stint limits, they have fast fueling. If there’s a customer out there that likes that, we’ll help them get started and get them out there.”
Like 24 Hours of LeMons, ChampCar started with “$500” cars, only without some of the theatrics and tomfoolery that went with it. But that price cap was difficult to comply with and hard to police, so the new metric is what the series calls the Vehicle Performance Index.
“We came out with a variable to equalize the cars as close as we could,” Strong explains. “A number is assigned to each vehicle, and any performance parts you add to the car then adds points. You don’t want to go over 500 points; once you go over 500 points, you start collecting laps at one lap per 10 points. The way it’s supposed to work is a 500-point car will finish the race, and a 510-point car will have had to do an extra lap, but the performance additions will make it finish on the same lap with a 500-point car. It doesn’t always work like that; but it’s pretty darn close, and our management has worked really hard to make that right.”