The RACER Mailbag, February 23

The RACER Mailbag, February 23

Insights & Analysis

The RACER Mailbag, February 23

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Q: I’m slightly confused… In the last Mailbag, you said IndyCar doesn’t use BoP. Now, I understand that IndyCar doesn’t place air restrictors or weight penalties on the last car to win a race. But aren’t the engine specs for Chevy and Honda basically identical? IndyCar specifies the allowed bore and stroke, fuel flow, compression ratio, cylinder count, boost pressure, camshaft specs, and many more engine specs, right? Or am I mistaken?

The aero kits are identical. Basically the only thing that is not regulated is the dampers, correct? I totally understand that’s technically not BoP, but it is spec racing, which, in my opinion, is almost the same thing.
Formula 1 doesn’t use BoP, but it’s getting closer and closer. The reverse grid idea was basically a form of BoP – thankfully it didn’t happen but the regulations are becoming ever more spec with each set of F1 regulations.

WEC also doesn’t use BoP and, in my opinion, the days of the LMP1 non-hybrid cars (2000-2011) were the best racing on the planet and nothing has come close to matching the awesomeness of those cars.

I’m not really a fan of BoP either, but Formula 1 is the only series that can afford to have anything close to the “run what you brung” racing everyone craves. The fact that they had to place budget limits and reduce spending to $150 million per year just proves that formula isn’t sustainable in any other type of motorsports. If it weren’t for BoP, the manufacturers in other series would spend $5 million on developing new canards to shave two-tenths off of lap time, or spend $25 million developing pneumatic valve trains like are used in F1. It’s not sustainable.

The death of LMP1 via the hybrid regs is a good example. Audi, Porsche and Toyota all built multi-million dollar cars that privateers simply couldn’t compete with, and we suffered through four years of having Toyota win literally everything. It got boring. The ACO and WEC finally figured out that wasn’t the way to go, lowered costs, introduced a version of BoP, and now we have Audi, Porsche, Honda/Acura, BMW, Cadillac, Peugeot, Lamborghini, McLaren, Ferrari, etc., all coming into top class sportscar racing.

If you yearn for the days of 1980s and early-’90s GTP/Group C cars then the new LMH /GTP regulations are going to be just as good, if not better. All because the sanctioning bodies finally got their heads out of their butts and introduced cost-effective regulation. The ACO is by far the best at screwing things up, and even they realized that cost caps and a form of BoP was the answer. I miss the 962s, Jag XJRs, Spices, Lancias, Nissan NPTs, Dan Gurney and his Eagles, and 1000hp Buick Hawks just like you, but the truth is that the racing wasn’t that close. Half the cars blew up within the first 50 laps anyway.

If you need a break from this very long question and answer about BoP, here’s a shot of Sebastien Bourdais, Paul Tracy, Katherine Legge, Justin Wilson, Jan Heylen and Robert Doornbos planning to kill their PR reps for signing them up to spend a day at a farm freezing their bits off and looking at sheep. Phillip Abbott/Motorsport Images

Only the top 10% of fans even know or care what BoP is. The other 90% just want to see close racing, and they want to see the car they have on their driveways out racing in the Daytona 24 or Le Mans GT field. Literally every racing series that’s enjoyed long-term success has BoP. It is the only way to ensure close racing that’s still (relatively) affordable.

Spec racing is BoP, because the regulations that force the teams to use spec parts ensure that performance is balanced. BoP is the way to go, as much as I don’t like it, I realize it’s still the onlu way to keep racing alive and healthy.

Mike in Tampa, Low on performance and lacking balance

MP: Well, IndyCar has been around for 111 years and hasn’t needed BoP to survive. F1 is 72 years old, and has never used BoP. So, there’s that. I also wouldn’t equate close racing to great racing. NASCAR puts on dozens of races each year where the cars run within inches of each other at all times, and I can’t stay awake for more than a few laps.

On a related note, I spoke with one key IndyCar team member this week about whether they’d like to see IndyCar delay its new hybrid engines to 2024, which would mean the current motors were kept for one more season, and he said no. Reason why? Despite all the things that are highly regulated by IndyCar inside the current motors, one manufacturer has an advantage over the other at most tracks and there’s no BoP to take the advantage away.

As I said last week, I don’t care if BoP helps a series or class race forever, or if it brings close racing. I want to watch Steph Curry raining three-pointers while 50 feet away from the basket and torching the other team. I want to watch knockouts in the UFC, not five-round snoozers that are left to the judges to pick a winner. I want 70-yard touchdown passes and kickoffs returned to the end zone, not four quarters of two-yard runs and a final score of 10-7. I want to watch Pato/Dixie/Josef/Colton/Rossi/etc. put on clinics by destroying the field in ways we’ll never forget.

If the racing is close, that’s great, but who says we need BoP for the drivers in second and third, or 12th and 13th, to put on an epic show for our amusement?

Q: I saw the Nissan Ariya Single Seater Concept in person last weekend. It has combined the engine of a production car (Ariya) and the chassis of a racing car (Formula E) to represent the mutually beneficial relationship between production cars and spec racing series. I hope that IndyCar engine manufacturers can do their own version of what Nissan has done; combining the hybrid engine of production vehicles from respective manufacturers and the IndyCar chassis with the freedom in appearance to make it “looks a tiny bit like a road car” (excerpt from the Feb 9 edition of Mailbag) and showcase these cars during the race weekend. Could it be something valuable, or just waste of money?

Mitsuki Matsuura, Kanagawa, Japan

MP: Well, that looks like something that’s come to life from outer space. I dig it. As much as I’d like to see Chevy and Honda do IndyCar-themed concept cars, the only way it would happen if the production car side spent the money to make it happen. Everything I hear out of the racing sides involves sparing every penny these days.