Class Act

Hi Pat,


I had the pleasure of visiting part of the Flying Lizard Brain Trust today – Franz Blam Racing. How lovely that both Franz and Thomas were there when I arrived! Unfortunately, I was seriously off schedule, and was only able to stay a few minutes before I had to get back on the road to my meeting in downtown Atlanta. And, of course, during most of those few minutes, Thomas ended up on the phone conducting very important Flying Lizard business. I didn’t want to appear nosy, so I went with Franz back into the shop while Thomas was on the phone up front. But as I passed I distinctly heard him talking about plans for the 2010 season. I wasn’t sure who was on the other end, but he told me later it was Lizard stuff.

Anyway I was glad to find my way to the shop. I’d talked to them a year ago while shopping cars and they were so generous, it was nice to thank them in person. When I first talked to Franz last year, I had no clue about his own accomplishments in the racing world. Knowing a tiny bit more now, I am honored to have his autograph on my helmet, along with Thomas’, who is a key part of the Flying Lizard recipe for success among his many accomplishments. We talked a little about my car before Thomas got busy.

One thing I’d hoped to ask about was how the ALMS class structure will affect planning, engineering, and strategy for next year. You will not be surprised to know that the whole concept of car classing makes my head hurt! I had to learn enough about how it works to read the SCCA General Rule Book for the purposes of classing my own car for SCCA autocross (which they call “Solo”). What I came up with after reading the book was entirely different from what my car class ended up being. And everybody I asked, all seasoned club members, had a different answer. Even the “tech experts”! I ended up in BS (B Stock) to start, then when I looked at the rules, I realized that my very minor modifications actually required that I run in B Street Prepared (BSP). If I were to go to another district, my exact car might end up in an entirely different class. So that’s my experience with car classing!

However, even this limited experience was helpful in understanding the changes in ALMS classing for 2010. I have also seen this in action working events with NASA, where they have something like twenty classes which race in two groups. The way I understand it, the purpose of car classing is to even the playing field between different kinds of cars to account for power and handling characteristics. Different classes in one race results in a race with an overall winner and winners for each class.

I’ve seen this in action in ALMS this year with the wildly different LMP (Le Mans Prototype) and GT (Grand Touring) cars. This year, in coordination and with approval of the ACO (Automobile Club d’Ouest), we had LMP1, LMP2, GT1 and GT2. Next year? Holy hell here we go. LMP1 and LMP2 will run in a single class to be called LMP (with exception of the endurance classics – the Twelve Hours of Sebring and Petit Le Mans – that will continue to adhere to the ACO technical rules for LMP1 and LMP2).

There will be a new “LMP Challenge” class as well (called LMPC), and one of those vehicles debuted in a display the Sunday after the Petit le Mans – a Courage that will run in the LMP Challenge class next year. This class has similar weight to LMP cars, but lower horsepower (450hp as compared to 500-700hp). The class ran in Europe this year, and will make its ALMS debut at Sebring in March.

For the GT classes, GT1 is going away. No more GT1. GT2 will be called simply GT. The class will include the Corvette C6.R, Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, Ferrari F430 GT, Jaguar XKR, BMW M3, Panoz Esperante, Ford GT, and Dodge Viper. For 2010, we can expect to see a second Ferrari team, a fully functioning (we hope) Jaguar team, and some additional Porsche teams, along with the usual (and some new) privateers. The entry of the Corvettes at mid-season this year was particularly exciting, as we saw at Laguna Seca.

New for 2010, there will be a full GT Challenge class (GTC). This class debuted in 2009 at Miller in Salt Lake City. Porsche 911 GT3 Cup race cars from the Patrón GT3 Challenge by Yokohama were the only eligible cars in 2009, but for 2010, competition will be open to other versions of the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars, with other manufacturers likely to be added in the future.

So to sum up, we’ll have LMP, LMPC, GT, and GTC. Edited to add: I should have also noted that the driving force behind adding the Challenge classes is couched by the organizations in marketing terms such as “value-added” but I think it boils down to making it cheaper so that more teams can participate. The way the Challenge classes are set up in ALMS, they each serve as a “lite” version of the Prototype and Grand Touring existing classes which are on the cutting edge of car-development technology, and thus, very expensive to run in. For anyone who cares, full details are on the ALMS website. One thing is for sure, next year is going to be super exciting!

Hey I saw your latest post on SPEEDTV.com and as usual, it was some great writing. I was so glad to know that you all had time to celebrate together. What a wonderful time that must have been! I imagine like Thomas, you are hard at work preparing for next year. I can’t wait!

One last thought – I wrote previously about mastering tracks and a plan to do that at autocross. Then a friend sent me a link to this video of a bike racer talking about HIS method. Hilarious! Check it out:

And on that note, I bid you good evening!

As ever,
VroomGrrl

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