Any married man will tell you the same. There is no cheap escape. If your wife is
spending the national debt of Cuba in Selfridges, you try to diplomatically point out
the problem. She reacts by commanding your presence at the
Spring/Summer/Autumn/Winter/Christmas/Next/ Debenhams’ sales. There, she
will spend hundreds and will later try to convince you that was really a saving.
Divorce is no cheap option either. She will continue to shop, and will take the
house and kids to boot.
GT racing faces a similar predicament; it is expensive, and there is no cheap
This is no fatalistic approach to either marriage, or GT racing. The old adage is
that to make a small fortune in racing you must start with a large one. GT
administrators are therefore scratching around for cost cutting solutions and
frankly, they are looking in the wrong places.
The FIA GT championship sought to cut costs by cutting the length of the races to
two hours, from three. Follow that to its logical conclusion and you say that if you
cut the length of the race to nil hours, it is even cheaper!
The ACO at Le Mans targeted GT2, and in particular Porsche and electronics to cut
costs. This argument fails on many levels. Porsche and Ferrari are selling every
single GT2 car that they make, 77 cars in their launch years. Secondly, if you take
Euro80,000 out of the cost of a Ferrari, you have the cost of a Porsche, so what did
Porsche do to deserve such infamy? Third, more money is spent in the wind
tunnel than on electronics. GT2 is not a problem area.
Rise in the East, Set in the West
GT1 is suffering in the US, but not in Europe where grid numbers are healthy and
the competition is strong. There is an argument that there are no new cars coming
into GT1. This may not be true. Rumour has it that Honda will bring its NSX in
2009, the same year as its American brand Acura goes into LMP1. So why change
The latest idea, which will be discussed in Paris on August 23, is to look at GT3.
The idea is to replace the existing GT1 and GT2 cars with GT3 will be discussed.
The proposal is to divide GT3 class cars into two according to engine size, and
these would be the new GT1 and GT2 cars. Each class would be characterised by
a power-to-weight ratio, similar to that used in GT4. The idea is to reduce the
technical costs, and teams can then spend more on travel, racing and invest in
But no team with spare cash will spend it on hospitality if their car is not
competitive. They want better drivers, or to make money. And if anyone thinks that
introducing GT3 hardware as top flight cars will be any cheaper, they are in
dreamland. Teams will still spend the same budget, just spend less on buying
the car. If you consider the cost of the motor homes, the number of team
personnel, their travel and subsistance, the number of test days, the number of
days in the wind tunnel for manufacturers, you get an idea of where the money
really goes. That is what must be tackled, not the hardware.
High Wire Act
GT3 racing works thanks to Peter Wright’s brilliant yet expensive performance
balancing system. You could turn up with Big Foot and it would be performance
balanced to be competitive against a Ferrari F430 GT. The manufacturers like it
because they can build whatever they like, and it will be competitive. But it is not
true racing. It is not a test bed for development. It is not exciting to a racing
manufacturer, particularly if the cars are equal in performance, but badly driven
and they always lose.
The key is to look at the ratio of money that a team must spend, and money that a
team needs. Instead of reducing one, IMSA, the ACO, the FIA and Patrick Peter
must use their meeting on August 23 to work out how to increase the other. If they
stay unified in their approach, promote their racing properly and give the teams,
manufacturers and sponsors a reason to invest i.e. a good return, their time will
be far better spent.
I’m in with the Right Crowd
More than 250,000 people turn up to Le Mans, where the racing is far worse than
your average ALMS race, yet it is still a success. It is a place you want to race. It is
a place to entertain sponsors. It is a race that defines sports car racing. It is not
alone. The Sebring 12-hours, Spa 24, Petit Le Mans, any of the Le Mans Series
1000kms races. All are iconic races. So are the Italian, French and Belgian
Simple efforts can have big rewards. The Marlboro Masters Formula Three event
at Zandvoort was attended by 80,000 people. At Pembrey for a round of the British
series, you were lucky if the spectators outnumbered the sheep. Why? Zandvoort
was free, the show was well promoted, gave fans the chance to see a Ferrari
Formula One car on the great track in the sand dunes, and was one year
additionally sponsored by Playboy, complete with Bunny Girls handing out free
magazines, Marlboro cigarettes, and looking glamorous. Zandvoort is a small,
beach side circuit which, when it started charging for entry, saw attendance drop to
The ALMS provides the most fantastic television figures, and at Sebring and the
Petit Le Mans, also have great spectator figures. It has a good relationship with
big companies, and teams and sponsors want to be involved. The racing is not
great in LMP1 or GT1, where Audi and Corvette reign but, rather than address the
situation sensibly, they are considering a proposal to scrap the two categories.
This makes no sense. Give Audi and Corvette, two giants of the modern
motorsport era, something back. Give them competition, encourage it by
increasing return on investment.
The solution is not to trade the wife for a newer, cheaper model. She may look
attractive, but her looks will soon go, and will be more expensive in the long run. It
is the nature of the beast.