To those familiar with the highly controversial “ranking” system currently in place with endurance sportscar racing such as the World Endurance Championship (WEC) and TUDOR United SportsCar Championship (TUSC), this article is nothing new. However for those who don’t completely understand what all the controversy is or where it stems from, we thought it might be good to provide a briefing on just what the system is, and where it came from.
While “ProAm” racing is nothing new to sportscar racing, with “gentlemen” drivers populating (and funding) the sport since inception, the roots of today’s system as we know it can be traced back to 2009.
Following the economic crisis in the Fall of 2008, the 2009 professional sportscar scene endured one of its weakest car counts in modern history. With gentleman drivers choosing to hold tight on their budgets until they saw how the stock market evolved over the coming months, the normally healthy “ProAm” market all of a sudden took a turn. This was most prevalent in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS), which suffered its smallest car count in series history.
When people discuss the “costs” of racing, an outsider might assume the core of a race team’s ledger may come in the acquisition of the car, or spares, or wildly sophisticated technologies required to keep a team at the cutting edge… and in many ways they’re correct. However, at the base of all this is one massively expensive piece of the puzzle: the staff.
Technology, data, equipment, etc. is only as good as the people who can operate it, and with every nuance that a team invests in, be assured there is always a new requirement on the human element as well.
In the business of racing, there is one wildly varying element to how this is handled: to salary employees vs. hiring people as contractors.