IMSA President Scott Atherton believes the newly added qualifying session at the Roar Before the 24 will help validate the sanctioning body’s ‘sophisticated’ Balance of Performance process.
The set of 15-minute qualifying sessions on Sunday morning for the Prototype, GT Le Mans and GT Daytona classes will determine the pit box and garage locations for the season-opener, in what Atherton believes will give teams an extra incentive not to hide their true pace.
Competitors have often been accused of sandbagging at the Roar, which affects IMSA’s BoP for the race.
“Part of this weekend is always focused on our technical team extracting as much data and as much demonstrated performance awareness that we could pull out of these weekends,” Atherton said.
“It’s all about the modern era of Balance of Performance. It’s a necessary function.
“We’re very proud of the work that IMSA’s technical team has done. It will never be perfected but it’s a very, very high level of sophistication and I think very effective in how it enables very diverse cars to compete very fairly with each other.
“Sunday’s qualifying is the ultimate example because the top qualifying results will then get their first pick for their pit location as well as their garage location.
“In the rules and regulations, it’s very well spelled out how this process will work.”
The fastest-qualifying Prototype entry will receive the first pit box on pit lane starting at pit-in and also will be assigned to the first garage in its section in the garage, with the fastest GTD car receiving the second pit box and first GTD garage.
The quickest GTLM entry, meanwhile, will receive the third pit box and first garage in its section, and so on.
Pit box locations, in particular, can prove crucial in the race, with the first box at pit-in often the most sought-after location, for its close proximity to the garage.
A prime example came in last year’s race when the No. 31 Action Express Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R had starter motor issues and utilized the garage area to push start the car following multiple pit stops.
“The bottom line is to provide an incentive for the cars, teams and drivers to truly show what they’ve got,” Atherton said.
“It’s not my original statement but I’ll repeat a comment that was made to me last night. That was, ‘You guys have finally found a way to shake the sand out of these cars.’ I hope that’s true.
“The goal here is to have as level a playing field as possible, such that the real deciding factor comes down to driver skill, pit stop skill, engineering skill, race strategy skill, etc., and not having a mechanical advantage that’s baked into one platform versus the other.
“Simon Hodgson [IMSA VP of Competition] and his team get all the credit for creating that environment.”