IMSA Spotlight: Peter Baron
Team Owner: Starworks Motorsport
How would you characterize Starworks’ start to the season?
“The start has been good, not great, but not terrible either. The start of the season is difficult because you can’t win a championship there, but you can lose one with bad results at Daytona and Sebring.
“We had an unfortunate accident with a spin and then while sitting there for a lap trying to get restarted, getting drilled by a car that already drove by us once stopped on track. That effectively took away our chance to win the 24 hour.
“But we managed to rebound strong and still pull out a fourth-place and decent points there. Sebring also threw us a curveball when a rocker post in the rear suspension broke and caused us to miss about six laps. We rebounded to finish third and still salvage good points.
“We were close to wins at both Long Beach and Laguna but we were blocked by an odd shaped prototype leaving the pits on cold tires which held us up and prevented us from fighting for the win there.
“Laguna was a straight up gun fight shootout. Pretty much all the cars in class were running nose to tail for the full two hour event and it seem like anybody could have won or finished last there. So we’re quite happy to have a three race podium streak going with the 8 car, only 2 points out of the championship lead.
“The 88 car has had a little bit more driver rotation and we would’ve liked. Laguna was the first time that we have the same driver lineup in the car with Mark Kvamme and Ashley Freiberg in the car.
“I was talking with a fellow engineer today from a different team and we were saying how amazingly difficult it is to win this class and everything has to be perfect to win a race. We’re limited to four test days per season for the car and we used up two of those at Atlanta unfortunately chasing a problem.
“We really didn’t get any productive test time for Mark and Ashley there. Hopefully we’ll get some more testing in for them shortly and I think you’ll see that pair threaten for podiums shortly.”
How has the PC upgrades changed the class?
“The MoTeC System has been a tremendous help. Having the telemetry and easy access to data has been so much more helpful working with the car and assisting drivers getting up to speed. The traction control system still need some fine-tuning. It works well but we just need to work on the adjustment level.
“The engine improvements have been a great help and now we can actually accelerate out of the corner much quicker because of the lower weight crank.
“The update cost a little more than what we expected or budgeted for, but overall we’re definitely happy we did it. I believe it has made the class much better and current.”
Where do you see the future of PC headed beyond 2017?
“2018 remains the giant mystery right now. I’ve seen some stories coming out that possibly have the PC class be eliminated for 2018 and the new LMP3 class being introduced in 2017 as the leading class in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge series.
“Just out of pure numbers, I would think they still have to have the PC class in the future. We have heard many speeches and state of the union presentations where the series wants the split up to be 50-50 between prototype and GT cars on track.
“If you took away the PC class based on what we have full-time now, you would see 7 P cars, 10 GTLM and 17 GTD cars, or “20-80” split. Right now the PC class offers the lowest budgeted entry into the WeatherTech Championship.
“I think the problem has just been the reputation of the PC car with the old data system and being a bit harder to drive because of more weight in the rear. Going forward it should be a good class.”
If you were IMSA President, what would change in the series, if anything?
“Let’s start with what I would not change, and that’s Balance of Performance (BoP). I think I used to know those people pretty well. People are complaining now about it because the racing is so good and so close, that the slightest advantage makes a large difference.
“The series actually does a good job monitoring it and absolutely there’s a race where a car might have an advantage but over the course of the season the series is given time to react and make adjustments accordingly.
“What I would change is really trying to limit the budgets in the series. Going back to 2013, the last year before the merger, you had 15 full-time Daytona Prototypes and seven full-time P1 and P2 cars. Of those 22 cars, we are down to seven in the new P class.
“The common thread of the 15 cars that have all disappeared, is they were all funded by gentlemen. Some were gentlemen paid to have a team and have professionals drive for them, and some gentleman wanted to drive with a pro.
“Out of the 16 gentlemen that funded cars from 2013, we only have one of those left. The budget back in that era was between $2-$3 million to run in the top class. This year some teams are pushing over $4 million to run in the P class.
“The series needs to do things to cut costs by reducing the amount of races, shortening the time at the track, force manufacturers to be more responsible for budget cuts and longer product life.”
What has been your biggest achievement in your motorsports career?
“It’s difficult answer based on what you say is your definition of the biggest. One that did not mean anything for me personally as an achievement but was pretty incredible was getting a certain driver in the Indianapolis 500. Not proud of it, but it was an impressive feat.
“I think the biggest achievement was being the first American team since Ford in 1966 to win a world championship in motorsports with our WEC championship in 2012. Shockingly it was also Honda [HPD’s] first world championship win for their chassis. Honda motors won Formula 1 World Championships, but never championship for a Honda chassis.
“But to pick one, I have to say winning Le Mans. I can still get watery-eyed talking about that one. Growing up as a little kid everyone has a dream in their mind of what they want to be when they grow up. My dream was to be a Le Mans winner.
“No different than a lot of people in my age that are in motorsports now, I grew up watching the Steve McQueen movie “Le Mans” and was pretty much enamored with that movie growing up. So to get where I am today as a Le Mans winner and World Champion is pretty special.
“But actually what made that so special was the group of guys that we worked with that year. Everybody that worked on the team that year has always come back and said if we can get that band back together, they would gladly drop what they’re doing and go win another championship.
“So in another way I would almost have to say having that team together, that season was my biggest achievement. I believe we would’ve won in anything we entered that year.
“Racing for me is about working with special people. You’ll never get rich racing so you might as well surround yourself with great people and make some amazing memories.”
People often wonder why your toenails are painted. Share with us the story behind that…
“Pretty simple. My daughter asked to paint my toenails the night before leaving for a race weekend. We won that weekend. Tradition started.
“So now it works out when we need a change of luck, I get a new color. I have had the complete spectrum of comments back. Some thinking is cool, and others quite derogatory. I just think it’s funny now and don’t even think about it!
“I can say there has been more than one occasion where after packing, I realize that I need a new change of luck and have to wake up my daughter for a new color.
“Laguna worked out well for us, so I think I’ll keep the white with multi-color sparkles for Detroit.”