The 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship could see further changes to the driver rating system in the Prototype Challenge and GT Daytona classes, although not a complete elimination of the Pro-Am enforcement, according to IMSA’s VP of Competition Simon Hodgson.
“There’s been discussion not amongst us but certainly in the paddock that IMSA is abolishing driver ratings,” Hodgson told Sportscar365. “That isn’t something that we’re going to do.”
Instead, Hodgson said IMSA has been evaluating “tweaks” to its Pro-Am rules, in an effort to resolve some of the current issues faced not only in the WeatherTech Championship, but other championships that also utilize the FIA medallion-based rating system.
The root issue has revolved around a number of drivers who have been questionably classified as Silver by the FIA, and when paired with a Gold or Platinum-rated driver, produce arguably an unfair advantage to genuine Pro-Am lineups utilizing a gentleman driver.
Hodgson said the “Super Silvers” are a topic of discussion, but IMSA will not rush into any decisions because of potential long-term effects.
“We recognize the effect that potentially being re-rated can have on a driver’s career, and again it’s very preliminary to suggest that we’re changing the whole regulation. It would also be wrong to suggest that we wouldn’t,” Hodgson said.
“We’re looking at all different driver rating regulations in all series around the world, and we’re trying to do our own due diligence and recognize areas of improvement.”
IMSA has formed a subcommittee, led by Race Director Beaux Barfield, who is the sanctioning body’s representative on the FIA Driver Rating Committee, to discuss the subject further with its stakeholders in both PC and GTD, along with other series representatives.
“We’ve been discussing the topic at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and the Belle Isle Detroit Grand Prix with a focus of identifying any areas of improvement to ensure people are correctly rated, and also how our IMSA sporting regulations apply to a specific driver rating,” Hodgson said.
“There’s a number of questions and concerns that people have, but certainly to even consider abolishing the driver ratings system would be a mistake.
“There’s a very good purpose if it’s implemented properly, so we’re looking at things like driver pace in more detail and really giving Beaux the tools as he sits on the FIA Driver Rating Committee, how he can present the correct position of IMSA in terms of how driver rating can be applied.”
Hodgson said elements such as driver eligibility, minimum drive times and the maximum number of drivers allowed per car, are all areas IMSA is evaluating.
Small adjustments to the sporting regulations were made this year, including reducing the maximum number of drivers for six and ten hour races from four to three drivers, in order to promote more drive time for Bronze/Silver-rated drivers. Minimum drive times were also adjusted for Bronze/Silvers at endurance races.
“We’re trying to recognize the fact that in those classes, it is a professional driver and potentially a driver that doesn’t drive full time for a living,” Hodgson said. “And that participation is an important aspect of the class.”
While there’s been rumors of IMSA developing its own ratings system, Hodgson said they currently remain committed to the global FIA system.
“At the end of the day, we’re going to do whatever is best for IMSA, but we don’t see creating another driver rating system as productive,” he said. “It’s just going to create a lot of confusion.
“There’s certain aspects we need to consider such as when someone wins the championship within one of our series, that could be classified as those drivers would then automatically have a change in their driver rating.
“The other components within the driver rating system that we’re exploring is potential restriction when necessary of factory drivers such as Platinum drivers… Those are the kind of things that we’re looking at.
“I think the changes we’re looking to make is really a tweak to what we currently have, not necessarily a complete revamp of what we’re doing.
“Many people have been vocal, people who have been invested in both the short and the long term in IMSA, and it’s only right that we treat their concerns seriously, which we always do.”