RGR Sport is weighing its options, amid growing concerns over the driver ratings system utilized in LMP2 class of the FIA World Endurance Championship.
The Mexican squad, owned by Six Hours of Mexico promoter Ricardo Gonzalez, has not yet confirmed a return to the championship next year because of what team manager Toni Calderon cites as a deterioration of the class due to so-called “Super Silvers.”
“We’re definitely considering if this is something we want to keep doing or not,” Calderon told Sportscar365.
“When you have some [Super Silvers] driving in a number of categories and preparing all day, every day, and Ricardo and other real Silver drivers like him are busting their ass in the office trying to make money to keep the car in the field, it’s tough.”
Gonzalez told Sportscar365: “It’s very frustrating that we’re spending millions to be able to hire the best talent out there like we did this year with Bruno [Senna] and Filipe [Albuquerque], so that we can gain those last couple of tenths, and then by an oversight in a rating system you are suddenly competing against a team where their amateur driver is as quick as the pros.”
The issue, which came to light at the beginning of the season, has been put back in the spotlight following the last two WEC rounds, which saw revised driver lineups with young Silver-rated drivers outperforming established Pro-Am driving squads.
Extreme Speed Motorsports brought in an all-new lineup for its No. 30 Ligier JS P2 Nissan beginning with last month’s round at Fuji Speedway, with GP2 driver Sean Gelael as the Silver, while Alex Lynn was added to Manor’s No. 44 car alongside the Silver-rated Matt Rao.
The two lineup changes came in addition to the newly crowned Signatech Alpine squad, which has claimed a season-high four class wins with Silver-rated Gustavo Menezes, who has routinely been one of the quickest drivers overall in the class.
“I’ve been in the WEC since the series started and I really like the championship, which is one of the main reasons why we wanted to make the Six Hours of Mexico a reality and why we started RGR Sport,” Gonzalez said.
“But lately, drivers like me are starting to get pushed out and we don’t have a lot of incentive to stay. I understand and appreciate that everyone wants to bring new young blood to the sport, but it has to be done in a fair way.”
“I think there’s some very basic things you can do, so if somebody does sneak through the system, it can be adjusted,” Calderon said.
Calderon suggests applying an average driver weight in LMP2, which he feels would help balance out some disadvantages current gentlemen drivers face in the Pro-Am-enforced class.
“This is something that happens in almost every category in the world; the cars have an average weight,” he said. “It even happens in LMP1 but they say they don’t want to do it in LMP2 because it’s too complicated.
“Even if you weigh everybody at the beginning of the season, and again once or twice more… You don’t have to do it every race.
“Any real gentlemen driver is most likely heavier than a fake Silver. Why? Because they’re in the office and not in the gym.
“There also needs to be a way of examining performance. But I understand that will take some time and that’s harder to implement.
“Let’s set up a system to show that the [FIA] is trying. Maybe try out a handicap system, or a system that discourages drivers from wanting to be rated silver by limiting possible factory rides in the future, for example.”
While the first-year team of Gonzalez and co-drivers Bruno Senna and Filipe Albuquerque has been one of the top performers in the class, with two class victories and currently sitting second in the title race, Calderon feels they’ve been put at a consistent disadvantage.
“I think after seeing what happened in Shanghai, we’ve done well just because we have a really good team and really, really good Platinums and Ricardo does a good job,” he said.
“We’ve done really well because we’ve made less mistakes compared to other teams, but not on speed.”
The future of gentlemen drivers in LMP2 remains unclear, with both Ed Brown and Nick Leventis ending their seasons early and not returning to the championship next year, while ESM’s Chris Cumming is considering taking a year off from racing.
It leaves Gonzalez and G-Drive’s Roman Rusinov as arguably the only businessmen, with a career away from racing, still currently involved in the class.
“It defeats the purpose of making the investment and fielding a full car. At that point its better for me and my sponsors to just go find a single ride and forget about the team and about hiring pros,” Gonzalez said.
“As we’ve seen in the other classes, things can change pretty quickly and we could easily get to a point where if you don’t have gentleman drivers funding the teams then you won’t have a full grid.”