Roman Rusinov has threatened to leave the FIA World Endurance Championship following the release of the 2017 provisional driver ratings, which has re-classified the longtime LMP2 competitor to a Gold rating.
Rusinov was among several drivers to have their ratings provisionally upgraded on Friday, which has led to controversy not only in the WEC paddock, but throughout other sports car racing championships worldwide.
The Russian driver disputes the change from Silver to Gold and believes that his day job in business means he should not compete against professional drivers who make their living from racing.
“For me it’s easy. I have a full time job outside of racing, I come here to enjoy racing,” he told Sportscar365 before Saturday’s season-ending Six Hours of Bahrain.
“We have created a very good project which is G-Drive Racing and I feel a little bit strange to see people like [Dries] Vanthoor or GP2 drivers keeping their Silver status [and] Julien Canal, [Pierre] Thiriet keeping their Silver status. It’s a question ‘what is a Silver driver’?
“I spoke with Vincent [Beaumesnil, ACO Sporting Director] and he didn’t know. It doesn’t have any logic.
“I think we try to make this race and we start some new adventures in a different championship, maybe I do some rally or something.”
Rusinov has been linked with contesting the Dakar Rally with his G-Drive sponsorship and when approached, admitted that it was a likely possibility.
“It’s already [been] three months that I’m working on this project and it was Plan A and Plan B. So actually Plan A [in the WEC] is not working,” he said.
Rusinov won the 2015 LMP2 championship as a Gold-rated driver, alongside Sam Bird and Julien Canal in an OAK Racing-run Ligier JS P2 Nissan, before being downgraded to Silver for this year.
However, he argues that the Pro-Am-enforced class is a much different proposition now, with a number of young open-wheel graduates slipping under the radar as Silver-rated drivers, which has hurt his chances of success.
“It was quite easy, because Canal was also faster than me or maybe the same pace than me and the championship level was different,” Rusinov said.
“Now you clearly can see that if you finish fourth in Formula 3, you are Silver. Where is the logic?”
ACO Sporting Director Vincent Beaumesnil, who is a member on the FIA driver rating committee, stressed that driver ratings are determined by a combination of data and other factors.
“The committee is trying to make a very fair job and trying not to be influenced by any economical interests for championships or promoter. It has to be an independent decision,” Beaumesnil told Sportscar365.
“It’s a very difficult job… I’ve had very good feedback [from the 2017 provisional list]. Even if you have one or two guys upset, it’s one or two of 3,000 [rated drivers]. I don’t think it’s not so bad.”
Beaumesnil said all drivers have the opportunity to make a claim for its ratings to be reconsidered, with Rusinov understood to be among the drivers set to appeal.
As expected, newly crowned LMP2 champion Gustavo Menezes and Gulf Racing’s Ben Barker were also among the drivers to be promoted from Silver to Gold.
When approached by Sportscar365, the Briton said he would not be contesting the decision.
“If I really felt like it was worth it, then I’d do it,” Barker said. “But honestly there’s a lot of Silvers out there who are the same as me or a bit slower that have also been put to Gold.
“They would have to change all of them as well and I know for sure people would be complaining if I get put back down to Silver. I don’t think it’s worth my money (a 250 Euro fee for submitting an appeal) to be honest.”
Beaumesnil said that young drivers need to be Silver-rated to incentivize their participation in the championship.
He cited the example of Formula 3 graduate Menezes, who tested the Porsche 919 Hybrid in Sunday’s WEC Rookie Test.
“Young drivers who don’t have a big history in motorsport, even if they are fast, they start Silver because they need to build a career,” he said. “When they have the experience, they go to Gold.
“If because a young kid is fast, and you have him Gold from the beginning, his career is finished.
“He doesn’t have the opportunity to show what he can do at such a level. This is what we’ve applied for all drivers.”
John Dagys contributed to this report