Comment: Is the problem really the entry list?

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Many words have been com­mit­ted to print on the mea­gre entry list in LMP1 for 2017, the lack of com­pe­ti­tion and strict reg­u­la­tions. But there comes a time, after dis­cussing and debat­ing past devel­op­ments and future changes, when we must ask our­selves: is the prob­lem real­ly the entry list? Or are we fans the prob­lem?

I look back fond­ly on days in my child­hood get­ting up at 6am on a Sun­day to watch For­mu­la 1 on TV. In the 1990s and the 2000s I didn’t ques­tion the world of motor­sport. I grew up with a par­tic­u­lar series and fol­lowed it with­out any qualms. But now, in the cur­rent world of motor­sport, we can eas­i­ly crit­i­cise every sin­gle rule amend­ment or inter­pret every form of change as a provo­ca­tion.

Is every­thing as bad as we seem to believe? No, cer­tain­ly not. For many, the devel­op­ment of our media land­scape and the grow­ing num­ber of rac­ing series is at the core of the prob­lem. Not every­thing was rosy in the past, and some rule changes cre­at­ed a furore. But back then we fans only had lim­it­ed oppor­tu­ni­ties to fol­low all races in a par­tic­u­lar cham­pi­onship. Even though we may not have agreed with some rule changes, we seemed to accept them more eas­i­ly. We are all motor­sport fans at heart and want to see dri­vers at the lim­it, bat­tling for the lead, fight­ing for race wins.

Social media means that we become aware of plans to change rule­sets more quick­ly and often they are dis­missed as bad for the sport with­out look­ing into the bare bones. At first glance, changes in engine reg­u­la­tions, hybrid pow­er allo­ca­tions or bal­ance of per­for­mance (BoP) have a rad­i­cal impact on the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion, but each change can open up oppor­tu­ni­ties, too. Case in point: auto­mat­ed BoP in GTE Pro. For many, it may come as a sur­prise to see the man­u­al BoP process, pre­vi­ous­ly han­dled by a team of experts at the FIA, replaced with a com­put­er algo­rithm. But this span­ner in the works, if you will, brings a new ele­ment to the class and sets a chal­lenge to GTE Pro teams.

Ulti­mate­ly the teams must cope with the change, but for us fans every­thing will stay the same. We will still cheer on our favourite teams, cars and dri­vers. Regard­less of the changes that may afflict motor­sport mov­ing for­ward, com­pe­ti­tion, excite­ment and fas­ci­na­tion for man and machine will remain. We live in an era in which motor­sport has nev­er been so easy to fol­low. The num­ber of series com­pet­ing at cir­cuits all over the world is flour­ish­ing, and we should nev­er lose sight of that.

New infor­ma­tion or a planned change doing the rounds on social media shouldn’t be blind­ing us. Fac­to­ry involve­ment in LMP1 may have fall­en from three man­u­fac­tur­ers to two, but that doesn’t mean that the races will be any less excit­ing. The Pro­logue in Mon­za gave us a taste of what should be a mouth-water­ing sea­son. The quick­er we are to accept new sit­u­a­tions, the soon­er we return to the core of our pas­sion, the thing that got us out of bed ear­ly those Sun­day morn­ings: motor­sport itself.

Image © WEC-Mag­a­zin