Teams competing in this weekend’s TUDOR United SportsCar Championship season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona could be in for a late-race surprise, should they be deemed to have not shown their full hand in the run-up to the around-the-clock endurance classic.
IMSA has put into place a new rule that effectively penalizes a team or manufacturer that is found to be sandbagging, with a minimum stop-and-hold plus five-minute in-race penalty for anyone displaying a level of performance beyond the expected result.
What’s more, the penalty must be served within the final 30 minutes of the race, which raises the stakes even more, according to IMSA VP of Competition and Technical Regulations, Scot Elkins.
“Truthfully, if we apply a penalty in the last half-hour of the race, that’s probably where it’s going to hurt you the most,” Elkins said. “That’s the intention. Everything we’re doing in this, we’re just trying to convey very, very clearly that we’re incredibly serious about teams performing at a level that’s expected and not trying to play the game.”
IMSA issued a bulletin to teams outlining the new “anti-sandbagging” rule prior to the Roar Before the Rolex 24, where the rule began to take effect. The penalty also applies to any competitor or manufacturer found to deliberately influence the Balance of Performance (BoP) process.
Elkins said they have and will continue to use timing data such as sector times and speed traps, as well as information they may request from teams and manufacturers to determine if anyone is not showing their true potential.
Additionally, IMSA now has the capability of making calculations and analysis almost in real-time, which Elkins said will help them make decisions during the race itself, by comparing data from testing and practice sessions.
“We’ve done a fair bit of analysis but the one thing we have to keep in mind is the analysis we’ve done for the Roar in how that’s going to compare with some of the performance adjustments we’ve made,” he said.
“But we have a pretty good idea what those effects are going to be. The majority of the stuff we’ve done, we already had data on.”
The rule, which will be in place for the entire TUDOR Championship season, was initiated after Elkins’ observations at last year’s Roar, which arguably saw numerous teams sandbag in fear of being hit with a pre-Rolex 24 BoP adjustment.
“What happened [last year] was that there was no established Adjustment of Performance that was published prior to the test,” he explained. “So kinda like what happened at Le Mans [in 2013], everyone knew that they were going to make a bunch of changes after the test, it encouraged the sandbagging.
“What we tried to do was to publish the AoP, to put out the baseline where everyone would be, and then look at some adjustments from the Roar.
“Coming to the race next year, we’ll have data based on everything, where we’ll be able to lock down the AoP before the Roar and not change anything between the test and the race.
“If everybody does their jobs and everybody stops playing the games, we’ll be able to do that. It’s just the start of a process.”
Elkins wouldn’t reveal if they’ve found any teams already that have broken the rule, although definitive answers would likely only come once the green flag drops on Saturday at 2:10 p.m.