Roger Edmondson answers fans questions, part I

Roger Edmondson, Grand American President Part 1 of 2 Daytona Prototypes and GT DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (January 16, 2003) -- Grand American President Roger Edmondson gave fans the opportunity to submit questions to him last week on...

Roger Edmondson, Grand American President
Part 1 of 2
Daytona Prototypes and GT

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (January 16, 2003) -- Grand American President Roger Edmondson gave fans the opportunity to submit questions to him last week on GrandAmerican.com and TheRaceSite.com. Sports car fans sent in questions regarding several areas including the new Daytona Prototypes, the upcoming Rolex 24 At Daytona and more. Today, Edmondson answers fans' questions about Grand American Road Racing and its Rolex Sports Car Series and Grand-Am Cup Series.

Daytona Prototypes

Q: I was under the impression that cars had to use mirrors off of a production car. Yet when I look at the Picchio all I see are regular racing mirrors. Did that rule change, or was I mistaken in that part of the rulebook?

The mirror rule was part of the original concept that included tying the headlights and taillights to the brand of the engine supplier. In testing, we found that the location of stock mirrors on the "A" pillar required that the drivers turn their head in order to see both mirrors, particularly the one on the opposite (passenger) side of the car. We prefer they have the ability to keep their eyes on the track and easily monitor their mirrors, therefore, in the interest of safety, we dropped the requirement for production mirrors and allowed for the more traditional fender mounted units.

Q: Just what was the thinking behind creating the DSP class? Why not just eliminate prototypes completely?

Let me answer the second part first. We respect the tradition of a premier class of cars with a higher performance level and appeal than those based upon street legal vehicles. The SCCA and others do a great job of providing road racing activity for a wide variety of street or production based cars. In fact, we do too with our Grand-Am Cup Series. To be the main event at a professional road racing weekend, inclusion of a premier class of cars you can't see in the parking lot is mandatory.

In the formulation of the Daytona Prototypes, we wanted to maintain that premier class status while allowing the sport to live within its means. Those who are not participants may not identify with that statement, but I believe those who write the checks will have full comprehension.

Q: Do you and Dave Watson think there will be adjustments to the engine rules to enhance speeds of the DSP's over the course of the season to create a larger speed differential.

No. Any adjustments will be made to maintain balance, not to increase speeds of the class. As the Daytona Prototypes go through their life span, their teams will constantly develop the cars, with a view towards higher performance. After all, the challenge of every team is to get the most out of the equipment package that the rules allow. Discussions of speed differential, lap times, etc., are not as important to us as margin of victory. Further, we want to be comfortable in the knowledge that our regulations create spectator and participant entertainment. This requires that we provide for participation by several manufacturers, each producing engines that follow their own design ideals and production capabilities. To make this all work, the rules have to balance the various options in a way that allows for an opportunity to be successful to all who take the challenge.

Q: The new Chrysler Hemi is the standard engine in Dodge's new Ram pickups and a very popular engine with North American "Car Guys". Is there a chance that we may see a "modern" Chrysler Hemi in a Daytona prototype?

Yes, there is a chance. Either Daimler-Chrysler, an individual supplier, or a participant need to submit an engine for approval. Dave Watson can provide all the necessary information on how to get this handled.

Q: What is the goal in terms of avg. speeds of Daytona Prototypes? Is the goal for this class to produce similar lap times to the previous SRP cars, or has there been a conscious effort to reduce speeds?

Grand American and the ACO/FIA all decided it was time for a change, including the performance levels of the cars. The European approach was a 10% reduction in the area of their mandated air restrictors for their current cars while they prepare for a whole new generation of cars in 2004. Our approach was to determine the amount of performance we wanted to see as the starting point for a new class of cars and to call out specifications that would bring that result. We also wanted to move away from the air restrictors of the most recent generation and use production based engines. Our goal was a 5% to 10% reduction in performance, measured by lap times, not air or horsepower. Our recently retired SRP cars were capable of turning times in the 1:40 range at Daytona, also known as the "big dyno". To hit our target, the new cars would need to lap in the 1:45 to 1:50 range. Recent testing has shown how close we came. It is clear that we have a great starting point for the development and increased performance that will come.

Q: Can you talk a little about the design concept of the DSP, the direction you went?

We wanted to use a production based engine and a chassis that would be durable, safe, and easy to repair and service. I told our participants that while we would not have a price cap, we would have a technology cap. The truth is that all racing regulations limit technology in some way, including those in F1. To us, the virtues of carbon brakes and tubs did not exceed the downside of their cost, related health problems, and the limited number of people who could actually work with the stuff. Therefore, we went with steel space frames, a technology that is well proven and easily understood by domestic car builders. Just look at the Riley & Scott Mk III or Saleen as two recent examples. We have mandated the use of standard axles, spindles, retainers, and several other parts or pieces that have no effect on the visual or operational capabilities of the cars. However, this standardization now means that a team does not have to own or inventory spares of all these parts, as the approved suppliers must support their use, including trackside service and availability. A further advantage is that interchangeability allows for lower expense, as compared to the hand-made one-offs that were characteristic of the SRP cars. Is there really more sex appeal or inherent advantage between a 7/8" part and a 15/16" one? With one-offs you got those kind of differences without benefit to anyone except the manufacturer, who now had their customer teams captive and subject to their pricing policies for replacement parts.

Q: Why such large greenhouse, why the mandate of the front mounted radiator, etc.?

One of my original instructions was "More GT40, less GTP." I wanted a car with a roof and I wanted it to look like it could accommodate a passenger. As we worked with the safety aspects of the design, we developed specifications that would minimize the potential for the driver to be injured by the safety cage in his own car and also allow us to remove the helmet of an injured driver. Not just a driver, but also a tall driver, like you would expect to see in an American series. Once we were satisfied with the results of our safety cage specifications, form followed function and the rest is there to see.

The front radiator gives us an additional level of impact attenuation at the leading edge of the car. We also require the use of specific side pod attenuators on both sides and an IRL style transmission attenuator at the rear. In and of themselves, they are not the whole story, however, we felt they could be helpful in reducing the effect of certain types of crashes.

Q: Ultimately, how many engine manufacturers would you like to see supporting the Daytona Prototypes? Do you want to limit manufacturer participation or are you, as a sanctioning body, willing to take on all qualified parties?

I would like to see every manufacturer with a normally aspirated street engine feel that there is something here for them. Grand American has never foreclosed factory participation, we have only said we would not create programs that are dependant upon it. It is our view that to reduce the historical peaks and valleys in this sport, we must provide an environment that will allow the professional and private teams an opportunity to be successful. Our regulations do not prohibit manufacturer participation in any way, but they do minimize their abilities to utilize their resources to the disadvantage of the teams who are the mainstays of the program. The Daytona Prototypes give manufacturers a way to be involved while working with the private teams as their representatives. Take a look at the Brumos/Porsche relationship. This type of marriage is healthy and we hope to see more of it.

Q: Once the Daytona Prototype is firmly established, which should be seen in the coming years, might Grand American consider easing the regulations up somewhat to appeal to the traditional sports car fan as well? Perhaps by allowing stressed engines, independent rear wing configuration as opposed to a uniform built by Crawford, or more freedom involving the placement of the radiators and side air extractors?

I don't think I can predict anything specific except to say that it is the nature of our teams to try to find ways to go faster. We are less concerned with faster and more concerned with changes that will improve safety, competition, or team viability (aka cost of racing). If it can be shown that stressed engines, free rear wings, side radiators and air extractors instead of side crash attenuators, will meet our concerns of safety, better competition, or reduced cost, then yes. If not, probably not.

GT

Q: Why the decision to limit the size of the motors eligible for the GT type cars?

I assume you mean GTS cars, as our GT standards are the same as those used by the other major sanctioning bodies, worldwide.

We have announced our intention to ultimately have our two categories of racing become two classes of racing, Daytona Prototypes and GT. Currently we have DP, SRPII, GTS, and GT. Our adoption of the world rules for GT engine sizes, weights, and air restrictors, actually increased the performance of that class within the Grand American mix. The merge of AGT and GTS for '03, combined with the reduction of their engine sizes is part of the move to bring all of the GT equipment together, perhaps as early as '04, but probably not until '05.

Q: If cost containment and good close racing is the business model for Grand American, why not just have a GTS and GT class? Why create a new class and handicap existing cars? These same cars did not need a handicap last year, why the need just because of a new class?

I have answered the question regarding why we continue to offer a prototype category above. As to the handicaps you mention, I have a different view.

In GT, we have adopted the world-standard formula. The only deviation is that the fuel tanks on our GT cars and prototypes are both set at twenty-four gallons. This regulation is in place because the bulk of events in our schedule are two hours and forty-five minutes in length. The twenty-four gallon fuel capacity dictates a two-stop strategy, pending the impact of yellow flags and full course caution periods.

The reduction in engine capacities for the GTS cars is part of the move to one GT class, as outlined above. The GT category cars have their own championships and we do not see them as direct competitors to the Daytona Prototypes, however, I can see how the fans may have this view. At no time, since our inception, have we presented any class as a viable alternative to an overall win, other than our premier class. Obviously, as we saw in the Rolex 24 events in 2000 and 2001, it can happen, but it is not a hope we plant or nurture with our teams.

Q: Many people are worried that you will slow the GTS class cars down if they are to close in lap times to the Daytona's, is this the case?

No. Our AGT cars, in prior years, were frequently faster on the straights than our prototypes. While some of our GTS cars may cut an occasional hot lap approaching the best prototype times, they don't race in that range. Future adjustments in GTS performance will come as part of their merge into oneness with GT.

Part II

-garra-

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