In this two-part interview, we talked with championship-winner racer Guy Cosmo.
Guy Cosmo is a champion of karting, Formula Ford, Formula 2000 and Star Mazda, paving a path filled with trophies and checkered flags before moving up to the pinnacle of North American sports car racing.
He's a winner at the ALMS LMP2 level and a 25 Hours of Thunderhill victor. 2013 was one of his most successful seasons to date, yet he went into 2014 with no full-time racing prospects on the table. I had a lengthy discussion with Guy and we discussed plethora of topics, which will all be tackled in this two-part interview.
There are a few outstanding anomalies in there that are still improperly ranked, which has a huge impact on some drivers.
Guy Cosmo on current driver ranking system
In Part One, we're talking driver rankings. I could give you a rundown of it myself, but I think Guy put it best and highlighted all the flaws in the current system, which are contributing to the growing list of professional racers left on the sidelines, including Cosmo. He also goes even deeper into the issue as many others have simply scratched the surface. Guy not along in those standing up and pointing out the flaws in the current system either...
It's been improved, but it's still not quite right
"IMSA and the FIA ... Mostly the FIA now, they are making an effort to clean up the whole driver ranking situation and I think they've made a lot of improvements with getting drivers the appropriate rankings for where myself and my peers feel they should be ranked."
A lot of guys who have worked hard for so many years to gain experience and develop credibility, it's now essentially working against them. I'm 'too qualified' for a number of positions out there ... It's frustrating
Guy Cosmo on flaw in current system
"But, there are a few outstanding anomalies in there that are still improperly ranked, which has a huge impact on some drivers. For some, it's really helping them and others where it's really working against them. I'm a believer that the class structure needs to be in place the way it is to accommodate gentlemen drivers, but I still feel they don't have the format quite right."
Being punished for being a professional?
"This whole situation ... You can't say it's directly kept me out of a racing seat, but it has absolutely eliminated a large percentage of the seats that I would normally be available for. I'm ranked Gold, which means I'm ruled out for a number of seats where in years past, I was eligible to vy for so it is definitey eliminating opportunities."
"A lot of guys who have worked hard for so many years to gain experience and develop credibility and become recognized as an experienced professional in this market is now essentially working against them, including myself. I'm 'too qualified' for a number of positions out there ... It's frustrating and I'm not saying that the format is wrong, but it's unfortunate that the sport has evolved to this stage where there is no true sustainability for teams in North American sports car racing."
'There's no business model'
"There's no business model for teams at this level. This is a series where everything has evolved to cater the fact that the only way many teams in IMSA can survive is if gentlemen drivers pay to race. That's not a new concept, but it's a larger percentage of gentlemen drivers needed and it's so much larger than it used to be. In my opinion, that's because there's no sustainability. Visibility and sponsorship is at a minimum for what the series can provide. Teams are unable to go out and sell sponsorship deals and get partners on board and offer something significant in return for their supporters."
I've invested 11 years of my professional career to North American sports car racing. What I've now gotten in return is so much less of an opportunity to provide my services because of this ranking system.
"By simply entering the Rolex 24, no one gets a prize payout, as far as I know. There's no incentive for teams to be there and if they don't find these gentlemen drivers or any kind of driver that can just bring the money ... The teams have nothing to sell and the teams are not in a position to hire drivers and get back to what we all thought this was supposed to be about which was going racing and trying to win. That's the biggest problem for me as a driver. If I could bring money with me, I'd have a much better shot at landing a seat but the problem is still that my ranking keeps me out of a large percentage of available seats."
Being ranked Silver is better than being ranked Gold
"It's a tough situation for everybody and I think they should do everything they can to accomodate the gentlemen drivers so they have a fair shot at achieving success, but at the same time, I've invested 11 years of my professional career to North American sports car racing. What I've now gotten in return is so much less of an opportunity to provide my services because of this ranking system.
"I'm a professional driver, I should be ranked Gold, but there's so much less use for a Gold driver, that it's not a rewarding position to be in for those who have worked really hard to get to this point. And it's providing opportunities for guys who have not been actively racing for a while and aren't recognized as top level, yet being ranked lower is giving them all this opportunities because teams are trying to get around the current situation. They're going to look for the best-ranked silver they can find."
"So for drivers like myself, where's my reward for dedicating 11 years of my career to this level?"
Thankfully, IMSA is looking into the current situation and working towards improving it. That's a very prudent decision because as Guy said, "It's got to be addressed, otherwise, they are going to have no one left."