Well, I have held out long enough, but I feel now is the time to give my take on the TUDOR United Sports Car Championship. It is now mid January. The start of the 2015 sports car racing season is upon us. The TUDOR Rolex 24 hours of Daytona has already taken place, and yet still nobody knows exactly what will happen this year. If last year was any indication it could be yet another tumultuous year.
First of all last year was full of ups and downs, hits and misses, elation then disappointment for a lot of teams. I don’t think I’ve ever seen any one series where at some point just about every participant was mad to the boiling point. Everybody from drivers to car owners, team members, mechanics, and even series officials. All at one point in time were very upset with the series in general. The constant changes in rules, balance of performance, and competition rules just seemed to be a bit daunting for a lot of them. Especially considering that a lot of them were introduced very close to race dates, not giving teams enough time to really prepare or adjust the cars for the pending changes.
Going forward in 2015 it’s hard to ignore the many changes that occurred in the off-season. Entire teams that have left to go on to other things or a series. No one is sure how many sponsors will still back the programs they currently do, or will discontinue the programs altogether. All of these issues have resulted in reduced car fields starting off this year, and a fair amount of uncertainty for some. While a lot of teams have been very politically correct about what exactly are their reasons for not competing in this year’s series, it’s hard to ignore what has already taken place.
Dodge wins the GTLM championship and then pulls the plug on the program. Stalwarts of the IMSA and American Le Mans series Flying Lizard after 10 years have decided to move to another series altogether, and participate in only a couple of races. Extreme Speed Motorsports who carried the series sponsorship for several years have decided only to compete in the World Endurance Championship races. With the now disbanded Pickett Racing, and Dyson racing having left last year, I can’t help but believe that balance of performance issues have made a lot of the teams (particularly the P2 teams) feel as if they’ve been a bit hamstrung in comparison to the Daytona prototype cars.
Weather they want to admit it or not, the powers that be at TUDOR are eventually going to have to address these, and whatever problems are causing teams and drivers who would just assume be in the series move on to others. We as sports car racing fans can only hope that decisions made going forward, will serve to solve current problems, bring back some who have left, create an environment that encourages new teams to feel they can compete, and help grow and the sport.
It seems that with every passing week we receive more sad and disappointing news from the TUDOR United Sports Car Challenge.
For ten years from 2004 to 2014 Flying Lizard Motorsports has been a constant presence in IMSA GT racing. First with Porsche and now Audi, the red and silver colors have provided many exciting moments for both the team and race fans through the years. Off the top of my head I can recall one epic battle between Flying Lizard and Team Corvette at Mid Ohio.
It now seems to see the Lizard colors in the future you will have to attend Pirelli World Challenge events.
Not having access to the inner workings of TUSC, I would think all this recent activity would have alarm bells ringing. Teams have always come and gone, mostly due to financial reasons. I am not sure if this is the case in more than a couple of instances this year. As of now no team has come out and admitted their reason for moving has anything to do with how the series is run, but that’s just common sense. No reason to burn bridges, things may turn around and make it worth returning to the series.
However it does signal that are more serious underlying issues involved, issues that may have made some just as soon not be there until they are resolved. We can only hope this tide does not continue.
As I write this, my thoughts go back to this past Sunday. I decided to take some time and clear a bunch of old and useless email from one of my accounts. While doing so, I ran across a very complimentary email from Jim Marony from a few years back. I read it, smiled, and said to myself yeah, I’ll keep this one.
It was midway through the morning of the next day while at work that I received the text of Jim’s tragic accident. I’m not sure what others do, but in situations like this my head becomes flooded with memories of the times I shared with the person who has passed. In thinking of jim I was quickly struck by the thought that it was hard to remember a time I hadn’t seen him with a smile on his face.
I have read of Jim’s many accomplishments in aviation both in the military and civilian life. I’m pretty sure this list of people who have done the same or more is a very short one. I only got to see Jim a few times a year, but he would always take time to chat and share a laugh. The last time I talked to him was at Waukegan. I was explaining a shot I had of him taking off through the smoke from Paul Stender’s jet school bus. He was laughing when I told him it looked like his Chipmunk had caused all the smoke.
As photographer you attend many airshows, and see many performers. Many fly the same or similar aircraft. While all are talented, some really stand out from others who fly the same plane. Jim caught my eye the first time I saw him do the outside Waldo Pepper loop. I’m not sure if any other performers had this maneuver in their shows, but it was the first time I had seen it. However that was not quite enough for Jim. I think it was at the Quad City Airshow that I first saw him open the canopy and stand up in the plane while still in flight. I can still hear at first the gasp at the start, then cheers upon completion of the maneuver.
I feel lucky to have known such great person and talented performer. I feel good that our last conversation had made him smile and laugh, but I know that feeling of sadness and of something missing will hit next time I’m at an airshow without him performing. So take a bow my friend, you will be missed by so many.