Sunday's joint announcement from the ACO and the new TUDOR United SportsCar Championship regarding an extension of the rules governing P2 and DP through the 2016 season did not come as a total surprise, but it wasn't necessarily the news that everyone was looking for.
Those expecting to see a new, single USCC Prototype platform for 2016 will have to wait at least another year, meaning the blended P2/DP Prototype class will run for a minimum of three seasons before entrants and fans will have a chance to see a new solution introduced to North America. There is also no guarantee the combined P2/DP platform will be changed once 2017 arrives.
RACER spoke with Scot Elkins, USCC's VP of competition and technical regulations, about the reasons behind the extension and some of the other present and future-minded ramifications it could have.
Marshall Pruett: Some owners have expressed their desire to get through this interim P2 and DP phase as quickly as possible and move to a new, single specification. Is the extension rooted in economic concerns or is it in deference to a Prototype paddock that's still a bit jumpy right now?
Scot Elkins: think it boils down to a little bit of both. Frankly, I think it's on both sides; it's definitely on the P2 side. And in the meetings with the ACO, they are not ready to have a new car in '16. So they wanted to keep the stability of the package going another year.
With the [Daytona Prototype] changes we're making – and it's not a secret it's requiring some investment, I think it could probably make sense to allow those guys to have that investment last a little bit longer as well. It truly was a joint decision between us and the ACO to give a little bit of relief to folks.
MP: There are unquestioned merits to extending rules stability, but as you and I have seen in Indy car, you also run the risk of: “these cars are getting a little bit long in the tooth.” They didn't heed that warning sign and suffered for it. Are there any concerns that despite starting a new championship next year, the ‘new' championship will be campaigning the same old prototypes for an extended period?
SE: I don't think so. I think everybody has seen, no matter what racing series it is, people going down the path of doing a new car and then the car not working to solve all the problems. I think that's common sense; we all see that. But I think what's solid for us, again, is the fact that we're making changes, we're requiring investment and I think that type of update helps. Plus, you have the fact that we did the Gen 3 DP cars not that long ago. So you don't want to pile on and pile on.
You want to do stuff that makes sense.
And it also gives us and the ACO and everybody involved the opportunity to have a little more time to think about what the next [rules package] is. I don't think anybody knows what that is yet but I know that it's something that we all want to try to work together on and do the right thing. The longer lead time you have on stuff like that the better off it is.
MP: With GT3 becoming something the USCC is embracing in more of its originally-intended form, do you think embracing a more internationally-recognized prototype rule set is the right way to go for the future, a world standard for P2, P-whatever, or do you think the Grand-Am “Let's make something that works for America” model is one to follow?
SE: It's tough to say which way is going to work. And I think that's why putting it off for another year makes more sense. I've always had, since the merger's been announced, the belief we need to be respectful with our relationships with the ACO, but we also need to make what we're doing in America a priority.
So I don't really have an answer for that because we just decided on this a couple of days ago and there really hasn't been a whole lot of work, a lot of deep work at least, on what the new spec would be. So it's really tough to say that right now, but I think we need to be cognizant of the fact that we're an American racing series.