Friday
Mar262010

Stupidity reigns and an opportunity is lost at Sebring.

The Audi team was nowhere to be found at Sebring during the race week for the classic 12 Hour endurance race. Oh, they were in Florida alright - rested and ready, as a matter of fact - as they had tested at Homestead Miami Speedway the previous week. And they were also going to participate in two days of testing at Sebring Monday and Tuesday (the 22nd & 23rd) of this week with Patron-Highcroft Racing, Corvette Racing and the Sebring-winning Peugeot team.

What’s wrong with this picture? Plenty.

Peter M. De Lorenzo is a national columnist who founded Autoextremist.com, a highly-regarded website devoted to news, commentary and analysis of the auto industry. He is considered to be one of the most influential voices commenting on the business today.How is it that the Audi factory team manages to be in Florida with its R15+ machines - prepped and ready to go - but they don’t run the actual 12 Hours of Sebring, one of the most prestigious endurance races in the world? The convoluted explanation is that Audi petitioned the FIA to run their R15+ machines at the ALMS season opener (they were improvements from last year’s cars but technically ineligible) at Sebring because their all-new machines wouldn’t be ready until Le Mans. The FIA agreed, but said that all the participating teams had to agree to allowing Audi the dispensation too. Peugeot, of course, refused to go along with the idea. (Manufacturers involved in racing are traditionally notorious for not wanting a level playing field, preferring to show up where they think they can win while avoiding real competition at all costs. With this move Peugeot lived up to every bad stereotype.)

So on Monday and Tuesday of this week Audi and Peugeot will basically run back-to-back 12 hour “tests” at Sebring against each other - with no fans present - and nothing on the line except data gathering for the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June.

And I find the whole thing to be reprehensible and disgusting.

With racing in crisis all around the world due to relentless self-inflicted stupidity (F1), an economy struggling for air in the U.S. stalling marketing momentum at every turn (ALMS, IndyCar), a clueless, head-in-sand “entitlement” attitude that prevents technical relevance and meaningful forward progress (NASCAR), here was a golden opportunity for everyone involved - Audi, Peugeot, the FIA - to do the right thing and make it happen for the people who deserve it most - the road-racing fans who jam Sebring every spring - and have the best machines run for all the marbles in America’s greatest sports car race.

But noooo. Instead - and like a slap in the face - we have the Peugeot team basically run unopposed (yes, the Aston Martin team gave it a go but who’s kidding whom?) as Audi team members sat on the sidelines and watched. The absurdity of it all defies any shred of logic.

So, while you’re reading this think about the fact that the Peugeot and Audi teams are running against each other in a vacuum and for nothing more than bragging rights in the bar at night. And then think about how absolutely ludicrous it all is.

I’ve said it for years and it needs to be said again: The powers that be in racing, whether they be the sanctioning bodies, the teams, the drivers, or what have you, operate in a parallel universe at times completely and utterly devoid of logic, reason or anything to do with common sense. They seldom make moves that are about what’s best for the overall health of the sport, or heaven forbid, what’s best for the actual paying customers, the fans who make it all go to begin with.

I don’t care what the excuses are that will emerge in defense of this lunacy, it just flat-out stinks, plain and simple.

Stupidity + Political Intransigence = Lost Opportunities. Every time.

And it’s a racing formula that needs to be eradicated if this sport is to survive, let alone thrive.

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