How American racing’s biggest rivalry has gone global in the WEC

OPINION: There has been plenty of excitement for the new era of sports car racing, with an influx of manufacturers fueling interest in the World Endurance Championship. And it also brought a new dimension to the rivalry between two of the top US racing teams

Sports are based on rivalries. Think Liverpool vs Manchester United. Federer vs Nadal. Senna vs. Prost.

In motorsport, it is more difficult to single out defining rivalries between teams given the ever-changing competitive landscape. But that’s not the case in the US, where the battle for supremacy between two of IndyCar’s most successful businesses has taken on a new dimension in an entirely different arena this year.

Team Penske and Chip Ganassi Racing have been the dominant forces for the past 30-plus years. It’s been over a decade since anyone else won the IndyCar title. Ganassi’s tally since overtaking Jimmy Vasser in 1996 is now 14 championships, but he could soon equal Roger Penske with 15 if, as seems likely, Alex Palou maintains his huge lead over Josef Newgarden in the final three matches.

And since 2000, when Ganassi first won the IndyCar showpiece race, he’s been plenty even in the Indianapolis 500 wins stakes. Chip’s team has five, with Penske adding nine wins at the Brickyard to its pre-millennium tally for a total of 19. That’s right, this year’s race was a showdown between the two teams, with Newgarden beating Ganassi’s Marcus Ericsson .

And now the competition is now on three fronts as they combine the World Endurance Championship with the North American IMSA SportsCar Championship, each with their majestic manufacturer partners drawn back into the top class of sports car racing with the cost-effective LMDh ruleset. Ganassi partnered with Cadillac to run two V-Series.Rs under the Cadillac Racing banner, one in each series, while Penske Porsche Motorsport runs four factory 963s split evenly between the two.

“Did we design it that way? No!” laughs Ganassi CEO Mike Hull. “We’re not asking each other what we’re going to do next, we just happen to be in the same location at the same time, so we’ll be compared to them, they’ll be compared to us. “

Ganassi and Penske have been the premier teams in US open-wheel racing for the past 30 years, with the two teams winning every IndyCar title in the past decade

Photo: Jake Galstad / Motorsport Images

That’s only natural, admits PPM chief executive Jonathan Diuguid, who worked in IndyCar as recently as 2021 as Scott McLaughlin’s race engineer.

“We always have a fixed point of reference [in Ganassi]”, says. “If we don’t perform, we have no one to look in the mirror but ourselves. Having Ganassi there to say, “this is a team that can do it, so why can’t we?” – this is important. They are the team we always compete with for wins and championships.”

Each side of the divide derives great satisfaction when it’s their turn to come out on top. Both recognize the benefits of competition in pushing their respective organizations forward, the relentless nature of competition breeding a mutual distaste for complacency that Diuguid says “pushes us all to be better.”

For Hull, it is “a compliment” to be compared to Penske, who has tried over the years “to be considered in the same sentence”. But he’s equally wary of letting it become an all-consuming distraction because “we don’t want to hinder ourselves in the process of understanding how to make the most of today.”

“It’s a good fit for both of us to have open, healthy conversations about balancing the two technical platforms. There’s healthy open communication to say, ‘Hey, how do you guys feel about it, how do you feel about the balance?'” Jonathan Duguid

“It’s enjoyable, but at the same time, you don’t want it to swallow you,” says Hull. “It’s more about what we achieve every day. And I’m sure they see it the same way.

“They’re not thinking about beating Ganassi, they’re thinking about ways to be the best they can be to win today, whether today is Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or the weekend of the race. And that’s what they’re doing.”

This is a new era for a rivalry that Diuguid describes as “a healthy rivalry, but it’s also respectful.” Both have distinguished records in sports cars, but have only spent one season playing in the same pit together.

Penske’s LMP2 arm cleaned up in the American Le Mans series with Porsche’s RS Spyder between 2006 and 2008, but only faced Ganassi’s multiple Grand-Am championships in 2009, when Bob Stallings Racing beat them both to the finish. Penske waited until 2018 before returning to sports cars with Acura’s DPi project, so Ganassi was running a Ford GT in the GTLM class and thus was never in the same race. Penske won IMSA titles in 2019 and 2020, then left at the end of that year as Ganassi made his return to the top class with Cadillac in 2021.

Penske and Ganassi have raced sports cars together before, but only in the same class during the 2009 Grand-Am season

Photo by: Scott R LePage / Motorsport Images

This year Penske won twice in IMSA (denied a third at Watkins Glen by a skidplank violation), Ganassi once, but the going was tougher in the WEC with a third of the best results. for Penske in Portugal and Ganassi in Le Mans. The situation here is complicated by the Balance of Performance, more specifically the competing technical platforms that the rule makers, the FIA ​​and the Automobile Club de l’Ouest have to equalize.

Cars built to Le Mans Hypercars regulations have so far taken the wins and as sole members of the LMDh club in the WEC – which will grow to five members in 2024 when BMW, Alpine and Lamborghini enter the fray – the two heavyweights US heavyweights have found common ground as they try to optimize their platform. Both are clear that the battle for the price of the best LMDh manufacturer is not enough.

“We are there to win and succeed,” says Diuguid. “Porsche and Cadillac have invested heavily in both the LMDh platform and our programs, so it is very important that it succeeds for both of us and we are all pushing hard.

“It suits both of us to have open, healthy conversations about balancing the two technical platforms. There’s healthy open communication to say, ‘Hey, how do you see it, how do you feel the balance is,’ and we can have a common and consistent feedback to sanctioning bodies that benefits the series as a whole.”

The unexpected partnership extends beyond lobbying. As both are setting up new facilities in Germany at the same time, hands-on help is not off the table. Diuguid adds: “We try to help each other when we’re in difficult situations, whether it’s composites or glue or whatever else we need at the time.

But that can only last for so long given the depth of the competition, while the steep learning curve both are on with the new breed of LMDh machines will eventually even out. The added complexity due to the hybrid element, as Hull puts it, “requires extra thinkers” to unlock the potential, and the two teams have rotated personnel between their respective programs, but Diuguid acknowledges there is light at the end of the tunnel.

He is part of a senior leadership structure of four linked to both PPM projects, which he believes are important to make better use of “multiple intersections.”

“It is very important for us to maximize the four cars that are running around the world, because the technical specifications are very close, because [Michelin] The tires are the same,” he says. “Whenever one of these cars runs, we can learn something.”

Diuguid oversees both the WEC and IMSA arms of Porsche Penske Motorsport and knows that whenever a car runs in both series, he could provide crucial information to help his battle against Ganassi

Photo: Porsche

As a result, every weekend counts, and so for Diuguid the intensity of the competition and the desire to come out on top is not lessened by having more actors around the table and BoP being involved. This remains the big elephant in the room, with manufacturers prohibited by regulations from talking about it explicitly.

Even if the race isn’t as straightforward as in IndyCar, where each shares the same basic Dallara chassis and is differentiated only by the choice of engine partner (Honda for Ganassi, Chevrolet for Penske), both sides recognize there’s no excuse to access the best potential of the respective packages.

“Regardless of the BoP or where you are in a given weekend, it’s up to the racing teams to execute,” says Diuguid, “and I think that’s the only consistency we can expect from our team and also from Ganassi.”

In a way, it’s only fitting that two of America’s finest outfits are on hand to put on what has seen all the makings of the best sports car racing spectacle in years. “This is the tip of the iceberg for the next few years,” Hull says. Much more for the participation of the two rivals.

As the only two factory LMDh teams in the 2023 WEC, the rivalry and respect between Ganassi and Penske grows stronger

Photo: Marc Fleury

#American #racings #biggest #rivalry #global #WEC

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *