Like death and taxes, the boom and bust cycle of manufacturer-backed motor racing will always be with us. Fickle cars makers love to come, go and come back again – when it best suits them. And it’s not just Honda in Formula 1.
Sports car racing has endured more than its fair share of booms and busts over the decades. The latest major player to pull the plug is the biggest of them all when it comes to endurance motor sport. Pressures wrought by the coronavirus have pushed Porsche into a withdrawal of its GTLM team in the US IMSA series, diluting the strength of a fine championship that has arguably been as strong, and certainly more competitive than, the World Endurance Championship in recent seasons.
But even as Porsche Motorsport head Fritz Enzinger broke the bad news back in June, he left a ray of hope that the inevitable return – and it is inevitable when we’re talking about Porsche – won’t be too far away. “We will work hard to ensure that this is only a temporary Auf Wiedersehen,” he said.
The long tail of the pandemic is bound to have a nasty sting for racing, all around the globe. But IMSA will recover from the blow, largely because sports car racing has strong roots in the US and the series remains well regarded internationally. Also when factory teams withdraw, privateers are often poised to fill the void. Already there’s talk that the German Proton Competition team will run the (now) ex-works 911 RSR-19s next year.
Porsche bowed out in style last weekend at the Sebring 12 Hours, delayed from its traditional March date, as British GT superstar Nick Tandy, Fred Makowiecki and Earl Bamber headed a team 1-2 in the class. IMSA, like other race promoters around the world, worked wonders to even run a series this year, hosting a total of nine events at tracks such as Road Atlanta and Laguna Seca, long after the pre-COVID Daytona 24 Hours last January. This is a robust organisation, supported by resilient racing teams. It will thrive again.
As for Tandy, who was also part of the winning crew at the Spa 24 Hours in October, there’s a rumour he might be lined up to switch from Porsche to Corvette’s factory squad in 2021. Racing drivers, like teams and race organisations, tend to bounce when they get dropped.