World Racing League Kicks Off Series in Texas With Inaugural Event.
Story Courtesy of Tobey Taylor
The World Racing League (WRL) was founded in November of 2013 by Joey Todd. Joey is the track manager at Texas World Speedway, as well as the former Central Regional Director for ChumpCar. The WRL seems to be the next obvious evolution of the ever-more-popular budget endurance racing series. First, it is a “no contact” series. Second, it uses a classing structure so that less powerful and less heavily modified cars can still compete for a victory. The classing structure also allows for cars to cross over from NASA, SCCA, ChumpCar, PCA, LeMons, etc. And third, all drivers must have at least HPDE experience before being able to race.
But how does it compare to ChumpCar and LeMons? That is the burning question everyone wants to know, and the question I will try and answer. But since I’ve never raced with LeMons, a partial answer is all I can give.
Before we get to the WRL experience, you are probably wondering who I am. I am the team captain for the Nismorons. We started competing in ChumpCar in 2011 with a 1992 Nissan 240sx. We have entered 11 ChumpCar events so far, finishing most of them, collecting a pair of trophies along the way. And for race weekend #12, we decided to give the WRL a go.
The inaugural WRL race weekend happened at Motorsports Ranch Houston on March 22-23. The twin 8-hour races were billed as “Eights to Open. Trips to Win.” Almost every event we have entered over the last 3 years was organized and directed by Joey Todd, the WRL founder. All those events were well organized and efficiently run, so we all had high expectations for this event. And those expectations were met.
Let’s start from the very beginning of the WRL experience, registration. The WRL utilizes an existing online system for registration and payment, DLBRacing.com. Many organizations use this website for various event registrations, from autocrossing to ice racing. While it is easy to use, the primary advantage of this system is that it answers perhaps the two most common questions leading up to a ChumpCar race: How many cars are registered and what kind of cars are they? The DLBRacing system displays all the entrants for the event, along with their number and the type of car.
As cars started rolling in Friday for practice time, and lining up for tech inspection, one thing became clear: This first race brought out all the regional big dogs. We recognized most of the cars as fellow ChumpCar competitors. And these were the “serious racers” that sometimes get disparaged in the world of budget endurance racing. You can count my team in that category too; we believe you can be serious about it and still have fun. In the end, there were 18 cars from ChumpCar, 3 from LeMons, 3 from SCCA or NASA, 1 vintage, and 1 new team. There were no complete rookie drivers, though.
Part of the WRL tech inspection process is weighing the cars. The weight figures into the classing structure. The first hiccup of the weekend happened when the ramps for the scales were not delivered in time. Therefore, competitors had to jack their cars up to slide the scales under the wheels. But with several volunteers helping, and multiple jacks in use, the process still went fairly smoothly. The weight is written on the class decal, which is then placed on the back of the car.
The other part of the classing structure is the car’s stock horsepower and all the engine, drivetrain, suspension, and other performance modifications. Teams are required to fill out a tech inspection form listing all modifications to the car. When the race is over, all podium finishers are impounded, and this tech form is required to be available with the car for examination. The tech inspectors used this information, plus the weight of the car, to class the car in Unlimited, GP1, GP2, or GP3. As with any subjective process, this classing process is subject to some disagreement. To Joey’s credit, he admitted that it is somewhat a work in progress, and that some of the decisions would be revisited after a race or two.
In the drivers’ meeting Saturday morning, Joey stressed the “no contact” part of the series, promising that all cars involved would be black flagged, no matter who might be at fault. This policy is obviously different from ChumpCar, where minor contact often goes unpunished.
The WRL has 2 other major differences from ChumpCar in how the race is run. First, pit stops have no minimum time limit, even if you take fuel. The other fueling rules are essentially the same as ChumpCar. Second, the WRL has no maximum time limit on the driver stints.
Based on our one-race experience, these 2 rules really opened up the team strategy discussions. Teams were able to do a “splash and go” late in the race, without a mandatory 5-minute stop. We saw fast drivers stay out for 3-4 hours to start the race, trying to build a big lead. It also made our team re-visit the pit road service on the car, as things like tire pressures and window cleaning suddenly took on less importance.
So, how did all these rules affect the actual racing? I can’t speak for every driver from every team, but from my driver’s seat, it was the closest, most competitive, cleanest racing I’ve ever experienced. Over the 2 days, we completed nearly 1050 miles of racing, and had not a single new mark on our car.
What about the no contact rule? On Saturday, the 3rd and 4th place teams were black flagged for contact. In total, there were 4 black flag events on Saturday, with 2 drivers being removed from their cars to think about the “no contact” rule. On Sunday, the 1st and 2nd place teams were black flagged for contact. After that, no more black flags were issued on Sunday, even though the last 1.5 hours were run in the rain. So yes, that rule was enforced as it is written, and was taken seriously by the competitors.
What about the classes? Well, that’s a tougher one to answer. For one reason, there was only one team running Unlimited. And only one team showed up for GP3, although a GP2 agreed to add weight and reclass to GP3. That left GP1 with 10 cars and GP2 with 13 cars.
On Sunday in GP1, the top 3 cars finished on the same lap, with fourth place only one lap down. This type of finish is exactly what was envisioned when the WRL was formed.
But in GP2, the first-place car was 7 laps up on second and third, who finished on the same lap. It was another 12 laps down to fourth place and 4 more laps to fifth. Other than second and third, not exactly close finishes. (Disclosure: that second-place team was my team. For us, it was a very close race that had us pounding the calculators from the halfway point, trying to figure out if the other car needed more fuel, how long a splash and go would take them, or what kind of laps he could run while stretching his fuel, all while we were nursing a bad clutch. In the end, the rain threw all those what-ifs and clutch worries out the window. But it was still a lot of fun.)
Also, in the overall results, the finishing order looked nothing like the classing structure would have you expect. But you also have to remember that racing on street tires is a big equalizer. Additionally, the length of the race could have played to the advantage of some of the lower horsepower cars by requiring fewer fuel stops. And, as always, driver skill and team preparation play a huge role in the overall finishing order.
It seemed that the classing structure worked pretty well for the first ever event. But the jury is certainly still out on what needs tweaked to make it a long-term success.
The weekend of racing was well run and well organized, something we’ve come to expect from Joey Todd over the years. This next evolution of budget endurance racing as represented by the WRL shows great promise. We will definitely run with the WRL again in the future, although our next race will be with ChumpCar. We want to see how the competition is in the CCWS under its new rule structure.
|Eights to Open, Trips to Win|
|Saturday March 22, 2014||Format: 8 hour endurance||Laps||Best|
|3rd||194||Shakey Dog Racing||Mustang||203||1:54.2|
|Sunday March 23, 2014||Format: 8 hour endurance||Laps||Best|
|GP1||1st||194||Shakey Dog Racing||Mustang||218||1:53.2|