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Rivals Say BMW Too Powerful In Grand-Am

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, August 2 2013

Team owner Michael Shank won at the Rolex 24 in 2012. This year, he is worried about just being competitive in his Ford Rileys.

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – On Thursday, the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series sent out a media release about the new BMW Daytona Prototype engine that made it’s debut in the Brickard Grand Prix in Indianapolis last weekend.

The release was upbeat and positive. The mood among several of the teams that are competing against the BMWs is anything but upbeat and positive this week. On the contrary; several are claiming foul and are urging series officials to step in and act.

Michael Shank, owner of Michael Shank Racing, is one of the claimants.

During a stop at Kansas Speedway – site of this month’s Grand-Am series debut at the track’s new infield road course – Shank told RacinToday.com about his displeasure with the situation.

Shank, who fields two full-time Ford-powered Riley DPs, made it clear that his problem is not with the teams using BMW engines – Chip Ganassi Racing and Starworks Motorsports. It is with the series which gave the OK to use the engines.

“They (series officials) allowed a whole new motor, what I call the baby BMW, the little BMW, and they allowed that to happen,” Shank said. “Not only did they allow that to happen, but they allowed the motor to come in way too strong. They didn’t get the BoP (balance of performance) correct on it.”

At the Brickyard, the new BMW engines appeared to be the most powerful on the track. The Starworks car of drivers Alex Popow and Ryan Dalziel won the race using the new engine. The Ganassi car of Memo Rojas and Scott Pruett finished second.

The victory came in the first race in which Starworks used the BMW after switching over from Ford. After taking the checkered flag at the Brickyard, Dalziel said, ‘I don’t know if I should kiss everybody or kiss the bricks first.”

Shank and other non-BMW users think Dalziel should kiss Grand-Am officials.

“We all make mistakes,” Shank said, referring to the series. “But it just seems like the wrong time to make a mistake right now. We don’t need that to slow us down.”

The new BMW is a 4.5-liter Dinan-built M3-based powerplant. It replaces the larger 5-liter M-5 based engine – the engine that won last year’s series championship for the No. 01 Ganassi team of Pruett and Rojas.

Engine-builder Steve Dinan talked about the new BMW this week, saying, “Grand-Am does a good job of balancing things out. We weren’t really worried about power. The reason it’s 4.5 liters is that the block is shorter, and there’s not enough room to stroke it to 5 liters – the parts wouldn’t physically fit inside the engine. We might have made it 4.7, but GRAND-AM gives you a sixth speed (in the gearbox) if you’re 4.5, and we decided the 200 extra ccs might not be as much as the extra gear.”

Pruett said this week, “BMW is committed to excellence and won’t bring anything to the track without it being fully tested and prepared, and put in hours and hours of durability testing and development. The new engine ran exceptionally well at Indy. Finally, we feel we’re competitive with the other engine manufacturers.”

Competing cars say the old engine was more than simply competitive. They point to the fact that Pruett and Rojas won last year’s championship with it.

The Ganassi team was quite vocal for much of the 2012 season, saying their cars were at a disadvantage. They asked for help from the series, much the way Shank is asking for help now.

BMW got its help.

Max Angelelli, who drives a Chevrolet Corvette for Wayne Taylor Racing, said that the Ganassi team is very adept at playing games with rule makers.

“They play very good strategies,” Angelelli said this week. “They sandbag it. They plead to Grand-Am for more power because they don’t have enough. And then when they mean to use it (the power), they use it. I think before the race they say, ‘Should we win this race or not? Or should we just finish second.’ They use the least amount of power just to complete the task. But when it’s time to use the full power, they have it.”

Shank indicated that the numbers which BMW submitted to the series were off.

“They (BMW teams) just flat got more of everything. They got a six-speed, they got 8,200 RPM. The motor’s a little smaller in displacement but whatever data they (Grand-Am officials) gather from BMW, it was incorrect.”

Shank made it clear that he does not want additional power for his Ford engines. He wants a rollback of the BMW power.

“Relief should come in the form of pullback, not keep giving,” he said. “Keep giving and you keep taking steps and then we’re outside of where they want us to be. Everything just escalates from there.”

Shank said that Starworks’ decision to move to BMW this summer was a result of a desire to remain competitive.

“Ford is in the worst place of all,” Shank said. “Peter Baron (owner of Starworks) just left Ford and went to BMW and won the race. So, Ford is in the weakest position, without question. They (the series officials) have BoP problems and they need to get it right.”

Asked if he might have to switch engine makers if relief is not forthcoming, Shank said perhaps.

He also said that worse things could happen if Grand-Am does not keep a closer eye on BoP issues.

“We got some bad decisions made here, but I don’t think it is an epic problem,” Shank said. “It is not a problem we can’t come back from. But if they inherently change the way we do business, we will fail. When a guy like me, who starts with nothing, and can come and compete for wins on a weekly basis, then we’re going to be just fine. But if you make this series to where people can’t afford it or can’t be competitive for financial reasons, you’ve killed us.

“And they know it. Jim France created this series for guys like me, so that everybody has a shot to win at a top-level series. And the minute we lose that, we lose everything.”

The non-BMW teams were hoping relief would be granted before the series moves to the big, high-speed road course at Road America next weekend. As of this writing, no moves have been announced by the series.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, August 2 2013
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