A dispute over Balance of Performance settings for the championship-winning K-PAX Racing team forced the programme to park its pair of McLaren 650S GT3s and withdraw from the weekend’s Pirelli World Challenge series event at Miller Motorsports Park.
With a number of turbocharged cars like the McLaren competing in the PWC’s GT class, the series’ technical department makes routine BoP adjustments to the maximum amount of turbo boost each model can use at its races.
And with MMP’s high elevation in mind, PWC made an altitude-related boost adjustment for the McLaren that, according to the team, cannot be achieved and would push the 650S GT3’s 3.8-liter twin-turbo V8 outside of its established performance capabilities.
“It’s not a matter of blowing up engines; it’s a case of how this McLaren 650S GT3 car is homologated and how the different racing series apply BoP adjustments for altitude,” K-PAX Racing with Flying Lizard Motorsports team manager Darren Law told Marshall Pruett.
PWC uses the metric measurement standard of millibars to quantify the boost limits for each turbocharged car, and as Law details, the McLaren 650S GT3 has been asked to run a reduced millibar figure they cannot achieve.
In general terms, turbocharged engines hold an advantage over naturally-aspirated (NA) engines at high altitude due to the thin air. With turbochargers compressing air before it’s fed to the engine, more oxygen reaches the combustion chamber. The disparity in power between a turbo and NA engines at high altitudes is greatest at high revs, which leads a series like PWC (or IMSA) to create BoP tables for turbo cars that reduce boost in the upper rev ranges.
Barring a change to smaller, non-homologated turbos, wastegates, exhausts, and new engine mapping to meet the lower boost range for MMP, the team and McLaren were left with a situation they felt was untenable. With their cars exceeding the boost limits set for MMP, and the inability to comply using the homologated components installed on their cars, continuing at the event was no longer an option.
“The issue is that the millibar spec that the series is asking us to run at is something we cannot get to,” Law continued. “We can’t reach that number. If we were to race at that number, we would be illegal – outside of the accepted regulations, and neither K-PAX or Flying Lizard will run a car that’s illegal. We’ve been given no choice but to withdraw from the event.”
Following the team’s surprising departure from MMP, Law was unable to confirm the team’s continued participation in the 2015 PWC championship.
“We haven’t decided if we’re going to run the last two races, but we’re considering it,” he said.
With McLaren driver Kevin Estre holding fourth in the hotly contested drivers’ championship, and the British supercar marque a fighting third in the Manufacturer’s standings, the decision to withdraw from MMP wasn’t easy.
“This is 100 percent what we do not want to do, but we are forced to do,” Law explained. “We’ve had a phenomenal year together after taking over the program for K-PAX, and Kevin Estre and Robert Thorne have had podiums, we’ve had wins, and this will have a big impact on both championships, but we have no choice.”
“I am a big fan of this series and have been racing here since 2007,” said K-PAX Racing Team Owner Jim Haughey. “We have won multiple championships in Pirelli World Challenge and it is a very unfortunate situation that we find ourselves in.”
K-PAX Racing won the final Round of the 2014 season at Miller Motorsport Park and the team had high hopes of returning to defend that hard-earned win with their new cars and new united team efforts with Flying Lizard Motorsports.
“McLaren GT have been concerned about the boost correction methods used in Pirelli World Challenge,” said Andrew Kirkaldy, Managing Director of McLaren GT. “This has been communicated to the series and we have asked for changes prior to Miller. When the Miller BOP was released, it was clear that we could not achieve the boost levels and we have been in almost daily contact with our technical staff and Pirelli World Challenge personnel to try and find a solution for K-PAX Racing with Flying Lizard Motorsports to race. Unfortunately despite our best efforts we could not find a solution that was acceptable to Pirelli World Challenge.”
“These are FIA-homologated McLaren 650S GT3 race cars that can be used in competition all over the world including Europe, Asia and Australia, it is an amazing platform for a racing series” said Jim Haughey. We take great pride in always putting technically compliant race cars on track and we are sorry to say we are forced to withdraw.”
DSC believes there have been further discussions between team, manufacturer and Series senior management with discussion and solution allegedly offered but not reportedly delivered.
PWC Competition Director Marcus Haselgrove provided an official response to the matter:
To all Pirelli World Challenge teams, drivers and partners,
We want you to be aware of the sequence of events leading to the McLaren KPAX Flying Lizard team electing to withdraw from rounds 16 and 17 at Miller Motorsports Park.
In summary, the 2015 Rule book issued in January of 2015 carries forward a modified version of the 2014 boost altitude adjustment for all forced induction cars. Those teams include Cadillac, Bentley, Acura,Nissan and McLaren. All teams but McLaren were able to work though the technical issues related to compliance with the Jan 2015 altitude adjustment parameters.
Timeline of events:
• 2015 Rule Book released January 22, including new altitude adjustment parameters
• August 6th, BoP process document V.10 issued to all teams and manufacturers noting that there is a required three week time frame for requested Appendix A changes.
• August 12th, McLaren requested Appendix A changes for boost tolerance of 59 millibar
• August 18th, the Series responded with a 30 millibar tolerance to align the Series with internationally accepted standards
• August 20th, After test sessions at the PWC Miller Motorsports Park event it was shown that the McLaren was over 100 Millibars in excess of the Jan 2015 altitude adjustment parameters.
• August 21st, after the official practice session McLaren/KPAX/Flying emailed the series requesting us to allow them to run over 100 millibars extra while adding an undetermined, and untested amount of weight their cars.
The Series did not receive an Appendix A change request for this change and if it had it would not have been received within the three weeks mandated by the change procedure, therefore the Series could not respond outside of the guidelines for changes to the appendix A.
We appreciate the effort made by McLaren, KPAX and Flying Lizard to comply with the Series rulebook.
GG & Marshall Pruett