Thursday 16 June 2016

24 Hours of Le Mans 2016 - Driver categories

Nowadays we hear a lot about the various FIA driver categories. Particularly here at Le Mans where the speed differentials are huge and overtaking so critical driving standards are always in the spot light. Our statistical guru Paul Trusswell (take a look at his highly informative blog) has calculated that last year’s winning car made over 1,000 overtaking moves during the race. In total there were around 25,000 moves where one car passed another. This year The ACO has now added six more cars. OK this does sound many but the front running LMP1 cars will now need to make 200 more overtaking manoeuvres than last year. Plus the whole field will be making an additional 1,000 overtaking moves! Wow ! So driver safety and safety standards in general have to be taken seriously so the categorisation of drivers is obviously important. , but how are these categories established?

Mark Webber (Porsche Team) - Platinum driver

The top category is Platinum. A Platinum driver has to satisfy at least two of a wide range of criteria. For example they may have held an F1 Super Licence or won Le Mans in an LMP1 or LMGTE car. Similarly they would need to have won the FIA World Endurance Championship in a professional category or perhaps be a ‘Factory Driver’ paid to drive by one of the manufacturers and to have results to prove his competence. It is very long list so here are a few highlights: They will have to have ...
• finished in the top 5 in the general classification in the FIA International F3000, CART/Champcar, IRL, IndyCar or GP2; all FIA World Championships and FIA World Cups; Grand-Am Rolex series (Daytona Prototypes only); and FIA Formula E Championship.
• finished in the top three in the general classification of an F3 international series (FIA F3, British/EuroF3 up until 2011) or in a major international single-seater championship (For example: F2, Nissan World Series, Formula Renault 3.5, etc.);
• won the International V8 Supercars Championship;
• won the Porsche Supercup;
• won the American Le Mans Series (P1 or GT only).

Another way would be to satisfy three or more of the following Gold criteria and be a driver whose performances and achievements, despite not being covered by one of the definitions above, may be considered as Platinum by the FIA.

Dominik Kraihamer (Rebellion Racing) - Gold driver
A driver with Gold status can be either an amateur or professional driver who has raced in a National or International FIA series and satisfies at least one of the Platinum criteria. Also he must have finished in the top three of a so called  ‘secondary’ international single seater series like  A1 GP, GP3, Renault V6, Superleague, Eurocup FR2.0 or Firestone Indy Lights. Other qualifications are as follows:
 • to have won the general classification of a regional or national single-seater series (F3, FR2.0, Atlantic Championship up to and including 2009, Euro V8 Series);
• to have finished in the top 3 in the general classification of the Porsche Supercup / DTM / BTCC / Super GT series or won a major national Porsche Carrera Cup;
• to have finished in the top three in the general classification of the International V8 Supercars Championship;
• to have won a major GT series such as FIA GT, Blancpain GT Series (Pro), FIA GT1 World Championship, FIA GT3 European Championship, ADAC GT Masters, British GT Championship or the GT category of a major Sportscar series such as ILMC ( intercontinental Le Mans Cup) , ELMS, ALMS but to have been sharing the drive with a driver(s) of a lower or the same categorisation;
• to have raced in major International Series with racing wins, podiums and pole positions; 
• His performances and achievements, despite not being covered by one of the definitions above, may be considered as Gold by the FIA.

Christina Nielsen (Formula Racing) - Silver driver
A Silver category driver could also be a driver aged under 30 who does not satisfy the criteria of categories in Platinum and Gold but who has finished in 1st place in the general classification of regional or major national championships or international series, or has won a major endurance race or;
• A driver who has won a non-professional drivers' series like The Ferrari Challenge, Maserati Trophy, Lamborghini Supertrophy, Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge or a regional, national or international single-make lower category series organised by a Manufacturer but not including any Series which are restricted only to Bronze drivers;
• A driver whose performances and achievements, despite not being covered by one of the definitions above, may be considered as Silver by the FIA.

Khaled Al Qubaisi (Abu Dhabi Proton Racing) - Bronze driver

The Bronze driver classifies if he was over 30 years old when his first licence was issued, but has lhad ittle or no single-seater experience or;
• Any driver over 30, previously categorised as Silver, but with no significant results (titles, pole positions or race wins);
• Any driver under 30 who has held a racing licence for less than one year and who has competed in fewer than 5 races.

Finally even the age of the driver is  taken into account. Any driver under the age of 30 is considered to be at least "Silver" unless this is their first visit to Le Mans . The classification of drivers over the age of fifty goes down one grade, whereas that of drivers over fifty five goes down two grades.

So each Class at Le Mans states what driver category is needed to be allowed to race. For example a Bronze driver may not race in LMP1
For the LMP2 category the crew of two or three drivers must include at least one Silver or Bronze driver.
For the LMGTE Pro category, the composition of the crews is free.
For the LMGTE Am must have a crew of 2 or 3 drivers that includes at least 1 Bronze and 1 Bronze or Silver driver.

Now imagine yourself keeping out of trouble driving an LMP1 car at speed in the dark and when its raining ... !

Jock Simpson