Ranking the 2016 Road Racing Series

By Winding Road Staff

November 02, 2016

The season isn't quite over in F1, but pretty much everyone else is getting ready for 2017. So, with 2016 still fresh in our minds, the Winding Road staff got out our Plasmatronix Dynamic Computational Algorithm Discombobulator, now incorporating fuzzy logic, and applied it to evaluating the season. Our goal was to look objectively at which are the best series. We started with an overall view, incorporating various aspects of competition, such as exciting starts, tight competition throughout the field and visible action on track. We also looked a fan features like broadcast presence, recognizable drivers and sexy machinery.  
 
  
We evaluated most of the major pro series: F1, Indycar, Weathertech Prototypes, Weathertech GTLM, Weathertech GTD, Weathertech PC, Continental ST, Trans Am, TA 2, Pirelli World Challenge GT, PWC  GTS, PWC TC, PWC TC-A, MX-5 Cup, and IMSA GT3 Cup. We also looked at V8 Supercars and British Touring cars for reference purposes. 
 
Here is our ranking:
 
1. Pirelli World Challenge GT
2. Pirelli World Challenge GTS
3. Weathertech GTLM
4. Indycar
5. Formula 1
6. Trans Am
7. Battery Tender Global MX-5 Cup
8. TA2
9. Weathertech GTD
10. Weathertech Prototype
 
  
When you rate the series quantitatively, you get some interesting results. When you factor in many variables, such as recognizable cars and engine sound and close finishes and advanced technology and accessibility to amateurs (we rated each series on 13 factors covering on-track action, access and engagement), you have a range of variables that balance each other out. Series with lots of positive factors do well, and that is the emerging Pirelli World Challenge formula, so we weren't surprised to see PWC score at the top. We also weren't that surprised to see Trans Am do well, because the cars and competition are pretty solid, and the Discombobulator doesn't really emphasize the snobbery which some people apply to TA cars and fans. Indycar also probably deserves a mention, given that they've been putting on a pretty good show. If the cars didn't look like Mattel designed them, they might rule the world (again).  
  
On a side note, V8 Supercars and BTCC would have ranked third and fifth in this exercise of evaluating overall goodness. Both series are doing a lot of things right and should be studied by the U.S. sanctioning bodies. 
 
Those of you who are racers or avid viewers may want to know how the Discombobulator ranked the series purely on quality of competitive action. Racers considering these series will surely be more concerned about the nature of competition than about announcer quality or recognizable drivers.
 
So, here is our ranking of pro series based purely on the quality of the on-track action:
 
1. Battery Tender Global MX-5 Cup
2. Pirelli World Challenge GTS
3. Indycar
4. Pirelli World Challenge GT
5. TA 2
6. Weathertech GTLM
7. Trans Am
8. Continental ST
9. Formula 1
10. Weathertech GTD
 
  
Having spent a lot of time around MX-5 Cup, we aren't surprised at this. Marshall Pruett recently commented in Racer Magazine: "For those who haven't seen the MX-5 Cup cars in action, think of everything that makes the Mazda Road to Indy training series such an awesome spectacle – the youth, talent, optimistic passes – and add fenders. The bravery that comes from having (and using) those fenders to move forward...a tap here, a nudge there...is a wonderful thing."
 
Of course, the Discombobulator could be programed to weight the various factors differently, yielding different results. Nonetheless, we think an important point comes out of this, which is that some of the "lesser" series offer some of the best action. That insight is reinforced by looking at BTCC and V8 Supercars, which would have finished first and third in this competitive action evaluation. Good thing we didn't put MotoGP into the Discombobulator. In any event, these outsider series offer hope that road racing can be made even better.