Ahead of the 2017 European Le Mans Series, Nicolas Armindo has announced that he will be stepping away from motorsport for the foreseeable future. The Frenchman has attributed the decision largely to the ‘discriminatory’ policies surrounding the driver rating system and the Balance of Performance that have become some of the most talked about policies in the sport over the last few years.
The two-time European Le Mans series winner and former Porsche Carrera Cup Germany champion was considered to be Europe’s most promising GT driver nearly a decade ago. His talent had brought him to close links with Porsche, and although this never turned into the factory drive he had hoped it would it was still a tribute to the talent he had managed to display at the beginning of his career.
Armindo has said that, although he had the talent to receive such praise from his peers and the media he consistently struggled to be able to find or secure a competitive drive due to the fact he was labeled as a ‘Gold Driver’ by the FIA, and the differentials in Balance by Performance across the teams where the requirements and needs seem to be ever changing.
“You have to be in the right car and co-drivers to have good results,” Armindo said to Endurance-Info in explaining the reasons behind his sudden retirement. “You have to have a good BoP, otherwise you’re not able to showcase yourself. It’s like Rafael Nadal playing with 5kg on his wrist. It’s discriminating. We cannot find it in any other sport.
“I started in a Porsche 996 Cup, where we had to do the heel-toe. The 996 Cup car was fitted with slick [tyres]. The car was very hard to drive but I managed to do well. There, a driver without money could be noticed. Today, it’s no longer possible.
“Take the example of Olivier Pla, who certainly is one of best endurance drivers in the world. How long did it take for him to be recognized at his fair value?
“I’ve only lived for motorsport but I no longer want to fight against the system,”
The driver ratings in the Pro-Am enforced classes are one of the main reasons that Armindo has retired. The desire for a gold driver in teams is less common, as teams appear to be opting to run bronze-silver lineups. The driver ratings can be seen as a hindrance to professional driver trying to make a living from the sport, as Armindo explains:
“There are too many Gold drivers that no longer have rides,” he said. “Gold drivers are being asked to pay for a ride and Silvers are being paid.
“It highlights that the drivers who have the least [amount] of experience and others remain on the sidelines. The teams are seeking the quickest Bronze and Silver-rated drivers. If I were a Silver, I would be paid to race in the U.S. or Europe.
“There are more challenges but as a competitor, I like challenges… But I have given enough time, energy and money, that I too have gone without recognition… Gold is no longer valued.”
Balance of Performance in the GT field is also making the classes unnecessarily difficult. As was seen in last year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, Balance of Performance can take a highly competitive team completely out of contention.
“The system in place is discriminatory and arbitrary,” Armindo said on the subject of Balance of Performance. “How can you ask a driver not to go too fast early in the season so the manufacturer is not penalized by BoP?
“This is [currently] the case in Europe and the U.S. and among all manufacturers.
“The organizers are doing what they can to monitor things. Does a driver lift his foot voluntarily not to be a champion because a title can change [BoP]?
“A title can change the future of the driver, not only for the BoP. If you win the title as a Silver, you will be Gold the next season. So for this reason, it’s better to loose the title.
“I agree in principle that BoP is needed but only if everything is transparent and those who do not show the full potential are penalized.”
At only 34-years-old, Armindo still has time to return to motorsport, but from his attitude expressed in this interview, it seems he is in no rush to get back into the cockpit. Since 2010, the Frenchman has been running a business alongside his racing commitments so that he had a stable income whilst trying to stay involved in the sport. Armindo intends to fully focus on his business and his new family before considering a potential return to racing.
“I’ve been a dad or six months and I’m going to enjoy my family,” he said. “I still have many years of work ahead of me. We’ll see later for motorsport.”