Friday
Feb012008

Wheels Down, Spirits Up!

Photo by John ThawleyI don’t think I can recall an American Le Mans Series winter test as upbeat and promising as this most recent. And, while there wasn’t a “major” story that everyone typically hangs their hopes on, there was plenty of great news. Perhaps all the news was the big story?

Yes, the continuing saga of content keeps the rumor lines and chat boards buzzing, but it appears the ALMS will steadily increase their starting grids in 2008. Sure they lose one here… but they seem to pick up a few.. and in the right places.

The press corp was greeted with an Aston Martin GT1 announcement early in the week and later came news of Gil de Ferran and a new LMP2 Acura team. And seeing the Puegeot make its stealth like laps around Sebring was an amazing site. The Audi R10 put down its fastest time on the first day. The Peugeot bested it by a mere heartbeat on the last day. Drama? You have to wonder what they’ve really got up their collective sleeves.


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Photo by John Thawley
And, oh-by-the-way, don’t think for a minute that the Aston Martin effort is in anyway less than a full blown effort. These guys went from shaking it down to laying down lap times in just a few sessions. Very impressive.

The Spyders and Acuras showed up with their game face on. The Penske boys were all business… and while I don’t know where on the circuit things even out among the marques, the Penske Spyders “appeared” to carry more corner speed than any car I’ve ever seen. I mean they truly act like slot cars. I know you’ve heard the old saying, “the thing is like on a rail,” well… this is just not an old saying.. the Penske Spyders on are rails.

Four Ferraris making their way around was great fun to watch. And though we didn’t get to see any Porsche GT2 testing, I have to think that the action in 2007 will be more than eclipsed in 2008. It’s going to be all out war.

Cool liveries by the way of the Highcroft Patron Acura. If you haven’t heard by now, the car is bleeding retina green. You can not miss it. Really.

B-K Motorsports and Mazda showed up with a huge announcement and unveiled their Mazda powered Lola with the new sponsor colors of BP - The “fit” with the Series’ green initiatives couldn’t have been time any more perfectly. The announcement was a perfect display of integrating racing, performance, relevance, marketing and timing. This program is a hit on all cylinders.

Lastly, kudos to the Series regarding the “Green” positioning. I think they’ve created a lot of potential marketing opportunities for themselves and, managed properly, will provide the Series with new channels of visibility. My two hopes would be, one, that they don’t succumb to simply hanging a marketing label around their necks by simply talking about being “green.” And, two, that they find a way to make “green” a racing and fan centric tie-in as well. I see two thirds of a circle here. Great marketing opportunity for reaching out to sponsors and manufacturer’s a like and a genuine piece of “relevance” to attract car manufacturers. The third piece I’d like to see (and I think Mazda’s partner and announcement speaks to this) is the part that will get the race fans attention. It needs a passion piece… something with sex appeal that makes the race fans blood boil. We somehow need to find the piece that makes green loud and rude and somehow speaks to the race fan in us. After all, a race fan bleeds oil… so if you’re gonna give me a blood transfusion… changing the color from black to green might not be enough.

I’m all for this thing and this was, BY FAR, the best winter test to-date. Kudos to the ALMS. We’re headed for a great season of extremely close racing. That said, I’ll live with it being GREEN. LOL

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