Tuesday
Oct022012

Grand Am wraps up 2012 season at Lime Rock Park

The Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series wrapped up their 2012 season at beautiful and historic Lime Rock Park in Connecticut on the last weekend of September. Racing at the short and fast Lime Rock circuit usually leads to drama, but in terms of the championships, most of those had been decided coming into the finale. In the top Daytona Prototype (DP) class, Ganassi Racing driver’s Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas only had to each drive the required 30 minutes and finish the race to clinch the driver’s championship, which would also result in a team championship. Their seventh place finish put those championships in the bag and added a couple more trophies to Ganassi’s large collection. The Ganassi Racing BMW Riley wasn’t usually the fastest DP on the track this year and only won two of fourteen races (Suntrust won three and the Action Express #9 and Spirit of Daytona Corvette DP’s also won two races apiece), but they were the team with the most consistency over the course of the season. “We’ve had to really dig deep with all the experience on the team, knowing we didn’t have the fastest car many times but we scrapped to get every point that we could in order to try and put ourselves in a good position for the championship,” said Scott Pruett after the Lime Rock race. At Lime Rock, the SunTrust Racing Corvette DP got their third win of the year, and were followed on the podium by the Spirit Of Daytona and GAINSCO DP’s. 

In GT, the 2012 season was all about Ferrari. The AIM Autosport team with driver’s Jeff Segal and Emil Assentato (who won a previous championship together in a Mazda RX-8), got off to a fast start and stayed strong through the entire season, winning three races and finishing in second in four others. The pair had clinched the driver’s championship and the team championship for AIM in the penultimate round at Laguna Seca, but still had the manufacturer’s championship to fight for at Lime Rock. AIM was the only team to race the Ferrari all season, but Ferrari also brought in a second car entered by Scuderia Corsa for Lime Rock to provide a little more insurance for the manufacturer’s trophy. It was a good move, as that entry finished in third driven by Johannes van Overbeek (borrowed from the Extreme Speed Motorsport ALMS team) and Italian Alessandro Balzan. The AIM car had contact early in the race that set them back, ultimately finishing up in eighth. The GT race at Lime Rock was won by the Stevenson Motorsport Camaro driven by Robin Liddell and Jon Edwards, with second going to the APR Motorsport Audi R8, their best finish of the season. The APR Audi was lucky to finish at all, as a spin by Dion Von Moltke took out the #59 Brumos Porsche and the #94 Turner Motorsport M3, while the Audi suffered only minimal damage and was able to continue.

Grand Am has also already announced their 2013 calendar, with the series holding 12 races next year, including a double-header weekend at Road America with ALMS to get fans warmed up for the “merger” in 2014. Most of the teams that competed in Grand Am this year are expected back in 2013, though everyone is anxious to see what the classes and rules will look like in 2014 and there are still a lot more questions than answers. For Grand Am’s Rolex GT teams, they may find themselves further down on the pecking order in the class structure, behind the DP’s, another potential prototype class, and the ALMS GT cars.

There are also questions around support from the manufacturers. Will Ferrari want to support cars in both the ALMS GT class and the Rolex GT class (whatever they end up being called)? Will BMW support both Ganassi and BMW Team RLL? Will Chevy support their DP teams as well as the Corvette Racing GT cars? There are also the issues of how to equalize the cars (the current ALMS GT cars are as fast as the Grand Am DP’s), what the relationship with the ACO and Le Mans as well as the FIA will be and what tire brands will be allowed in the new series.

Even with all the uncertainty, the teams that really expect to be in the new combined series in 2014 also plan to race in their respective series in 2013, simply to keep the continuity going with their team, drivers and sponsors. Those (if any) that decide to sit out 2013 and wait and see how everything shakes out for 2014 will already be well behind the eight-ball when the new series makes its debut at the Daytona 24 Hour in 2014. 

 

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