Tuesday
Sep042012

Grand Am / ALMS Pt. II - De Lorenzo Goes Deep!

I’ll get straight to the point here. I spoke with Don Panoz, the founder of the American Le Mans Series on Monday and he asked me to keep the details of the Grand-Am/ALMS coming together “off the record” until tomorrow’s announcement. But since John Dagys has decided to break cover on some of the details tonight (speedtv.com), I can tell you this about the arrangement between Grand-Am and the ALMS. 

After a 22-year career in automotive advertising and marketing, Peter M. De Lorenzo founded Autoextremist.com on June 1, 1999 as an Internet magazine devoted to news, commentary and analysis of the auto industry and the business of motorsports. Since then the site has become a weekly “must read” for leading professionals within and outside the auto and motorsports industries, and De Lorenzo is considered to be one of the most influential voices commenting on the business today.1. The Panoz Motor Sports Group (ALMS) has been sold to GRAND-AM/NASCAR Holdings LLC. The number? Reportedly around $20 million. It also includes the sale of Road Atlanta and a long-term lease of Sebring International Raceway. A new LLC will be formed going forward for the unified sports car racing entity in the U.S.

2. Jim France (GRAND-AM co-founder and NASCAR Vice Chairman/Executive Vice President) will be the Chairman of the unified series, which does not have an official name as of yet. ALMS founder Don Panoz will be Vice Chairman. And ALMS President and CEO Scott Atherton will be President of the new organization. Both Panoz and Atherton are likely to be on the board of directors.

3. The LMP1 class from the ALMS will no longer be a part of the new series. The ALMS LMP2 class will survive, along with the GRAND-AM’s Daytona Prototype class. The DeltaWing will also be a part of this new class as well. The new racing series will equalize those three classes. (Uh, good luck with that.) I’m sorry to report that the Rolex GT class will hang around, but it will come in below the ALMS GT class, which will be retained, intact (thank goodness). A testing program will be undertaken to sort all of these performance adjustments out.

4. There will be a 12-race schedule, with a kick-off being the Daytona 24 Hour followed by the 12 Hours of Sebring, returning major league American sports car racing to its rightful rhythm. The rest of the schedule will be announced tomorrow. Teams will discard points from one of the 12 races. This will allow a team to drop a bad performance, but it will also allow a team to participate at Le Mans if invited.

5. The new road racing entity will kick-off with the 2014 season, as commitments were well in place for 2013 and could not be altered. The two series will operate separately for one more year.

6. There is no official connection to the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) after the 2013 season.

So there you have it folks. beginning with the 2014 racing season, major league sports car racing in the United States will be represented by one entity. Right now, I will say this ahead of tomorrow morning’s announcement, and that is that I will remain catiously optimistic until I’m given reasons to think otherwise.

Is there an extreme danger that the NASCAR-ization of pro sports car racing will ruin it forever? Absolutely. With NASCAR now in complete control of sports car racing in this country the stupidity could rear its ugly head at any moment. 

The liklihood of this new racing entity dumbing down what’s left of the prototype classes so that they’re all on the same footing is high. Go back and look at the times of the LMP2 and DP classes when they ran at the same tracks this summer, and you’ll see that it could get very ugly. But that doesn’t concern me, at least yet.

What does concern me and what is already looking to be a bright red flag? That GRAND-Am operatives are insisting that their tube-framed Rolex GT cars have a role. To me that is simply ludicrous and ridiculous. If this new entity screws up the ALMS GT class, which is the best road racing in the world, then I will be the first to bury this new endeavor with both hands.

But, and this is a very large B-U-T, these people have a solid year to figure things out and get their proverbial shit together. Let’s hope they do exactly that for everyone concerned. - PMD

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