“Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Daytona, where we lay our scene,…”
It’s going to be a merger of Shakespearean proportions or so we’re led to believe. On September 5, 2012, GRAND-AM Road Racing and American Le Mans (ALMS) announced the unification of both sports car series in 2014. Their first event will be the 52nd annual Rolex 24 At Daytona. We can’t say for sure that nobody saw this coming, but this courtship was kept under some heavy wraps. Race teams and drivers from both sides publicly extended congratulations with hopeful notions for the sport’s growth.
Some fans on the other hand have been quite vocal in various racing forums and rightfully so. Although both series began in 1999 and feature endurance races with multiple classes of cars, the ALMS races five classes (P1, P2, PC, GT and GTC) while GRAND-AM has only two (GT and DP). Since it’s downright dangerous for all seven to compete together, tough decisions will be made and some teams like 2012 ALMS Prototype 1 champion, Muscle Milk Pickett Racing, already live with them.
In the meantime, others are afforded the luxury of hope. On paper, the Le Mans Prototype 2 and Daytona Prototype have similar capabilities, and in November 2012, Conquest Racing successfully tested Continental DP Tires on their Morgan-Nissan P2 car at Daytona International Speedway. Does that mean that the DP will be replaced as the top prototype class or will they run together? The ALMS currently serves as a gateway competition for participation in the grand daddy of all endurance racing, the 24 Hours of Le Mans. If that continues in 2014, could we see a GRAND-AM racing class invited to race at the hallowed Maison Blanche circuit in 2015?
This sounds like sacrilege for some Le Mans purists. You see, GRAND-AM envisioned more economically viable racing while ALMS went in the other direction. However, one undeniable fact is that both series encapsulate millions of dollars in Research and Development from major vehicle manufacturers. Just imagine a single American racing series that features cars by Porsche, Ferrari, BMW, Ford, Mazda, SRT, Nissan and Chevrolet among others all duking it out for supremacy.
In an economic climate that has bankrupted countries, made it difficult for hard-working folks to keep their homes and killed Twinkies; how can super high-tech, sports car racing survive? Change or die…and change it will, because auto racing is important. When a vehicle manufacturer boasts that a new model features adapted racing technology, these are the races where they were developed. Systems may be tweaked on proving grounds but the real baptism of fire happens on a race track. We’ve seen the introduction of hybrid engines, regenerative brake systems (KERS), advanced tire technology and even special prizes for fuel efficiency during races in recent years. Fans have come to enjoy not only skills displayed by gifted drivers in beautiful vehicles but also borne witness to the hopes of R&D teams worldwide.
We need racing and racing needs us. So no matter what the new GRAND-AM/ALMS series is called, we’ll be there for it in 2014. In the meantime, fans and diehard purists have one last chance to enjoy these series. The white flag waves for GRAND-AM Road Racing with the 51st annual Rolex 24 At Daytona on January 26-27, 2013. While the ALMS kicks off its farewell tour on March 13, 2013 with the Twelve Hours of Sebring. It’s the last lap for two iconic American series and we should give them the send-off they deserve by not missing a single moment.