CHARLOTTE, N.C. — What could be better for the Grand-Am’s Rolex Sportscar Series than to roll into Detroit for its debut Belle Isle appearance this past Saturday than to have GM’s Chevrolet brand dominate the proceedings: scoring a one-two sweep of the Daytona Prototype category backed up by a one and three Camaro finish in GT?
Perhaps the only thing better was the fact that all that success took place within sight of GM’s Detroit world headquarters, just downstream on the Detroit from Belle Isle.
There was more than enough drama caused by the unforgiving barriers surrounding the temporary circuit, but in the end it was the Corvette DP entries that came through the car of Darren Law and Joao Barbosa leading its sister driven by Terry Borcheller and David Donohue across the line by a matter of feet.
That marked the first success of the year for Action express which, while competitive in 2012, had yet to win before coming to Motown. As for, GT there too it was redemption time as Jordan Taylor and John Edwards crossed the line first in the Autohaus Camaro GTR, with the similar Stevenson Motorsport GTR third in a sandwich that had the Mazda TRS8 of Sylvain Tremblay and Jonathan Bomarito as its filling.
While Detroit was a unique two-hour affair, this weekend the Rolex tour will set up shop at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for a late Saturday afternoon more usual two and three quarter hour run on a course with more space, but perhaps even more challenging that Belle Isle.
And, this weekend, if Mid-Ohio follows its usual pattern, Saturday’s event could be event more dramatic than was its predecessor.
All this leads to the question of where the NASCAR tour is as the heart of its 2012 campaign approaches. Already the series has announced its new production-based GX class for 2013 which will feature not only things such as hybrid vehicles, diesels and turbocharging, but also unique fuels. This added division represents a step towards encouraging technology that heretofore has been absent in the Grand-Am which has stressed cost containment and close competition over technical innovation.
Indeed, it is a quiet way the Rolex has begun to change its image in 2012 by going after and getting top of the line European entries from both Ferrari and Audi to join the fray with Porsche, BMW and Mazda in the contest against the American bred Corvettes and Camaros.
Likewise, it has given the Daytona Prototype community a new, more pleasing and traditional cockpit.
Shape this year. Taken together, these efforts should go far to spur the interest of the road course sportscar fans who , at least up to now, have shown a disappointing lack of interest in the Rolex tour.
So, given that the Grand-Am championship seems to be evolving, the question becomes how far that evolution will go. In the current climate of sports car racing, the cost of being at technology’s “pointy end” has become prohibitive for most; so much so that, for the most part, only the major manufacturers can afford to participate in the headlining categories. Until now the Grand-Am has bucked that trend, but at the costs of getting little or respect or interest from its fan base.
The loosening of its technological restrictions should go some one to reversing all that. However, the balance between cost containment and box office success is a difficult thing to find and maintain.
Given the people responsible for its future, though, it just may be possible that the NASCAR-owned title will find that balance. We wish them luck. After all they already have the on-track excitement part down pat, something those who watched Belle Isle, and those who will watch Mid-Ohio can easily attest to.