OURSLER: The Rambling Road


CHARLOTTE, N.C. — So far this year the new Corvette Daytona Prototypes have displayed what appears to be an inherent ability to handle their opposition in Grand-Am’s 2012 Rolex Sports Car Series.

Yes, indeed, they lost the Rolex 24 season opener, but on balance they have been the class of the DP field. Yet there have been cracks beyond their winter defeat that have more recently appeared, the latest of which came at Road America where the Rolex folks opened NASCAR’s Nationwide weekend with their own two-hour Saturday show.

Looking at the results, the best-placed Corvette prototypes was the Riley-chassied Action Express example of Terry Borcheller and David Donohue, which came home fourth. Leading the parade were reigning

Rolex titlists Memo Rojas and Scott Pruett in their Chip Ganassi Telmex BMW-Riley as they continue to stage a resurgence towards yet another championship after a less than perfect spring.

More importantly for Corvette’s fortunes was the fact that second and third were occupied by Ford-powered Rileys, the Starworks Michael Shank duo of Ryan Dalziel and Enzo Potolicchio leading the Michael Shank twosome of Osweldo Negri and John Pew to the flag.

In truth of course, the Rolex’s rules are structured to allow for on-going adjustments in both the DP and production-based GT categories for purposes of evening out the competition; so no one should be surprised by the swift changes in fortune so part of the Grand-Am scene.

In GT, the recently introduced Ferrari 458 Italias have held sway this time in the form of Emil Assentato and Jeff Segal’s mid-engined Modena entry which led the Bill Auberlen-Paul Dalla BMW M3 across the line with the Mazda RX8 of Sylvain Tremblay and Jonathan Bomarito third.

Given their record, one has to wonder whether or not the Ferraris are due for a “competition adjustment” in the near future.

This weekend the Rolex contingent would encamp themselves at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) Int’l for the tour’s annual six-hour event, which this time will also be a part of the Grand-Am’s newly constituted North American Endurance chase.

The length of the race and the Upstate New York location of the famous circuit, where the weather can change at a moment’s notice, show make for an unpredictable outcome, no matter who has the presumed edge.

Still, while there is a great deal to be said for the regulators keeping competition tight, it is an effort that can easily be foiled by the unexpected; a fact which has led the Grand-Am to be cautious over the years in deciding when and what to change to promote the often elusive goal of equality.

The larger question, though is should be the Grand-Am engaged in this exercise in the first place. Say these words and one can quickly find one’s self-embroiled in debate; one that has legitimacy on either side.

Again, it comes down to goals. Here, Grand-Am appears value excitement above all else. The problem for the sanctioning body is that so far it has had a hard time selling that concept; which is a shame because some of the best road course action — no matter – the organization or the cars — had been found in the Rolex series.

So what should the Grand-Am do?

On the one hand they can loosen the reigns on technology (which they intend to do in so measure next year with the new GTX division). On the other they can continue down the path they are on now and hope that the formula they’ve built for the DP and GT components of the Rolex will eventually catch on with the public.

Once more there are vocal advocates either way. However, put simply the high technology so beloved by road course traditionalists has become as expensive as to seriously affect the long-term future of the sport; the problems facing the American Le Mans Series’ prototype arena being a perfect example of this. So, once more we come to the issue of what to do?

For some of use it can be found in the past — specifically in the old Can-Am of the late 1960s and early 1970s. The reason is that it isn’t so much the cars, which are costly, but rather their engines, which are slaves to electronic technology. Why not let these big-block 800 HP Detroit V-8s — not that far different from the small blocks found in the Rolex and ALMS title chases, in?

They’re relatively cheap, and the make for fast cars two things everyone wants. It may not be perfect, but, keeping in mind the fan is the king, it is something to think about.