OURSLER: The Rambling Road


While Washington lawmakers may have trouble with the compromises needed to create the “grand deals” so far not found in Congress these days, those on both sides of the Grand-Am-American Le Mans Series merger appear to have made great strides in defining the rules that will shape the combined championship in 2014.

At least that was the feeling that most attending Friday’s press conference to announce the ongoing progress toward creating the title chase came away with.

Primarily, the gathering was devoted to the class structure of the 2014 tour which will bring together the two vastly different philosophies between the regulations of the presently separate road racing circuits.

Led by Grand-Am’s Director of Competition Burk and Scott Elikins, chief operating officer of the International Motor Sports Ass’n, which sanctions ALMS, what will be seen in 2014 will have a distinctly American look, but one which will still retain ties to the L’Automobile Club du L’Ouest and its famed 24 Hours of Le Mans.

While many of the key details remain to be resolved, there will be four distinct classes — two in the prototype arena and the same number for the production car set. At the top, will be the “U.S. only” Daytona Prototypes, which will receive a boost in performance to allow them to compete with the Le Mans-legal LMP2 division, the second tier sports racing category intended as a home for privateer teams in Europe running in the World Endurance tout.

Also included in the mix are the ALMS LMPC spec prototypes, all powered by Chevrolet push rod V-8s.

Definitely not part of the picture here — at least for now — are the radical new alternative energy prototypes of the manufacturer oriented LMP1 class that will debut in 2014 as well.

Interestingly, the Grand-Am’s new for 2013 GX division features a similar alternative energy theme, in this case for production oriented-based vehicles, whose form and shape, and perhaps very existence for 2014 is as yet to be determined.

According to officials, expectations are that it will become a fifth class next season.

With all that in mind, there is nothing to say it couldn’t be opened up to the new 2014 headlining Audi and Porsche LMP1 prototypes if those here found it convenient to do so, especially since the new Audis and Porsches would most likely only run Daytona and Sebring.

However, even those showcase appearances might be worthwhile in the light of the resulting consequent increase in fan interest their presence here would create.

Even so, the tone Friday was that the prototypes running here will all use production-based powerplants as is the case with both the Daytona Prototypes and their LMP2 counterparts.

On the production car front, there will be two divisions, the first for the Le Mans legal ALMS GT set, and the other embracing the current Rolex assembly line community, as well as the nearly compatible all Porsche GTC 911GT Cup cars.

With the outline of the structure of the combined series well along towards a final definition, still left to be are working out the present sponsorship and tire manufacturer agreements will, if they do carry over into 2014.

In particular is the Grand-Am’s exclusive Rolex rubber contract with Continental vs. the ALMS’ “come one, come all” approach to tires that embraces Michelin, Falken, Dunlop and others. Again, those in charge are saying that all will be resolved to the betterment of everyone well before the two title chases become one.

Grand-Am and ALMS officials should be congratulated for doing what Washington seemingly can’t — that is getting on with the program for the benefit of all.