At an announcement on Thursday, officials read that the combined championship will be run under the banner of United SportsCar Racing, Inc. and will retain the ALMS’ current ties the long distance classic’s organizers, L’Autombile Club du L’Ouest through a recent agreement signed that will allocate entries to teams competing here in the new 2014 championship.
Also revealed was the fact that there the prototype arena will embrace Grand-Am’s Daytona Prototype community, the current second tier LMP2 class and the “spec” Le Mans Prototype Challenge division. On the production side, the ALMS GT and lesser performing Rolex GT entries will run as separate classes. What was left unsaid, though, were the shape of the rules, which will include the need to balance the performance between the LMP2 and DP divisions.
Indeed, also unclear was the schedule which numbers, between the ALMS and Rolex, 22 events at 17 different venues. Likewise unknown are the resolutions in terms of the current sponsors backing the Grand-Am and ALMS, something particularly true in terms of the tire manufacturers, which in the ALMS are unlimited, but not in the Rolex title chase which is contracted to use only the Continental Tire brand.
While all involved in transforming the merger into a working reality appear to have formed a singular bond that bodes well, the true test of their success or failure will be with the fans that so far have chosen the more techno friendly ALMS over the limited technology approach of Grand-Am. It is this question of approach which is of the most concern, for it goes to the heart of what sports car racing fan wants; or to put it another way, what “food” those fans will buy to satisfy their racing desires.
In essence, Grand-Am has been selling close exciting competition, and not getting the response that it might if it were dealing in the stock-car marketplace. ALMS, on the other hand, while doing much better with its traditional high-tech approach on which sports car enthusiasts have so long fed, has exactly set the interest measurements ablaze either.