CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The landscape of sports car racing appears to be on the verge of a major change with reports saying that the NASCAR-owned Grand American Rolex tour and the American Le Mans Series will merge into a single championship in 2014 after the current television contracts conclude at the end of 2013.
Although ALMS President Scott Atherton reported denied any such move, those in charge of the Grand-Am were more vague, saying only that they had no comment. In the past there have been rumors about such a deal.
However, while both sides have maintained contact with each on things like scheduling, there appear to have been no serious merger discussions until recently.
Those talks came to light over the past weekend when SPEED.com reported that a deal had been struck. According to SPEED.com, a formal announcement regarding the agreement will be made Wednesday in Daytona Beach. While no firm facts arte known, the speculation is that the Grand-Am, with Atherton as its head, will become the sanctioning body for what well may be named the North American Sports Car Championship.
A key element to all of this will be the class structure of the combined championship, which according to insiders will see the continuation of the unique Daytona Prototypes as the top tier sports racers supported by the ALMS’s current privateer oriented LMP2 prototype contingent.
As for the production cars, there, it is said that the Panoz championship’s present GT set will retain its headlining status, while the ALMS spec, all Porsche GTC category will be folded into the Grand-Am’s GT arena that will become the support production class which will be run under the GT3 moniker.
Left out of the new equation will be the present ALMS LMP1 prototypes, as well as the current LMPC spec cars. More importantly, the present association between the ALMS and the organizers of the Le Mans 24 Hour classic, from whom the Panoz tour leases its regulations, will be ended.
Continuing on the financial side, the structure of the merger will see Panoz sell the rights to the ALMS and International Motor Sport Ass’n names, the latter the sanctioning body for the Panoz title chase, along with Road Atlanta and the long-term lease he has on Sebring Int’l Raceway to NASCAR, which owns and operates Grand-Am.
While, the price is not known rumors suggest that it is in the eight-figure range. Additionally, insiders are saying that Atherton will be named to run the combined operation.
Tthe remainder of the Panoz Motorsports Group will be retained by Panoz.
Overall, the effect will be to see the once pluralistically run North American sports car world come under the control of a single entity — NASCAR.