IN THEIR OWN WORDS: SCOTT ATHERTON & TIM MAYER Proving that there really is no offseason, the leadership of the American Le Mans Series has been hard at work over the winter to fortify the Series for the 2008 season. Scott...
IN THEIR OWN WORDS: SCOTT ATHERTON & TIM MAYER
Proving that there really is no offseason, the leadership of the American Le Mans Series has been hard at work over the winter to fortify the Series for the 2008 season. Scott Atherton and Tim Mayer have been at the forefront as the Series has added new teams, manufacturers and a Green Racing platform that has established the Series as the benchmark among all forms of motorsport in the world. They took some time to visit with media members at the annual Winter Test at Sebring to discuss a few items.
Scott Atherton , Series President & CEO
"Thank you everybody for joining us here. In general, I know this is a busy time of year, and some of you had to fight hard to get the green light to be a part of this Winter Test and we appreciate you making that effort and being here with us.
"From the State of the Series address back at Petit Le Mans it literally seems like a year ago now, but it was only a few short months. I can't remember a time during the 'offseason' where we have been busier in every single category.
"The announcement at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit was the culmination of a two-year process and was the biggest announcement in Series history. It was one of the highlights of the American Le Mans Series, but I don't want that to dominate all we're here to talk about because of the magnitude of what that announcement means to the Series and our future. I don't want that to detract from other key topics like content of the series, teams, sponsors, manufacturers - there's a lot that's happening.
"For those of you who may not be instantly aware of the announcement in Detroit, I'll give you a very brief synopsis - the ultimate executive summary: The collaboration between the American Le Mans Series, SAE International, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Energy was announced. There were three main core elements. One was the fact that these governmental agencies, with the assistance of SAE International, had been working to define the criteria and definition for what is Green Racing. And for everyone who is familiar, there is a lot of self-proclaimed descriptions of 'Green-ness' globally - not just in racing, but everywhere. The proactive steps have been taken by these governmental agencies with the oversight of SAE International - and anyone who is familiar with the automotive industry knows that is the gold standard. If you can get an SAE endorsement for whatever you are doing, you know that it is absolutely thorough, it's legitimate and it's commendable. What was announced was that the American Le Mans Series is currently the only form of motorsports that meets that strict criteria.
"The other announcement that was made was the creation of the Green Challenge. The Green Challenge is a competition that will be held initially in concert with Petit Le Mans this coming October. This competition is designed to encourage manufacturers to bring new technology that addresses such topics as energy efficiency, emissions controls and reductions, power train technology that is truly cutting edge and potentially technology that we're not even discussing today. It's 'bring us your leading-edge, out-of- the-box thinking'.
"The Green Challenge is in the course of exhaustive analysis, and there will be a formula that will define - and this is in very layman's terms - the green score of each vehicle. So one car may win Petit Le Mans in the traditional sense of being the first across the finish line, another car could win the Green Challenge. That doesn't mean that the Green Challenge winner could run 8-10 seconds off the pace and finish 14th overall because that defeats the purpose of the Green Challenge.
"We've taken some arrows in the announcement at Detroit because we did not provide all the details about how one would win the Green Challenge and that's a fair comment to make. You have to understand the process and protocol that has to be followed in working with these governmental agencies is rigorous to say the least, and nothing is taken at face value. Nothing is done by chance. It is all thoroughly researched and must be completely ratified. That is why the criteria for winning the Green Challenge wasn't announced at Detroit because it is very much a work in progress involving the governmental agencies, as well as SAE International and our own technical consultants as well. We had to make a conscious decision. Do we forgo the opportunity to make the announcement at Detroit and wait for another opportunity in the future, or do we get this news out and announced so that people can be aware and potentially could be planning for and around it? Obviously, we made the decision to take advantage of being in Detroit to make the announcement with the full understanding that the meat on the bone - the technical part of the Green Challenge - would be forthcoming. We will be making an announcement in the next 60 days. If you talk to any of the staffers of the EPA, they shake their heads in disbelieve at what we've accomplished."
Q: How long has the Series been thinking about Green Racing?
SA: "The formal reference of Green Racing is two years old. I think that's a bit of a misnomer because in my mind everything that you see in the media today has some green angle being applied to it. I feel like our platform has never changed. This has always been the category within the greater motorsports landscape that we've carved out for ourselves. What I'm referencing to in that statement is it is the relevance of the technology on the race track being transferred to street cars. If you go back to the beginning of auto racing, it was fundamental developments that we kind of laugh about today that were developed on the race track and applied to the streets. Now it has taken on a green priority and that makes our platform green by definition.
"It has snowballed, and is a priority for the manufacturers and for us. We now truly are the - and this is not a tagline from a marketing statement, but this is fact - we are the global leader in this category. We are being held accountable on a global scale."
Tim Mayer , Series & IMSA COO
"I think these are some of the most exciting developments that have happened in motorsports. Scott often says, 'If you only knew what we know', and there are also the new teams that have already been announced like the Aston Martin coming into GT2. And the prototype guys haven't been asleep all winter. From a technical standpoint, we've been peppered with questions all winter. If the questions are any indication of what we're going to be seeing starting in March, I think we'll possibly be seeing the best racing any of us has ever seen.
"I think the other aspect that's going to be very interesting is truly that we have come to a culmination of our alternative energy strategy. We're now seeing a proper free fuel strategy, including the clean diesel, ethanol- enriched gasoline and an ethanol-based fuel. You've obviously seen the announcement from Corvette. We've had the announcement from England about Drayson-Barwell Motorsport. You can see the true culmination of what we've been talking about for the last couple of years - a variety of different energy sources out there on the race track demonstrating their advantages that are directly tied to consumer relevance.
"We've not been asleep over the course of the winter. As Scott said, this has been our busiest offseason ever discussing the methodology (of how) we go racing - the way we go yellow, for instance. It's a lot of small things - one word, two words in the rule book - that we've clarified and defined much better and will have a positive impact on the officiating."
Q: What visions you have for the fans?
TM: "When you look at the alternatives out there for the fans - the consumers - they may not appreciate what they're seeing on the race track but when they look at the fuel pump and you have an option of regular gasoline, diesel and ethanol. You have to make a decision. Do I want to support people who use toxic additives or do I want to take the cleaner, environmentally friendly option? I think the real goal is to cause people to query their fuel choices and present a range of relevant options."
The 2008 season opens with the 56th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida on Saturday, March 15. The race will start at 10 a.m. ET and will be broadcast live by SPEED, which will begin its coverage at 9:30 a.m. MotorsTV, Fox Latin America, 7TV in Russia and Greenlight Television will provide international coverage as well. American Le Mans Radio and IMSA's Live Timing & Scoring will be available at americanlemans.com.