ATHERTON REPORTS RECORD RESULTS; SETS BOLD FIVE-YEAR VISION
Having already established itself as the Global Leader in Green Racing, Scott Atherton - President and CEO of the American Le Mans Series - wasted little time in his State of the Series address Friday providing a vision he believes will allow the Series to attain leadership in other areas as well.
Atherton revealed that the American Le Mans Series continues to set new records in all of the important business measures - fan attendance, TV viewership, revenue generation, competitor involvement and corporate partner growth - while at the same time establishing an unmatched leadership role in the area of Green Racing with the unprecedented direct involvement and support of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy. All, he noted, has come during a time when industry trends and overall economic conditions have sustained dramatic downturns.
"We have a story to tell and results to report that no other motorsports series can match," said Atherton.
Atherton, who has served in his leadership capacity of both the Series and the Panoz Motor Sports Group since 2000, targeted four vital areas of leadership in which he believes the American Le Mans Series will excel:
Aggressive Fan growth Enhanced return on investment by being the principal source of data for its constituents Continued leadership with environmental initiatives Establishment of a multimedia platform that will make the Series available to every person on the planet.
"The American Le Mans Series is better positioned than any other race series in the world for the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century," proclaimed Atherton. "We have and will continue to demonstrate a motorsport marketing platform that is worthy of investment by manufacturers, teams and corporate partners who want to tell a meaningful, relevant and emotionally compelling story."
While the Series has seen impressive fan growth over the last four years with a 25 percent increase over that period of time, Atherton shared his belief that it could duplicate those efforts again over the next five years. Celebrating its 10th season in 2008, the American Le Mans Series currently averages more than 80,000 fans per race weekend at a wide range of venues from traditional natural terrain road courses to the more contemporary major market temporary street circuits. In addition, the American Le Mans Series' fan demographics remain the highest in all of regularly televised sport with its average fan earning in excess of $125,000 annually.
Atherton shared a repositioning of the Series' digital strategy coming on the heels of a study performed by KPMG, an internationally acclaimed consulting and strategy firm. It is the American Le Mans Series' intent to become the principal source where corporate marketing partners can obtain data about Series fans - their potential clients - thus proclaiming the Series' focus on serving its customers' customer, a vital part of the motorsport entity's vision plan.
Noting that the American Le Mans Series is the first and only race series to meet the criteria and protocols for green racing set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Energy and SAE International, Atherton claimed the Series' intention of remaining the Global Leader in Green Racing, continuing to develop programs on and off the track that would solidify that position. He cited the worldwide debut of the Green Challenge at this year's Petit Le Mans as such an example. That race-within-a-race competition created in conjunction with the EPA and DOE will award two teams and manufacturers - one each from the prototype and GT ranks - for overall performance, fuel efficiency and environmental impact.
"We want to be the leading and most recognized sports and entertainment property for relevant environment concerns, ideas and practices," said Atherton.
The most aggressive look into the future, however, may be the American Le Mans Series' intent to evolve the next five years into a multimedia sports and entertainment entity that has platforms capable of reaching all ends of the earth.
"Ways to reach the fans, our customers and our customers' customer are changing rapidly as technology, communications, sports and entertainment all collide to create multimedia platforms that will allow us to share our exciting and technically vibrant product with literally anyone in the world," says Atherton.
The American Le Mans Series' website, a focal element of that multimedia platform, has seen extensive growth over the last year or so. It introduced an aggressive video strategy which has resulted in a 31 percent increase in site visits. More than 80,000 videos were watched within the first four months. In addition, its unique and groundbreaking content sharing partnership with SPEEDtv.com has resulted in more than 2 million American Le Mans Series-specific video views on the sister site and unprecedented coverage for the Series. Syndication of web content and video streaming will be a vital strategy as both parties expand the relationship.
Atherton also praised corporate sponsors for the progressive positioning of their companies in concert with the American Le Mans Series' marketing and public relations initiatives. The cooperation continued to cement the Series as the premium brand of motorsports, citing placements in some of the nation's leading publications and websites such as USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Time, Sports Illustrated and New York Times. One of the leading areas of growth was international exposure with more than 10,000 international features and references to the American Le Mans Series, which now reaches a global television universe of more than 625 million households.
Additional growth was reflected in the announcement of the 2009 schedule. The core schedule remains virtually the same as it has for the last several years, creating an environment of stability and traditional dates. Chief Operating Officer Tim Mayer also announced two opportunities for teams to participate in post-season Le Mans races in Japan and China. In a partnership announced by the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO) in June at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Japan begins a Le Mans-style series in 2009. Up to 10 teams from the American Le Mans Series will be invited to join teams from Europe's Le Mans Series as well as Asian teams in two November events - Nov. 1 and Nov. 8 - held respectively in Mt. Fuji, Japan and Shanghai, China.
The 2009 schedule begins with the traditional Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring on March 21 and concludes October 10 with the Monterey Sports Car Championships at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Because of the way the 2009 calendar falls, some events move up or back a week. Only Mid-Ohio varies more from a year ago with its mid-July date moving to early August to begin a stretch of four races in five weeks that includes Road America (Aug. 16), Mosport (Aug. 30) and Detroit's Belle Isle (Sept. 5).
"We have established a strong, consistent schedule to which fans are getting accustomed," says Mayer, "and that certainly helps establish our fan base as well as foster growth and tradition.
"And I defy anyone to show us a more compelling three-race finish to a race series anywhere than what we have in Belle Isle, Petit Le Mans and Monterey. Coupled with one of the world's iconic endurance races in Sebring and some of the finest road and street courses in America, we believe we offer as exciting venues as any race series in the world."
The American Le Mans Series also races at St. Petersburg, FL (April 4); Long Beach, CA (April 18); Salt Lake City, UT (May 17); and Lime Rock Park, CT (July 18). France's 24 Hours of Le Mans, where many of the Series top teams and drivers participate, is scheduled for June 20-21.
Four races will again be telecast by network partners ABC (St. Petersburg and Long Beach) and NBC Sports (Mid-Ohio and Detroit) while SPEED provides live coverage of the remaining seven races including the endurance spectacles at Sebring and Road Atlanta (Petit Le Mans) and the season finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
In a move to bring even more excitement to qualifying, Mayer also announced a change in the points structure, indicating that IMSA will award two points to each class' fastest qualifying team and one point to the second fastest qualifier in each class.
Petit Le Mans powered by the Totally New MAZDA6 is the 10th round of the 2008 American Le Mans Series. The 1,000-mile/10-hour race is scheduled for 11:15 a.m. Saturday, October 4 from Road Atlanta in Braselton, Ga. SPEED will televise the race live with online video available from 1 to 6:30 p.m. ET on americanlemans.com. XM Satellite Radio will air live race coverage throughout the day on XM Channel 166. Live coverage from American Le Mans Radio will be available at americanlemans.com, which also will feature IMSA's Live Timing & Scoring.
2009 American Le Mans Series Schedule
January 26-28, AMERICAN LE MANS SERIES WINTER TEST, Sebring, Fla.
March 21, SEBRING INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY, Sebring, Fla. (SPEED)
April 4, ST. PETERSBURG, St. Petersburg, Fla. (ABC)
April 18, LONG BEACH, Long Beach, Calif. (ABC)
May 17, MILLER MOTORSPORTS PARK, Tooele, Utah (SPEED)
July 18, LIME ROCK PARK, Lakeville, Ct. (SPEED)
August 8, MID-OHIO SPORTS CAR COURSE, Lexington, Ohio (NBC Sports)
August 16, ROAD AMERICA, Elkhart Lake, Wis. (SPEED)
August 30, MOSPORT INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY, Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada (SPEED)
September 5, DETROIT, Belle Isle, Mich., (NBC Sports)
September 26, ROAD ATLANTA, Braselton, Ga. (SPEED)
October 10, MAZDA RACEWAY LAGUNA SECA, Monterey, Calif. (SPEED)
Non-championship Asia Le Mans Series Opportunities
November 1, Mt. Fuji, Japan
November 8, Shanghai, China