The future of sportscar racing in North America has been leaping forward in recent months, and it took another giant step today when Grand-Am Road Racing and the International Motor Sports Association announced a license and cooperation agreement with the Internationale Tourenwagen-Rennen (ITR e.V.), which administers DTM racing. The agreement was signed today during an executive-style press conference in New York City.

Obviously, the prospects of DTM racing in North America are very exciting.

Jim France

Participating in the press conference and the signature ceremony were NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France, Grand-Am founder Jim France, Grand-Am president and CEO Ed Bennett, American LeMans Series president and CEO Scott Atherton, ITR chairman Hans Werner Aufrecht, Hans Stuck, president of Germany’s motorsport’s governing body and manufacturers’ representatives.

“We’re going to finalize tonight a licensing and cooperation agreement between Grand-Am and the ITR, (an agreement) that formalizes the shared goal of bringing a version of DTM racing to North America in 2015 or 2016,” said Jim France, admitting that much work is yet to be done to realize the vision. “This agreement is the latest indication of the optimism surrounding the future of sports car racing on this continent. Obviously, the prospects of DTM racing in North America are very exciting.”

Hans Aufrecht spoke enthusiastically about DTM’s evolution and the prospects for the future, addressing the steps that have been taken to secure the future of DTM. “A consolidation within the motor racing diversity in all the categories has begun a long time ago, but the battle to meet the new challenge and survive is bigger than ever,” he said, indicating that substantive developments have happened in last two years.

He went on to say the negotiations with Grand-Am have been underway for some five years and has resulted in a premium series to get underway between 2015 and 2016. “The world is getting smaller, and the pressure regarding the economic visibility is increasing more and more,” he noted. “The new technical regulations and the formed partnerships created a combination to address all the demands.”

He projected that a strong platform has been created, one that will not only succeed but increase the interest in motorsports.

Leading up to the signature stage, key representatives from Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz also spoke and a welcoming message was made by video from the chairman of the Japan-based Super GT association, Massaki Bandoh.

According to Bennett, the target series launch is 2015-2016 with an estimated eight races to launch the program. A touring-car sprint race format of 70 to 75 minutes in length will be produced, which should lend itself to a 90-minute television program with a minimum grid of 18 to 20 cars.

With the welcoming messages complete, Jim France and Hans Werner Aufrecht signed the agreement, which was greeted by substantive applause from the assembled dignitaries.

France summed it up well when he said, “Let your imaginations run off into the future a little bit. Picture fast and furious rod racing, premium automobiles from European, Asian and American manufacturers. Wheel-to-wheel, door-handle-to-door-handle racing. Sixty-five years of NASCAR experience says this will be exciting and entertaining racing.”

American manufacturers have been apprised of the agreement, but no commitments have been made at this time. With the announcement being made hours prior to the start of the New York Auto Show, there will be opportunities for considerable discussion over the course of the next few days.

Everyone involved indicated that while the groundwork has been laid, a lot of work has to be accomplished before the first race occurs. Also, no scheduling work has been done nor have tracks been identified for the races, which will either be companion events with the newly formed United SportsCar Racing body or with other series that run in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Regardless, the future of sports car racing in North America looks to be bright and ever-growing.