NASCAR is ready to let the cat out of the bag on the exact future of the two top American-based sportscar classes: Grand-Am and ALMS. The press teleconference will be held at the Daytona home base of the largest sanctioning governing body in North America.
It is apparent that the news will not please everyone but that is the way life goes sometimes. Already it is the talk of the town; reaching as far as Asia and in Europe the rumors that the Rolex 24 Hour race in Daytona Beach will host the first race of the FIA World Endurance Championship in the near future. Motorsport.com will cover the press conference starting at 10:00am EDT.
Will the news allude to a complete takeover of one series or will it be a merger where everyone will still see the manufacturer-based prototypes currently contesting the American Le Mans Series or will the specifications for the top class be based on the current Daytona Prototypes. Will the Grand Touring cars merge as one class or will there be two separate categories. One of the primary questions is when will the final outcome of having just one series take affect: 2013 or 2014?
Below is a short bit of history of the two American-based series.
The American Le Mans Series revived the sanctioning body known as IMSA (International Motor Sports Association). When Dr. Don Panoz decided to have a race in 1998, he based it on a smaller version of the prestigious 24 Hours race that is held annually on the La Sarthe circuit in Le Mans, France. The teams flocked to the first Petit Le Mans on the Road Atlanta road course in Georgia, which the Panoz Group had recently purchased. The 10-hour or 1,000 miles event became the cornerstone for the formation of the ALMS the following year with the tag “For the Fans”!
Since 1999, ALMS did indeed draw the fans, they attend each and every venue; from road courses to temporary street circuits. The growth of ALMS took off flying with their partnership with the Automobile Club de L'Quest (ACO); the governing body of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Last year the ACO established an Intercontinental Le Mans Cup which formed an additional challenge for Le Mans-style sportscar series including the ALMS teams that wanted to trek worldwide for the special challenge.
The idea of returning to a global championship was taken over by The Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), and the ALMS season opener - the 12 Hours of Sebring - was the first FIA World Endurance Championship event. But the ALMS was snubbed on hosting two WEC events as their second crown jewel, Petit Le Mans, was not listed on the WEC 2012 calendar. The Panoz organization owns both tracks.
Also in 1999, the Grand American Road Racing Association (GARRA) was formed as a sanctioning body to support road racing in North America. The battle for fans and television rights came to pass between the two top sportscar series: ALMS and Grand-Am Rolex Series. While they both had Grand Touring (GT) cars, their top class, of course, became known as Daytona Prototype. The difference of the high-speed cars was vastly, and remains to this day, vastly different. Their crown jewel is the 24 Hours of Daytona.
Many of the sportscar drivers actually contest both series; as do the manufacturers. Still they are like night and day as to their regulations concerning both prototype and GT.
In 2008, NASCAR added the GARRA to their holdings, and now the powerful sanctioning body will share with the world their plans for the future of sportscar racing in North America tomorrow; exactly four years and one day since their buyout of GARRA.