Roger Edmondson, Grand American President
Part 2 of 2
SRPII, Rolex 24 at Daytona and General
Q: I was wondering if it would make sense to rename the SRPII class into Daytona Prototype Roadster. That way the DP name stays consistent but the open tops are separate from the coupes. Are there plans for SRPII after this season?
When Grand American opened its doors in 2000, I made a promise to run SRPII for three years. This was to give some comfort to those who considered purchasing and fielding a car or team. Over the last three years, the typical field has been three cars, with occasional forays into the five or six range. During the off-season between 2001 and 2002, I again promised three more seasons of championships for this class, but this time I added the proviso that participation would be monitored and should the level not be credible, then I would pull the plug. Subsequent to that statement, the loss of Jeff Clinton at Homestead last March has greatly reduced my personal enthusiasm for the open cars, but I did make the promise. Therefore, we have continued the class for 2003 but we now require additional bracing of the roll hoop in an effort to minimize the potential for tragedy.
We decided to look at the actual weights of the cars through tech inspection, rather than what was allowed in the book. By taking the highest actual weight of a regular participant and adding a few pounds for the enhanced rollover structure, we came up with a new minimum weight. This allows our SRPII teams to avoid spending money chasing a rulebook weight they were not reaching in the real world. This is particularly desirable in a class that has a tenuous long-term future.
However, higher weights mean higher stress on components and brakes designed for lighter duty. Accordingly we have reduced the size of the fuel load capacity. To minimize the potential for a repeat of the Homestead accident, we have reduced the performance of the cars by mandating a spec wing and reducing the power with a smaller air restrictor.
None of those changes affect the competition between the cars in the class but they do enhance safety and/or make it clear that these cars are not our future. We have never proposed SRPII as a viable choice for an overall win as has been the case with LMP675 in ALMS or at LeMans. They have always enjoyed support class status.
Rolex 24 at Daytona
Q: What are the dates for the 2004 Daytona 24hours?
January 31-February 1, 2004.
Q: While I will be (at the Rolex 24 as a flagger), I have to wonder about how Grand American will improve for the future? Also, are any thoughts given to recognition of the volunteers who will endure the lean years? Something more than just a patch and a hassle at the gate would be appreciated.
Grand American will always be a work-in-progress. There never comes a time when you can be satisfied or consider the work to be done. Obviously, we hope that as our plans and programs mature improvement will be a companion to hard work. I am fond of saying "Everyone wants improvement, no one wants change." While there is no improvement without change, change does not guarantee improvement. It is our job to make long-term decisions in setting goals for Grand American. Then we must be prepared to deal with the short-term issues that always attend getting from here to there.
As to the volunteers, whose participation is essential, the Speedway has traditionally handled the arrangements for their recognition and participation. I will pass your comments on to them for their consideration.
Q: I have been attending the 24-hour race since 1968 having missed only three events. I have a concern. What kind of a race are we going to have with less than three dozen competitors? With the standard 60 percent failure rate that will leave less than 12 running. At around 2 minutes per lap during the last third of the race keeping interest for fans and SPEED Channel could be a problem. What is Grand American going to do about this issue?
I expect a field of around fifty cars when entries close and the best 24-hour race in years. I also expect speeds at the end of the event to approximate speeds at the beginning. When the racing is close, teams cannot cruise to the finish.
Since I'm not sure we have an issue and since we do not enter cars or drive them, your final question is not one I can address.
Q: I understand that the field for this year's Rolex 24 is nearly half of what it was last year and that the fastest cars are almost 8 seconds slower. As a fan, how am I to get excited about this new "formula", and what does this tell us about the current state of road racing in the U.S.?
When all entries are received and processed, the field will grow to around fifty cars, which is a drop of twenty to twenty-five cars. In analyzing the reduction from the 2002 event, it is clear that the change from SRP to Daytona Prototypes results in ten less cars. There were sixteen SRPs and there will be six Daytona Prototypes. The number of SRPII cars will be about the same as last year. This means the balance of the reduction comes from the GT category (GT/AGT/GTS). Between the changes made to effect our planned class reduction and the effects of the economy, this is not a surprise. I suspect that many events will see reductions this season, but obviously, the Rolex suffers most because of the expense involved in fielding a car for a twenty-four hour race. Our target was a speed reduction of between 5% and 10%, which at Daytona is coincidentally, between five and ten seconds a lap. A similar reduction was instituted between the 1999 and 2000 seasons without comment. For 2003, not only will Grand American have reduced speeds, but also all other major sports car series have instituted horsepower reductions for the same purpose.
I think you will find that the driving challenges that come with smaller brakes, narrower tires, less down force, longer braking zones, and lower closing speeds will produce new passing strategies and enhanced spectator entertainment. It is harder to make these new cars go fast through a corner. This is fun to watch.
The current state of road racing in the US is that the sport is finally getting in line with the rest of our society, especially in the post 9/11 world. Living within our means and paying our own way is required of all of us as a normal function of everyday life. The economy is forcing road racing to deal with these same issues. I predict that the economic downturn will result in a reduction in the costs for rental seats, lower car prices, and smaller fields. Even the gentleman driver who has been the backbone of this sport is thinking twice before engaging in the runaway spending of the past. Only those with extreme wealth are not affected. Even factories are evaluating their investments, as evidenced by the recent decision GM took with their Cadillac program.
Q: How many Daytona Prototypes are you expecting for the Rolex 24?
Q: When are you going to raise the white flag and surrender to the ALMS? This concept is ludicrous and for the first time in 20 or so years I will not be attending your only decent event that was once on par with Lemans. Thanks for killing one facet of sports car racing. GO ALMS!
Sorry, but I don't understand the question.
One of the great things about our country is the ability our citizens enjoy to follow and invest in their own vision. At Grand America, we are not opposed to any other sanctioning body nor would we ever presume to dictate to them how to run their business. We are busy following our vision and protecting our investment without concerning ourselves over what someone else is doing, and we have no reason to suspect that others in the road racing family are not doing the same. The concept that there is a war, or that someone will "win" or "surrender" is a product of overzealous fans or misinformed media.
This particular fan obviously is passionate about the sport and appears to prefer another series to ours. No foul, no problem. Best regards.
Q: How would you compare CCS racing to Grand-Am Cup racing? Do you miss bike racing? When are we going to see you running in a car with us at Daytona?
Championship Cup Series (CCS) motorcycle racing was similar in the overall business aspects, but quite different in the economics and personalities. In bikes, it is typically sprint racing and the rider is also the owner. In Grand-Am Cup, the races are long distance formats with multiple drivers, most of whom are renting rides. Rental rides are virtually unheard of in CCS level motorcycle racing. The cost of tires for one weekend of Grand-Am Cup racing would cover the cost of most of a season for a motorcycle racer.
I don't miss the racing but I do miss some of the people. Over the twenty-plus years I spent in the sport, I met many fine individuals. Unfortunately, when you are in charge or perceived to carry the big stick, it is hard to make friendships without risking the perception of favoritism. This has caused me to adopt a somewhat reserved manner with our members. Since the Grand-Am Cup participants are typically more mature and more financially secure. I need to work harder at establishing and enjoying relationships within the Grand American family.
You won't see me in a racecar, as I am not qualified to run with you guys. I prefer to think of how fast I would have been rather than face the reality of my age and limited talent.
Let me thank all of you who took the time and made the effort to send us your questions. I hope that my answers and observations have given you a better idea of what, why, and how we do things. See you at the races!
More information about the Rolex Sports Car Series and Grand-Am Cup Series is available at www.grandamerican.com.