The conjoined American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patron and GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series carries the name - from 2014 on - of United SportsCar Series (USCR), it was announced today at Sebring International Raceway by Scott Atherton, CEO of ALMS and Ed Bennett, who carries the same duties with GRAND-AM.
Evoking the past, the present and anticipating the future of sports car racing on the North American continent, United SportsCar Racing will be sanctioned by IMSA, which began in 1969 as the brainchild of John Bishop and Bill France Sr., the group revealed. IMSA is the sanctioning body for ALMS and its holdings.
The new name came from a big stakeholder in the new series - a race fan - who was one of more than 7,500 to enter a contest. New York based SME Branding played a large part in determining the outcome, choosing an entry from Cocoa, Florida's Louis Satterlee, who's been coming to the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring since he was three!
A simple, modern outline of a helmet adorns the USCR name as the group's logo and the IMSA logo has been refreshed to complement the new series.
The lead Prototype ℗ class combines ALMS' P2 class and DeltaWing car with GRAND-AM's Daytona Prototype (DP) categories. The ALMS' Prototype Challenge (PC) class continues unchanged. In the production based GT categories, the ALMS' current GT class will continue as it exists today with the name GT Le Mans (GTLM), while the GT Daytona (GTD) class brings together GRAND-AM's current GT class structure with ALMS' GTC category. The new-technology-based GRAND-AM GX class will retain its current structure.
According to Atherton, choosing the right name and logo was essential to the new series. "We knew at the start we had one chance to get this right," he said. Concerning the sanctioning agreement he noted, "After a lot of feedback and careful consideration, a very important decision was made and it was a unanimous decision." Atherton said that decision was made in part because of IMSA's 40-year history and the legacy it carries. "It resonates with promoters, with teams, with sponsors and for sure it resonates with race fans around the world."
Discussing the class platforms, Bennett said the "approach to structuring and naming the classes really demonstrates the cooperative nature of the merger and teamwork we're enjoying together - and our bright future."
The merger of these two entities was announced last September and the initial class structure was revealed in January. Earlier in the day Lamborghini said it was set to bring its Trofeo Mono Marque series to a third continent - North America - in 2013 under the auspices of IMSA sanction, running alongside ALMS and GRAND-AM events this year and with USCR in 2014 and beyond.
While Bennett said significant progress has been made, "Many steps remain, including the 2014 schedule planning - that's another exciting topic for us. We all know Daytona and Sebring will be part of that schedule and be showcased, but that's only part of the story."
If the two series were combined today, there would be 22 different events at 17 individual circuits, Atherton reminded. "The process of boiling that down to a 2014 schedule is formidable, but what a great problem to have," he said. "It will be a schedule made up of the most iconic, historic venues in the most important business markets for our stakeholders." This work begins Monday morning, Atherton acknowledged.
Bennett intimated that Sebring would likely be a part of the North American Endurance Championship currently part of the GRAND-AM schedule of races. Atherton answered a fan question about limiting the number of entries per class - they'd be over-subscribed if current stakeholders all remained in USCR: "It really comes down to the individual venues" and space provisions, he said.
We've come together a lot faster than we probably anticipated...
The larger question remains as to how ALMS' relationships with FIA and Le Mans continue when the two series emerge as one in 2014. "By virtue of today's announcement of the class structure and the fact that we're referring to things like finishing up our season with a finale at Petit Le Mans in the GTLM category, I think it should send a pretty solid signal that we're in a good position there," with regard to Le Mans and its ACO (Automobile Club de l'Ouest) organization.
Bennett said one of the larger surprises of this marriage is "how great the two groups have worked together. I think once we got into serious discussions, we knew the type of things that would be on the list that would need to be accomplished, but the best thing - to me - has been the people and working together. We've come together a lot faster than we probably anticipated, so that's been very rewarding and very positive, good surprise."
USCR expects manufacturer involvement to continue unabated and the entity anticipates continued involvement from its larger stakeholders, Rolex and Tequila Patron. It's also anticipated this series will work in some doubleheaders - as both do now - with other major North American racing groups like NASCAR and INDYCAR. "It's been proven that we both play well with others…," Atherton said.
Within 90 days, we should expect to see scheduling notes for 2014, including reveals of television partners and technology information and homologation procedures. "The cars get to us in very different ways and our goal is to make them work together," Bennett emphasized.
As part of the developments announced at Sebring, the holding company for GRAND-AM, IMSA/ALMS, Road Atlanta, Sebring International Raceway and Chateau Elan Hotel and Conference Center changed from International Sports Car Auto Racing, LLC (ISCAR) to Grand American Holdings, LLC. There is also a new microsite where fans can enter to win two tickets to the 2014 Rolex 24 at Daytona together with official merchandise for the new series.