Washington race hailed as triumphant return of motorsports to D.C. Circuit, organizers praised. BRASELTON, Ga. (July 25, 2002) -- Nearly 80 years had passed since automobile racing had graced the Nation's Capital, but the American Le Mans Series...
Washington race hailed as triumphant return of motorsports to D.C.
Circuit, organizers praised.
BRASELTON, Ga. (July 25, 2002) -- Nearly 80 years had passed since automobile racing had graced the Nation's Capital, but the American Le Mans Series led what is being universally hailed as a triumphant return of motorsports to Washington in last weekend's Cadillac Grand Prix of Washington, D.C.
The event, held over three days on a temporary racing circuit constructed adjacent to RFK Stadium, was the first in a 10-year arrangement between organizer National Grand Prix Holdings, LLC, and the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission.
"From the standpoint of the American Le Mans Series, we were very happy with all aspects of the event," said Scott Atherton, President and COO of the Panoz Motor Sports Group, which operates the ALMS. "We had been saying for a year that the Washington race could be one of the most important in the history of our series, and we feel that way more than ever now that it is concluded."
According to the event organizer, a weekend crowd of 70,000 attended, with nearly all available tickets sold for Sunday's American Le Mans Series event. The fans attending the racing events represented much of the culturally-diverse population of the Washington area, exposing many new fans to sports car racing.
"The manufacturers involved in our series had been pointing to the Washington race as very important for them because of the demographics," said Atherton. "The Washington to New York corridor has traditionally been one of the best markets in North America for Audi, Porsche, Cadillac and other high-end brands of automobiles." The event received some of the highest and most concentrated media coverage that any ALMS event has ever had. The Washington and Baltimore media gave the event a tremendous amount of coverage, both in advance and during, including in print, radio and television outlets. National media outlets such as Associated Press and USA Today increased the coverage normally given to the ALMS. The race was shown live on NBC Sports, and Saturday's companion Trans-Am Series event was live on CBS.
"In terms of media coverage, this was definitely a breakout event for us," said Atherton.
The racing itself has also drawn race reviews, thanks to the well-designed racing circuit that presented opportunities for passing and side-by-side racing.
"Many people predicted that our race would be a crashfest because of the walls on both sides of the track," said Atherton. "But nothing could have been further from the truth. It ranks as one of the most competitive races in the history of our series, with several lead changes on the track and a close (.766 second) margin of victory.
"Being the professionals that they are, our drivers and teams quickly adapted to the circuit and they raced on it," he said.
"I've raced on a lot of temporary circuits in my career, but this was definitely the best," said David Brabham, who teamed with Jan Magnussen to win the race in a Panoz LMP-1 Prototype. "It was a circuit that you could really race on, unlike some temporary circuits that make for single-file parades."
"I was very impressed with the people who organized it," said Johnny O'Connell, who won the GTS class in the event with co-driver Ron Fellows in a Chevrolet Corvette C5-R. "I've been to some temporary circuits where they are still hanging fences or putting up walls when you're supposed to be on the track, but Washington was ready when we got there, and we started practice right on time."
The drivers and teams that participated in the inaugural Cadillac Grand Prix of Washington, D.C., look forward to returning next year.
"The winner today is Washington, D.C.," said Tom Kristensen, who finished second in an Audi R8 with co-driver Rinaldo Capello.
The next race for the American Le Mans Series is Le Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres in Trois-Rivieres, Quebec, Canada, on Saturday, August 3.