GARRA/Rolex mean business

The business of road racing is flourishing here in Daytona Beach, Florida where the Grand American Road Racing Association (GARRA) is celebrating its five-year existence by forging new relationships and extending affiliations that have been part...

The business of road racing is flourishing here in Daytona Beach, Florida where the Grand American Road Racing Association (GARRA) is celebrating its five-year existence by forging new relationships and extending affiliations that have been part and parcel of the Rolex Sports Car Series since its inception.

The rationale for Rolex's involvement is fairly simple: brand name recognition and watch sales, according to president Walter Fisher. "Five- some years ago I met with Bob Snodgrass at a vintage race," Fisher recalled, "and he and Hurley [Haywood] talked to me about Grand American racing. 'We need you to make this series great', they said to me," he recalled.

When Fisher discovered the France family and, particularly Jim France were behind the new sports car series he agreed to take part. The association has been so successful, Fisher acknowledged, that Rolex has signed on for an additional three-year period as the naming sponsor for the Rolex Sports Car Series and the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

"Rolex has been a part of the fundamental growth of Grand American racing and, in part due to this affiliation we are, not only the talk of the motorsports industry but the talk of the entire business industry because of our growth," said Roger Edmondson, president of GARRA. "Much of our acceptance came about through Rolex," he acknowledged.

"The name adds credibility to everything we do," Edmondson said. "Five years in we want to differentiate the Rolex series from our other programs and emphasize the Rolex Sports Car Series." To that end the GARRA is initiating a new look and logo - the first change for the series since it began.

With a new split-pea and purple haze logo that touts the Rolex Sports Car Series as "A driving passion - it's what moves us" and with a new emphasis on the campaign as "a championship of the Americas," Edmondson announced today that the Rolex Sports Car Series would complete its 2005 season in Mexico City the first weekend of November.

The season-closer at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City will run in conjunction with the Champ Car World Series finale and will be held on Saturday, November 5th at the 2.786-mile permanent road course. It will be the first time the Rolex series has run south of the US borders but, Edmondson predicted, there will be other such forays in the near future.

"We are well aware of the intense passion Mexican fans have for motorsports," Edmondson said, "and we are eager to witness this first-hand as we wind down our 2005 season." The series' celebratory banquet will take place after the race in Las Vegas once again, he noted.

Grand American has also slated two new championships within championships to acknowledge the true base of sports car racing: the sportsman racer who "drives because of passion," not necessarily professionalism. "We won't forget the heritage of sportsman racers; they will always have a place with us," Edmondson said.

"As Grand American has matured, we've seen more professional drivers" taking part. "We don't want the sportsman to feel we're losing touch with their passion - we need these racers who do this because they love it and we've created a championship to acknowledge that point."

While the specifics have not been nailed down, two titles will be awarded through perpetual trophies that will remain with the organization here in Daytona Beach. For the GT category, there will be a Bob Akin award; in Daytona Prototypes the prize will be named the Jim Trueman award. The first round for this championship will be at Homestead-Miami Speedway and will require a more-than-casual participation, Edmondson said.

One year earlier than expected, SunTrust Bank, the official bank of the Grand American Road Racing Association has renewed its affiliation - with GARRA and with the team owned by veteran driver/owner Wayne Taylor (#10 SunTrust Pontiac/Riley Mk II), it was announced today. The agreement extends through the 2006 season.

SunTrust Bank began its relationship with GARRA and Wayne Taylor's team at this event last season. "SunTrust is very pleased following the first year of its relationship," declared Craig Kelly, chief marketing officer. "We wanted to show our commitment by stepping up and extending the contracts early, well before the end of the second year. The Grand American racing platform has been hugely successful for us, hence the early renewal."

Edmondson agreed, "Rolex lit the fire" under the series and "SunTrust accelerated our growth by making waves in big business. Others asked what they saw in us and why they committed to our program. I think this commitment shows they saw value." Kelly stated there was no question that "Jim France delivered on every single promise to SunTrust he made and we thank him for that."

Road racing is "still an approachable sport," according to Edmondson. "That gives SunTrust and other companies the opportunity to come in, bring along their best clients and do business" during race weekends.

In addition to being the official bank of GARRA and partner to the SunTrust Racing #10 Daytona Prototype racer - which lies second on Saturday's grid for the 43rd running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona, SunTrust Bank also supports a contingency "Improve your Position" award and has established the SunTrust Motorsports Private Banking group to provide specialized financial support to the industry.

Finally, Ten Motorsports, which runs the #19 DP BMW/Riley for Michael McDowell, Memo Gidley, Michael Valiante and Jonathan Bomarito with sponsorship from the Air Force Reserve renewed its affiliation with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which is celebrating its 25th year of operation and has granted more than 127,000 wishes to seriously ill children around the United States. In the process of its endeavors, Make-A-Wish has become one of the top 60 brands in America.

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Memo Gidley , Wayne Taylor , Michael Valiante , Jonathan Bomarito , Bob Snodgrass , Bob Akin