The Grand-Am Road Racing series and its rival, the American Le Mans Series, are believed to be in discussions that will result in a merger of the two organizations. John Dagys of speedtv.com, who broke the story on Saturday, September 1, says that a formal announcement will be made in Daytona Beach on Wednesday. You can read Dagys’ report here.
The ALMS was formed in 1999, evolving out of the IMSA series, while Grand-Am began in 2000. The ALMS is allied with the French Automobile Club de l’Ouest, the sanctioning body for Le Mans, while Grand-Am is owned by NASCAR.
BMW is currently a contender in both series. In ALMS, BMW Team RLL runs a two-car M3 team that is currently running second to Chevrolet in manufacturers’ points. In Grand-Am, Ganassi Racing runs a Riley-BMW Daytona Prototype for Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas, who are currently tied for the lead in drivers’ points, while Turner Motorsport runs a GT class M3 for Paul Dalla Lana, Bill Auberlen, and Billy Taylor. Dalla Lana is currently second in drivers’ points.
For years the two series have been competing in the relatively small American market for sports car road racing, but with very different philosophies. ALMS has always been a manufacturer-based series, featuring factory prototypes and GT cars. With Audi pulling out, the series’ premier prototype class has become a contest among privateers. At present, its gem is the GT class, where BMW competes with Porsche, Ferrari, Corvette, Lotus, and now SRT with its Vipers. Grand-Am has created heavily regulated spec classes. Its Daytona Prototype class is limited to a small prescribed set of chassis and engine builders, while its GT classes allow both production-based and tube frame cars.
While the two series run on some of the same tracks, Grand-Am runs at Daytona and Watkins Glen while ALMS runs at Sebring and Road Atlanta. The premier event in the Grand-Am Rolex Series is the 24 Hours of Daytona, while the ALMS’ premier events are the 12 Hours of Sebring and the Petit Le Mans race at Road Atlanta. Grand-Am is lobbying to get the Rolex 24 included in the World Endurance Championship, although it is not clear how its current classes could compete in a WEC event. Meanwhile it is rumored that ALMS is going to lose the WEC slot that it now holds for the 12 Hours of Sebring.
With both series battling with declining car counts in their premier prototype categories, and with neither reportedly making a profit, the time may have come for the two organizations to join forces. Of course, mergers are usually acquisitions rather than marriages between equal partners, but at this point it is not yet clear which organization will dominate. It will take time to sort things out; Dagys says that a combined series would most likely take to the track in 2014. Stay tuned for more information as it becomes available.—Brian S. MorganBack to News