Grand-Am competition director Richard Buck and IMSA/ALMS chief operating officer Scot Elkins conducted a press conference at Daytona to announce the class structure for 2014, when the Rolex Series and ALMS will be combined. The new classes—which will also be in effect in 2015—were announced early in January so competitors could begin to make plans for next year.
The press conference was held at Daytona International Speedway on the first day of the Roar Before the Rolex 24, the first test session of the year for the Grand-Am Rolex and Continental Challenge Series.
There will be four classes in the combined series—but neither the series nor the classes have names yet. Those classes are:
ALMS P2 and Grand-Am Daytona Prototype. The current Grand-Am Rolex Series Daytona Prototypes will run along with ALMS P2 prototypes. There are currently three BMW-powered cars running the entire season in DP, including the championship-winning Ganassi Riley-BMW and two new Riley-BMWs run by Team Sahlen. There is no BMW presence in ALMS P2, a class contested by HPD (Honda Performance Development) prototypes such as Scott Tucker’s championship winning cars, and selected others like Patrick Dempsey’s Lola-Judd. As of today no teams have committed to running the ALMS P2 class for the entire 2013 season.
The combined P2-Daytona Prototype class will be the premier class for the unified series; the P1 prototypes that run in the World Endurance Championship, like the factory Audis, and US-based P1 cars like Dyson’s Lola-Mazda and the Muscle Milk HPD, will not be run in the new series.
ALMS LMPC. ALMS LMPC is a spec prototype class designed to enable prototype racing on a reasonable budget. It will continue to run in the combined series.
ALMS GT. The current ALMS GT class will continue to run as is. One of the most competitive classes in racing, it has been the home of the BMW Team RLL M3s in recent years, along with teams running Corvettes, Ferraris, Porsches, and Vipers, among other cars. BMW has announced that it will contest the class with Z4 GT3s in 2013. Details regarding the team and the drivers have not yet been announced.
Grand-Am GT and ALMS GTC. ALMS GTC, an all-Porsche 911 GT3 Cup class will be combined with Grand-Am’s GT class. BMW is represented by Turner Motorsport’s M3s in this class, which allows both tube frame cars and cars running original chassis. Turner competes with a wide range of cars that includes Audi R8s, Camaros, Corvettes, Vipers, Ferrari 458s, Ford Mustangs, Mazda RX-8s, and Porsche GT3s.
Grand-Am’s new GTX class, which is represented at Daytona this year by three Mazda 6 diesels, two Porsche Caymans, and a Lotus Evora, will be evaluated over the course of the year. It may run as a fifth class in 2014-2015, or it may be integrated into the existing Grand-Am GT class.
Details of the class structure are a work in progress. Among the many challenges faced by the rule makers are balancing the Daytona Prototypes and the ALMS P2 prototypes.
The P2 cars, along with the ALMS GT cars, are eligible to run at Le Mans. It was noted at Daytona that the Grand-Am/ALMS team is working closely with the ACO, the sanctioning body for Le Mans, with the intention of preserving the crossover between Le Mans and the new series.
As Elkins noted at the press conference, “Because of the link with the ACO, the intention is to keep the P2 car as close to that technical specifications as we possibly can and increase the performance level of the Daytona Prototype through the various aerodynamics, brakes, stuff like that, those are the details we are working through.”
While Grand-Am and ALMS are running separate series this year, the two series will run on the same weekend at Road America on August 8-10.—Brian S. MorganBack to News