Grand Am, ALMS merge…goodbye LMP’s

If you’ve been listening or reading F1B for any length of time, you know I really like the ALMS as well as its inspiration, Le Mans or the WEC. Having been to several Petit Le Mans, I considered the ALMS the best racing in America. No offense meant toward NASCAR or Grand Am, they are both good series, I just preferred the ALMS and close ties with Le Mans with classes and the racing it produced.

The big news this week is the merger of Grand Am and ALMS with Don Panoz and Jim France making the announcement on Wednesday. The series doesn’t have a name yet but its garnered the praise of the ACO’s president, Pierre Fillon, and series organizers say they wish to remain close to Le Mans. The ACO released a statement that said:

“The ACO is delighted about this merger, which will increase the already large audience for endurance in North America and at the same time boost its international impact.

“The quality of the two organisations combined is a guarantee of confidence concerning the perpetuation of the values and prestige of the Le Mans 24 Hours on the American continent.”

The dissappointing element of the merger is the removal of the LMP class. Panoz said:

“In our situation were are not thinking about an LMP1 class,” he explained. “We are thinking about prototypes, advanced prototypes. We are American based and this series we are putting together is an American sportscar series and we need to take care of our own market.”

I understand that. I get the point that the DP class, besides being ugly, is less expensive and features American manufacturer support, engines etc. I also understand that the LMP class is more Le Mans-centric and usually consists of exotic chassis and engine combinations that don’t appeal to the average American consumer. Still…it is what they race at Le Mans and the winners in ALMS were guaranteed a slot at the 24 hours of Le Mans. DP cars won’t fit that model.

Many fans consider the GT classes in Le Mans and Grand Am as where the real racing is at. I can’t disagree with them as the Corvettes, Ferrari’s, Porsche’s and other cars all fight for supremacy. Would the remaining invitation to Le Mans be for GT class winners? Would a less expensive DP class have an invite that would allow them to build an LMP for the 24 Hours? I can’t imagine a team wanting to build an LMP for one shot but it’s been done many times before.

What are your thoughts on the merger? What are you excited about and concerned about? Let us know in the comments section below.


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