The next step toward a unified North American sports car series was taken on Monday in New York City, when officials from the American Le Mans Series and Grand-Am met with representatives of 12 automobile manufacturers.
The two sanctioning bodies announced a merger in September and will run a combined schedule in 2014, with a target of 12 races. Both series will run separate schedules in 2013, joining together for the first time in one weekend at Road America in August.
“We had a lot of healthy dialogue and commitment to follow-up,” said Ed Bennett, Grand-Am president and CEO. “We formed a list of subcommittees, which will be working groups to cover all aspects of our sport.”
Bennett was joined by Grand-Am founder Jim France, Managing Director of Competition Richard Buck, Managing Director of Racing Operations Mark Raffauf, and Managing Director of Technical Regulations and Development Gabriel Cadringher. The ALMS contingent included Founder Don Panoz, President and CEO Scott Atherton, and Chief Operating Officer Scot Elkins. Automobile manufacturers represented at the meeting included Aston Martin, Audi, BMW, Chevrolet, Dodge SRT, Ferrari, Ford, Honda, Lotus, Mazda, Porsche and Toyota's TRD.
“It was a very productive meeting, and a significant first step,” Atherton said. “We've come a long way. Having Jim France and Don Panoz and their key people standing shoulder to shoulder in open discussion with 12 manufacturers was a remarkable situation – and it really set the stage for our collective future together.
“No decisions were made; it was primarily a discussion. Each of the manufacturer representatives – including those joining us on the teleconference – had the opportunity to speak and provide feedback. The meeting raised several new issues that we will continue to discuss.”
A list of subcommittees that will focus on all aspects of the merger was also announced at the meeting. Each will be chaired by a representative of one of the sanctioning bodies, joined by their counterpart from the other organization.
“While the main topic was the 2014 regulations – which we hope to announce in the near future – we also took a longer-range perspective,” Atherton said. “We do not want to be narrowly focused. We are putting together plans with both 2014 and the ultimate destination of our unified sports car racing series in mind.”
The meetings took place at the Intercontinental Hotel in NYC, prior to the 2012 Rolex Champions Awards presented by SunTrust at Manhattan's Gotham Hall. The 2012 American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón season will close with the 1,000-mile/10-hour running of the Petit Le Mans powered by Mazda at Road Atlanta on Oct. 20. The 2013 Grand-Am Rolex Series season opens with the 51st Rolex 24 At Daytona on Jan. 26-27.