Under its former guise as Andretti-Green Racing, the Indianapolis-based IndyCar Series team formed one of Acura's pillars when the brand launched its American Le Mans Series campaign in 2007.
Drivers Dario Franchitti, Bryan Herta and Tony Kanaan won the 12 Hours of Sebring on AGR's debut, and before the brand's withdrawal from the ALMS at the end of 2008, AGR added two more wins to its tally.
Without manufacturer support, AGR's two-year stint in sports cars came to an end, but as Andretti Autosport owner Michael Andretti revealed to RACER, the early stages of a search for a new works program to campaign in the United SportsCar Racing series is underway.
“I think it's great that [the ALMS and Grand-Am] are uniting,” he said. “Are we looking at it? Absolutely.”
The abrupt end to the Acura program (Honda axed numerous high-profile racing commitments when the global economy tanked late in 2008) left an impression on Andretti, who had made significant investments in personnel and equipment to support a deal that what was meant to run beyond the 2008 season.
In order to ramp back up to having concurrent IndyCar and sports car programs, Andretti says he'll only go forward when a similar, multi-year commitment from a manufacturer is in place.
“I'm not going to do it just to do it,” he declared. “The only way we'll do it is if it's a funded deal; it has to be a factory effort, because it's the only way you do well these days. We work very closely with Chevy in the IndyCar Series, and our last [sports car] deal was good while it lasted, so you have to continue in that direction if you want to win. We don't have anything to announce right now, but we're talking to people. We definitely want to do it.”
The USCR's combined prototype class, which brings customer-based P2s and Daytona Prototypes together in 2014, has limited Andretti's search for a manufacturer-supported program, but the championship-winning IndyCar Series team owner says he wouldn't be averse to running in the factory-rich GTLM (ALMS GT) category.
“A [GT] program is of interest, but we would also like to go for the overall win,” he added. “But if we can sign a good factory program like Bobby [Rahal] has with BMW, we'll be happy with it.”
Along with a long-held passion for sports car racing – one that includes three starts at the 24 Hours of Le Mans – Andretti is also motived by the desired to find a partner for a USCR program to continue his company's growth.
“We're being very open-minded and looking at a lot of different types of racing,” Andretti continued. “We recently announced we're going to compete in the Formula E championship for electric cars, and I'll be honest and say that some of what I've heard about the [USCR] calendar doesn't excite me, like going to some of the ISC tracks and doing ‘infield' racing, but the better the schedule, the easier it is for guys like me who are out there trying to make something happen.
“If you have some of the legendary tracks like Elkhart Lake and Laguna Seca, tracks that are a big part of the history of sports car racing, it's makes the job of finding the money to do it less of an uphill struggle. Like I said, we aren't there yet, but we're doing a lot of talking and hopefully something comes of it.”