One of the most colorful and promising ALMS GT programs could be close to learning whether it will continue in the new IMSA-sanctioned United SportsCar Series. The Falken Tire Porsche team, which is busy converting one of its former racecars to replace the chassis that was heavily damaged on Saturday at Baltimore, will soon know if the Asian brand has approved the budget submitted by team principal Derrick Walker.
“There's two divisions where the decision is being made,” said the Scot. “Falken USA – its marketing department – told us they liked the way things were going with Grand-Am and that the [ALMS] GT class was being kept the same next year in the United series. However, in Japan, at the board level with the parent company in Japan, there have been some questions due to the budget because we'd need to buy a new car, there are longer races so that requires a bigger budget, and the tire needs additional R&D to keep making the improvements we've been seeing. And that's all being reviewed right now.
“The early indications are that it will be approved, but until it actually happens, you're always hesitant to make any statements of fact.”
Most of the GT teams in the ALMS paddock, not to mention a few prototype entrants, have pursued a factory Porsche program with its new-for-2013 chassis, the 991, which will receive a further round of updates in 2014. So far, the brand has indicated it will continue to use the Manthey Racing team as its works solution provider for the 991, but according to Walker, talks with the German marque have indicated at least one chassis could be made available for a privateer program in the USCR's renamed GT Le Mans category.
“Our plan, provided it's approved, involves us staying with Porsche and getting a 991, which would be the only customer RSR 991 anywhere in the world,” Walker declared. “The rest of them will be run by the works team, in Europe or over here. It's a big step, but if we end up with the 991, and it's still not 100 percent certain, it would be a great thing and we'd hopefully get some additional attention by having a very rare car for Porsche fans to come out and see. I also think it would look marvelous in the Falken colors, as well.”
Walker, who doubles as IndyCar president of competition, will continue planning for the inaugural USCR season, but says any major steps will have to wait until news comes in from Falken's board.
“At the moment, we're all raring to go, but it's all on hold until that final decision comes in from Japan,” he added. There's a lot of work to be done, and we feel an answer is imminent and that they'll tell us what they're going to do, so stay tuned. Until that happens, we'll get ready for the last ALMS races and be prepared for whatever comes down from Falken's brass.”