Elkins has the challenge of keeping the hammer down on the ALMS technical side for 2013 before moving onto any 2014 endeavors.
“I only met Gabriel Cadringher (Grand-Am chief technical consultant) for the first time Wednesday,” he says. “There's a lot of business terms to sort out, and we're literally just starting now. We all have ideas.”
Without sportsmen, or "gentlemen" drivers, many of the teams can't exist, either. While ALMS GT doesn't have a de facto pro-am class, there are a number of pro-am driver lineups, and defining a balance that will allow pro-am lineups a proper chance to compete while not losing what ALMS GT has to offer is a very important aspect.
“We don't have a pro-am division, and it's arguably the most competitive racing on the planet right now,” Extreme Speed's Ed Brown says of ALMS GT. “I don't know if it's vitally important to have a pro-am category, per se, but there does need to be the ‘Wow' and ‘buzz' about what ALMS brings to sports car racing.
“For the guys without a lot of experience, oh well, you'll show up and try your hardest and that makes you get better. I've gotten a lot better the last couple years but that's only because I've been thrown in among a bunch of assassins!”
One thing also not elaborated on in Wednesday's press conference was whether tires would be left as an open specification or held as a single supplier. Domestically, the ALMS is the last bastion of a championship with open tire competition – and it's one of the things that has pushed its entrants, Michelin, Dunlop, Falken and Yokohama, to compete. ALMS has opted for a single supplier in its Challenge classes, Michelin and Yokohama providing customer tires to PC and GTC class entrants, respectively. Grand-Am has gone with Continental as its single supplier for both classes for several years.
Although there's still work to be done on that front, French giant Michelin is pleased with the developments, says Silvia Mammone, motorsports manager, Michelin North America.
“We applaud the efforts of both the American Le Mans Series and Grand-Am, who have worked hard to promote and grow sport car racing for the past decade,” she says. “We believe that by going forward together that the sport can grow bigger and faster and bring even greater value to the fans and the stakeholders.”
“Michelin is very interested in learning more about the opportunity to grow and promote sports car racing in North America through the combined new series beginning in 2014.”
Newer to the sports car scene, Falken Tire has made inroads on Michelin and Dunlop within the increasingly deep ALMS GT ranks and won three races, including the most recent round of the championship last weekend at Baltimore with drivers Wolf Henzler and Bryan Sellers.
“We greet today's announcement with a sense of both excitement and wonderment,” says Kevin Jones, supervisor, ALMS Motorsports, Falken Tire. “While having no experience with Grand-Am, we have been nothing but pleased with the guidance of the team that runs the American Le Mans Series and trust that they have the best interest of sports car racing for the fans, manufacturers and competitors in mind.
“Our hope is that the new series debuting in 2014 is truly a combination of the best of both series incorporating fantastic GT racing, technologically progressive prototypes and open tire competition across a broad geographic schedule. We look forward to the final season of the ALMS in 2013 as it is known today and the bright future of sports car racing in the U.S., starting in 2014. At this time, we will wait to see what developments come about in the coming months while the new product is put together.”
And then there's the prospect of how this affects IndyCar. With the marketing arms and goals of manufacturers wanting to showcase their race teams and more relevant road car technology in a united American road racing championship, will this mean the continuation of the popular – and mutually beneficial – doubleheader weekends where IndyCar and either ALMS or Grand-Am split the ticket? In 2012, IndyCar partnered with Grand-Am at Barber and Detroit, and shared the bill with ALMS at the Long Beach and Baltimore street races and Mid-Ohio road course. Road America, as ever, would be a natural for a joint weekend for 2014.
“Absolutely, I think they will continue,” Zak Brown says. “Long Beach is an exciting event for Grand-Am to go to, and they'd went once before (in 2006). Sports car is doing better than it had been. I think IndyCar is still bigger than sports cars, but I think sports cars help IndyCar make a better weekend; more people generally go to IndyCar races, but they like that kind of [combined] weekend. Hopefully they wouldn't cannibalize each other, but it's a similar type of audience.”
As talks, discussions and regulations move forward for this series, it's vitally important for all opinions to be heard to help produce what could be a stellar, singular sports car racing championship.