Last week's announcement of the intention to create a North American DTM championship by Grand-Am and ITR (organizers of the DTM series) was met with both optimism and skepticism. It felt more like an engagement party than a wedding announcement which left industry insiders, fans and sports car entrants holding more questions than answers.
Most people have expressed enthusiasm for the cool but costly silhouette series, but how it would fit into the new United SportsCar Racing championship that launches next January? How many auto manufacturers are ready to step up and commit? And will the series ever come to fruition?
With the help of Grand-Am CEO Ed Bennett, a number of marques and a bit of our own analysis, here's RACER's tour through the many topics swirling around the announcement.
The DTM/ITR announcement has drawn the ire of many for what's perceived as an unnecessary distraction with unification between the American Le Mans Series and Grand-Am right around the corner. In reality, Grand-Am has been trying to bring a domestic DTM championship to life for far longer than any of its other initiatives.
Looking at the timeline behind the Grand-Am and DTM discussions, it dates back to 2010 and came from a period where the Rolex Series produced great racing – it always has great racing – but its cars and overall product were less than captivating.
The wide greenhouses on the second-generation Daytona Prototypes kept waves of sports car fans at bay, and in recognizing the need for a boost in interest and energy, Grand-Am's leadership looked east for a solution that would amplify its events without having to revamp the Rolex Series. It also saw the potential to bring more manufacturers into its fold.
WHY THE DTM?
One of the running questions has centered on the somewhat odd desire by Grand-Am to bring a niche European road racing series to the USA as an addition to its endurance racing properties.
It would certainly add an element of intrigue to the Rolex Series, but with its limited reach, a DTM race packaged into DP/GT weekends wouldn't do much to budge the needle on ticket sales.
To be fair, Grand-Am already has a strong lineup during its events – especially when the Continental Tire Series opens and the Rolex Series closes, and adding the DTM to the schedule wouldn't hurt. Its sprint race format would be a nice change to the endurance races, and offers the kind of immediacy to its schedule that nearly three hours of Rolex Series racing simply cannot match.
NEW MODELS, NEW DOLLARS
An American DTM championship also offers Grand-Am the possibility of engaging new and existing Rolex Series manufacturers at a much higher financial level. The DTM is wickedly expensive and thrives on manufacturer dollars. At present, Grand-Am is loaded with manufacturer involvement, but the financial returns are limited due to the independent nature of how teams and manufacturers operate.
It would be easy and predictable to blame Grand-Am and its parent company NASCAR for simply going after big dollars through creating its own DTM championship, but it's just smart business on their part.
The Rolex DP rules prohibit serious manufacturer involvements like the eight-figure Audi and Toyota factory programs in the FIA WEC series, and in Rolex GT, there's light manufacturer involvement and more will be coming when the united series kicks off, but even those budgets from Corvette Racing and BMW pale in comparison to what a season of DTM racing costs.
Plus, the majority of those dollars go into their respective teams, with a small percentage increasing the bottom line of the sanctioning body.