Q: So essentially, with GT you're looking at it from a “if it's not broke, don't fix it” standpoint?
A: I think it's the rule now, rather than the exception, that for a manufacturer to justify a truly professional, factory-backed motorsports program, there has to be an unprecedented level of relevance involved. There's no better place that I'm aware of that does it better than the ALMS. Between the ones that are here now and the ones that are on the way – Lotus now for example – bears that out. That's just the most recent, and happy to tell you there's more to come.
Q: One other big thing of note this year is the DeltaWing debut. Depending on how well it does, do you see that as having a future in ALMS?
A: It absolutely would have a future in the ALMS. That was the original motivation way back when. It's a relatively unreported story as to when the DeltaWing came to be the recipient of the 56th garage opportunity at Le Mans. It started here in Braselton with a set of meetings and took what would have been an otherwise dead and finished program, which was the DeltaWing IndyCar option, and kept it alive and reborn in the form of a prototype.
The intent from the beginning of those discussions was not to have it a one-and-done debut at Le Mans simply to demonstrate the technology, but to use it as the catalyst to demonstrate the technology. Then follow it up with a full engagement in the ALMS. Right now, that continues to be our plan. There's so many variables in play at the moment to say whether it will happen. But that would be the intent.
The car in its form at Le Mans would be appropriate to the LMP category. Depending on which drive train it's fitted with would determine whether it would be a P1 or P2 configuration.
Q: This year's Sebring, of course, is huge with it being the 60th anniversary and relaunching the WEC. It's also the first joint WEC/ALMS race. What excites you, and how do you see the sanctioning bodies working together?
A: What excites me most? It's an epic year that's materialized. It's an easy question to answer. This is what we've been practicing for and working toward, since Don Panoz's acquisition of Sebring and the launch of the ALMS. I think the ALMS is the birth mother of the WEC. It's because of the success the ALMS realized, and the continued growth that the series and the premier events within the series – Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring – year-by-year approach that brings us to this absolute crescendo of all of the stars aligning.
You have the absolute celebration of 60 years of the most historic road racing in the Americas. Sebring occupies that without argument. If that wasn't enough, you now add the debut of the modern era of the FIA World Endurance Championship – and all that that implies. It's the three combined together. You have the first event of the 14th season of the American Le Mans Series, the 60th anniversary of Sebring and the inaugural event of the new WEC all packaged together.
What I envision, and what we envision, as to what this event means can be summed up in a single sentence. This will be the largest, most significant, professional sports car race in the history of the United States of America, period.
What I mean by that is, you'll have the largest physical turnout of fans who have ever attended a sports car race. You'll have the most significant grid of professional prototypes and GT cars from literally around the world. You'll have media in unprecedented numbers. The highest profile TV coverage this series and the individual series has ever had. Live coverage throughout Europe and America. Sunday's ABC network broadcast. All those elements collectively, and this may sound like a great exaggeration, but it's a statement of fact: this will be one for the ages.
Q: Do you feel the ACO and ALMS have been strengthened or affected by the WEC creation, or is it kind of a “wait and see how it evolves” type process?
A: Yes, all of the above. For sure, the launch of the WEC has added a dynamic to our relationship with the ACO that frankly didn't exist before. There's also been some unfortunate individual events that have occurred that added to the strain. When they announced the schedule in China that included the Bahrain event directly in conflict with Petit, that was unfortunate, disappointing, but it happened. That was corrected.
Even though, in reality, the problem created by the WEC calendar in close proximity to Petit Le Mans or any other major sports car race, by changing the date didn't alleviate that.
But this is more important than what's happened historically. Since those isolated events occurred, the relationship that we have with the ACO is actually strengthened. There's been an approach by both parties to truly work together – by saying that, I mean, the ACO works with us to build the ALMS in the Americas. At the same time, we've committed ourselves, as always, to build their brand on a global scale as we can affect it in the U.S.
We'll start them off with the first WEC event in the most successful way possible. Time will tell. We're all very focused on making sure the execution of this race – which is truly a combined effort – the first ALMS event of our 2012 season, 60th Sebring, first WEC race, there's a lot of moving parts in that equation. From a fan's perspective, this needs to go off without a hitch. Even though there's a lot of behind-the-scenes activity, the product on-track will be second to none.