American Le Mans Series president and CEO Scott Atherton looks ahead to the 2011 season and beyond.
Let's look back before we look forward. What was the most significant achievement for the ALMS in 2010?
"Two things: having all class championships come down to the last laps of the last race and successfully incorporating both the LMPC and GTC categories into the existing American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón platform. I think both categories performed above our highest expectations. They've also proven be an effective incubator of upwardly moving teams, drivers, sponsors etc."
So what's the next step?
"There are new technical rules and regulations in the LMP categories which will provide new content, but we also have a continuation of truly the best GT racing in the world. It has been the hallmark of our series for the past several years and it continues to get better. The combination of new technical rules in prototypes, which has already produced new manufacturers and cars, and a raising of the bar – again – in GT will, no doubt, enable us to top 2010."
Tell us more about the direction you've taken with your new television package with ABC and ESPN.
"Our new television/digital platforms provide us with the best of two worlds. We have the gold standard in sports broadcasting in the United States with the combination of ABC and ESPN. The ESPN3.com digital element is the benchmark for what will be the next generation of sports broadcasting. So, we have one foot firmly planted in the present and another foot firmly planted in the future. The programs we've put together are without question the best possible combination for us, now and going forward."
The global competition created by the ACO – the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup – certainly brings worldwide talent to the grid, but it must bring challenges as well. What are the pluses and minuses?
"The pluses are world-class teams, manufacturers and drivers that are making a commitment to be at all of the ILMC events and, in our case, that means Sebring and Petit Le Mans. However, that can't be solely attributed to the ILMC. Sebring and Petit Le Mans have always attracted world-class, international talent that has participated in those events, but not the whole series. If there is a downside, it would be that the same level of content won't be found at all of the other events. But that also can't be blamed on the ILMC. We're pleased to be hosting two rounds of the ILMC and our commitment is to make sure all of our events feature a full grid of world class teams, cars and drivers."
The ALMS has received acclaim as the global leader in "green" racing for its pervasive use of alternative fuels and technologies. What's new with the green racing movement this year?
"What's new is going to be a concerted effort by ALMS, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy and SAE International, to make the MICHELIN GREEN X Challenge understandable and easy to follow for our race fans – and for the casual observer as well.
"The series will also be partnering with the Go Green Auto Rally to better educate the public on how they can drive their own cars more efficiently. Drivers from the American Le Mans Series will be at Go Green Auto Rally events throughout the season to provide hands-on instruction for conserving fuel and reducing emissions based on their racing experience and driving techniques."