The future of North American sports car racing became a bit clearer Thursday when officials from Grand-Am and the American Le Mans Series unveiled the branding, sanctioning body and class structure identity for United SportsCar Racing, which will debut at the 2014 Rolex 24 at Daytona.
RACER.com spoke to various manufacturer representatives, team owners and drivers to get their reaction on latest step forward in the unification process.
Jens Walther, President, Porsche Motorsport North America: “I think they chose a unique name instead of using one of the old names. I also like the fact that IMSA is going to be the new regulating body, that they've continued the name. In terms of the class structure for us, it's very good news that Le Mans is in the [GT class] name. That tells us that it will be run according to ACO rules, which is important to manufacturers."
Mark Kent, GM Racing Director: "Today was just another step toward 2014. When they announced the merger last year, they said they had these set milestones they wanted to meet and they've met every one of them. So I'm really excited to see how well it's coming together and how the two organizations are working together. The next step is going to be the unveiling of the technical regulations, and before you know it, we'll be racing."
John Doonan, Mazda Motorsports Director: "As a kid, I grew up following IMSA, so I'm thrilled that it is part of the future. I think that's a stable foundation and a very recognizable brand. With the work that both organizations have done to come together, I think the name is fitting. Clearly the class structure is strong and allows all of us as manufacturers to pick our place. It also allows for those who have invested their own private money to go racing.”
Travis Roffler, Continental Tire Marketing Director: "We're excited for the unified series and think it's going to be great. The announcement was extremely positive and is moving in the right direction. We're involved intimately in the discussions and details of tires for '14 and beyond. We absolutely will be involved in the series, to what extent, we can't talk about or discuss right now.
Bobby Rahal, Team Principal, BMW Team RLL (ALMS): "I'm glad the GTE class will be the same, as an ACO class. By all accounts, that's the only class that will have [multiple] tire [manufacturers] allowed. As far as the brand name, as long as it brings in fans, I don't care what it's called. But I think there being just one sports car series is nothing but good. It's definitely better in IndyCar now that there's one series. It's gotta help sports cars for sure."
Peter Baron, Starworks Motorsport Team Owner (Grand-Am): "You knew in the back of your head, but when you hear them verbalize that we'll start at Daytona, Sebring and finish [the season] with Petit Le Mans and throwing in The Glen and Indy... That part is nice. But one of the things we're extremely nervous about is that with all of the races added up, there will be [about] 50 percent more race time. I really don't care so much about the helmet logo but rather what they're going to do to to make sure they don't turn a just-over $2 million DP [program] into a $3.5 million budget."
Chris Dyson, Dyson Racing VP (ALMS): "I'm clearly biased but when you look at the equity of the IMSA branding, it's wonderful that it's surviving. The IMSA branding is a homecoming, to be under France family ownership, because that's where it started with. I think Don's legacy will be preserved because the content is going to remain and the international hook will also remain. This is just a step in the process, but we have to remain optimistic and hopeful."
Patrick Long, CORE autosport (ALMS) & Park Place Racing (Grand-Am): "I think it's good that there's not any existing words from either of the two series [in the name]. United stands for a lot of things and I think it's a positive, clean slate approach and that's what we need. It's a reminder that it's a unification and not an acquisition."
Jon Fogarty, GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing (Grand-Am): "I would have liked to see the word 'endurance' included somewhere in the naming. But maybe that would be overlapping or confusing with the WEC. It is what we do but I guess; we race sports cars as well. But it's great that they announced it this early, in the beginning of '13. It sounds like the overall strategy is right."
Ryan Dalziel, Starworks Motorsport (Grand-Am) & SRT Motorsports (ALMS): “Although I enjoy the name, I don't care what they call it, I want good racing. That's what Grand-Am and the ALMS have provided to their fans over the years. I'm excited about 2013, but I also have one eye on 2014 and I'm looking forward to what's going to be a huge field for sports car racing in America."
Joao Barbosa, Action Express Racing (Grand-Am): "I think they're going to have a big task ahead in unifying the classes. That's going to be a big challenge. I'm sure they already have great people working on that. Obviously you're not going to be able to satisfy 100 percent of the people. What they're going to do is in the good of the series, which is to promote sports car racing at a higher level and with more manufacturer involvement. The series has a much greater potential for growth and I'm very excited."