After several weeks worth of rumors and speculation, the Unlimited Racing Championship was unveiled Friday morning at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The one-make series will run as a standalone support series at four American Le Mans Series rounds in the 2012 season, and a total of eight races (four doubleheader weekends, each race 30 minutes long).
By design, series founder Richard Nauert (right, with Scott Atherton) and staff worked to keep the announcement very much quiet.
“I think this should be a bit of a surprise,” he said. “We've worked very hard to keep this under wraps. There's been very little said about it.”
The series is new, but the car is largely a throwback to the Can-Am era. Nauert, whose name will adorn the NuArt Can-Am car, harkens this new prototype to a mix of design from the 1960s and '70s. The car takes styling cues from the Porsche 917, McLaren Can-Am, various Lola chassis and even the current ALMS prototypes.
The NuArt car certainly sounds like an era of bygone, as this new model will produce 700 horsepower from a Chevrolet-based, V8 engine.
ALMS president and CEO Scott Atherton opened the press conference by asking how many attendees were 45 years of age or older, and noted that this would “celebrate a bit of that racing era.”
“(Can-Am) seems to slip off the edge and is sort of forgotten,” Nauert admitted. “Those were cars that made those first impressions — when I was 10, I never got over it starting — it's been on my mind and on my heart all my life. Scott recognized how valuable these cars are. Certainly we all love them, but we're wondering how they can connect that next generation for those who grew up on video games. The reaction to these cars should be something fantastic.”
Modern enhancements to the car with the driver's feet located behind the center line of the front wheel, perimeter crush structures on the sides and front, hot engine fluids routed outside the driver's compartment, and a removable safety seat with wraparound headrest to accommodate the HANS device. Potential drivers can fit in the chassis up to 6'5”, and 280lbs.
But the retro vibe is very much evident. With an H-pattern gearbox and no paddle shifters, 12-inch steel brakes and the styling of the car, the NuArt certainly looks like a car from the past.
The NuArt costs $485,000 with all spares included, but Nauert confirmed the series will be an arrive-and-drive, and that the series will field all cars.
Nauert said his “test mule car” already has more than 3,000 miles of testing, and said for however many miles any of the other cars get, the test mule should have 2,000 more than that.
Nauert also revealed Max Papis has handled development work on the car, utilizing his versatility.
“Max Papis has to be the most versatile driver today, he's done F1, IMSA now in NASCAR, won in CART,” he said. “This is a great pedigree for the car.”
A former racer himself, Nauert will resume driving after prior stints in Indy Lights (1993-1994) and motorcycle racing on the Isle of Man.
His main work has been in aeronautical and aerospace engineering, with his Southwestern Performance company producing chassis in IMSA, CART, Indy Lights, ALMS and Atlantics since the early 1990s.
Southwestern was the prime subcontractor for the chassis on every Saleen S7 (except prototypes). They also produced the FIA certified crash box and numerous other components. Saleen's S7 took a GT1 class win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in its final start at the circuit.
Three URC cars are on display this weekend at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, and Nauert said production is “very much under way,” with him anticipating a full field of 20 cars in 2012.
Races where the URC will compete are yet to be determined, as the 2012 ALMS schedule is also yet to be finalized, Atherton said.
More information is available at www.unlimitedracingchampionship.com.