The final round of the American Le Mans Series season features a plethora of items going on beyond the on-track action. Here's a recap:
ALMS STATE OF THE SERIES RECAP – What the American Le Mans Series' annual "State of the Series" news conference lacked in specifics in terms of how the sports car merger between it and Grand-Am will evolve for 2014, it more than made up for in terms of quality of people on hand. High-ranking officials from across the board beyond ALMS were present – Grand-Am heads Jim France and Ed Bennett and from the ACO, Pierre Fillon, Gerard Neveu and Frederic Henry-Biabaud. This came in a packed room at Road Atlanta filled with a host of OEM representatives, media members and other high-level officials from across the spectrum of sports car racing.
The more pressing matters announced were twofold. First, to coincide with the 2013 ALMS schedule announcement confirmed late Thursday night, the series announced a return to the FOX Sports Media Group for live telecasts of the two longest races of the season – the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring and Petit Le Mans. Sebring will unfold live on SPEED, with Petit Le Mans confirmed on the same network but likely under a different name depending on how the FSMG progresses with the evolution of SPEED into a broad-based, multi-sport network rather than a motorsport-specific channel as SPEED has been.
ALMS president/CEO Scott Atherton (ABOVE, from Sept. 5 merger announcement) admitted the truncated, two-hour TV broadcast windows for Sebring and Petit Le Mans have been unacceptable to both hardcore and casual fans. He also said to expect at least half of the ALMS races to be televised live. ABC will broadcast races at Long Beach (tape-delayed), Road America (live), and Baltimore (tape-delayed) with the remaining five races airing on ESPN2.
Additionally, the ALMS confirmed presenting sponsor Tequila Patron has renewed its role through the end of 2013 – marking the company's fifth year of involvement with the series. Both sides felt confident in the continuation of the partnership beyond the end of next year.
RACER.com will have more from both president/CEOs, Atherton (ALMS) and Bennett (Grand-Am) in the coming days regarding the immediate developments in the sports car merger progress and more on the TV announcement.
ESM GOES CHROME FOR A GOOD CAUSE – An off-the-wall conversation I stumbled into on Thursday with Jeff Segal, Grand-Am's GT co-champion in a Ferrari 458, and two Extreme Speed Motorsports crew members including them hinting that the team's eye-popping new Ultimat Vodka silver chrome livery had actually seen the car lifted by crane and dipped into a chrome paint. The unusual suggestion was dismissed after I spoke to ESM's public relations rep Susan Pollack, who confirmed the car was in fact a wrap.
Regardless of how the car came to be, it is truly a vehicle where photos don't do it justice. That's no knock on the pros, but the way the chrome reflects depending on the lighting is just staggering. It's going to be one of those cars that years from now, fans look back on and think, “Wow, what a spectacular livery,” and perhaps want to buy diecasts.
Perhaps more important than the sponsor – Ultimat Vodka falls under the Patron Spirits umbrella – is the charitable cause associated with the livery. The team is seeking to raise awareness and donations for Action Against Hunger, a global organization committed to saving the lives of malnourished children across the world and provides communities access to safe water and sustainable solutions to hunger. The organization has lifesaving programs in more than 40 countries around the global and assists more than seven million people each year. In addition, Action Against Hunger has more than 30 years of expertise in emergency contexts of conflict, natural disasters, and food crises.
“We hope our new look for Petit educates our fans about the great work Action Against Hunger does throughout the world,”said Ed Brown, Patron Spirits CEO and co-driver of the team's No. 02 Ferrari F458 Italia with Guy Cosmo and Anthony Lazzaro. There are more than 3.5 million childhood deaths each year because of malnutrition and Action Against Hunger works to provide safe water and sustainable solutions to hunger in an affordable way.”
GOOSE ON THE LOOSE – Beyond the top five in qualifying times (prior to fastest qualifier Guy Cosmo losing his time for the car failing a ride height infringement), the fourth manufacturer after Ferrari, BMW and Corvette was not Porsche as might have been expected.
Instead, it was the SRT Viper – qualified by the underrated veteran Marc Goossens – that came best of the rest and made its first top half of the GT field appearance. Goossens in sixth outqualified all four Porsche 911 GT3 RSRs.
Tommy Kendall and Ryan Hunter-Reay, two of the three American drivers on the squad (Jonathan Bomarito), both noted the team has made some dramatic improvements to the car since their last race at Baltimore Labor Day weekend. The crew has worked an incredible amount of man hours in rebuilding both Riley-built cars since Baltimore.
DALZIEL THE TWEETER – The last month has been whirlwind enough for Ryan Dalziel (FAR RIGHT), the Scot racing in both domestic sports car championships and in the FIA World Endurance Championship. To keep up with the exploits, Dalziel – after much pestering and tongue-in-cheek joking – has finally joined the Twitterverse. His ALMS PR rep at CORE autosport, Dan Passe, was the pioneer of the “Dalziel the Twitterless” hashtag that made its way around the world, most notably onto the video boards at the Silverstone WEC race.
“I blame you guys,” Dalziel joked Thursday when speaking informally to a group of media members. “You were all the ones hinting I needed to get on. But now I've already got myself addicted to it – I felt bad I didn't tweet anything yesterday. It was one hour of track time and 23 hours of nothing.”