Backing Away From The Cliff
Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada, July 20 — When I first heard the American Le Mans Series was being bought by the Grand Am, ISC, NASCAR, France Family "conglomerate," I wrote an email to my friends with one simple line: "I give up on racing."
I had already lived through the demise of CART/Champ Car, and now I was expecting to see sports car racing reduced to the mundane sameness of which modern day racing has become. I lost open wheel racing and I was about to lose sports car racing. I was ready to start covering tiddlywinks...
The LMP2 class will become the leading prototype class for USCR next year.
There is nothing more anathema than spec racing at the highest level of the sport. On top of that, apparently spec racing at this level breeds the Medusa effect -- cars so blindingly ugly, they turn you into stone upon laying your eyes on them. From the Dallara to the Daytona Prototype to even the Next Gen. It's a mind numbing disease that has inflicted American auto racing, driving hordes of fans away.
Thus, you can understand my depression a year ago upon hearing the news. Every time the word "merger" was used, I kept hearing "buyout." NASCAR was going to be in complete control, the real prototypes would be either gone completely or castrated beyond recognition, and the greatest GT racing in the word would be destroyed.
Well, a funny thing happened on the way to the edge of the cliff. It appears United SportsCar Racing really is going to be a bona fide, proper racing series, free from the trend of turning the sport into the lowest common denominator. Ironic, the land of capitalism seems so intent to follow communistic principles with its racing, suffocating and punishing success and innovation.
This weekend's USCR press release has rid me of my worst fears. The LMP2 class will match exactly the rules of the ACO. The ALMS GT class will match exactly the rules of the ACO. In other words, the two key classes, which makes ALMS what it is, will be untouched.
Thankfully, USCR will keep the ALMS GT class as is.
What this means -- and this is the key point -- is the Daytona Prototypes will be brought up to the level of the P2 instead of the P2 being dumbed down to the DP level. It will raise the bar instead of lowering it. What this also means is the great ALMS GT class will be allowed to continue as is. No messing with success.
The LMPC class sticks around, with no changes to the rules. Sure, LMPC is a spec class, but I'm okay with the lower classes being spec, even if they are really there as field fillers.
Besides, I've grown to like LMPC. The cars are much faster than a few years ago, as teams have learned over time to tweak them to get them to handle better, making them fairly close to a proper prototype.
Meanwhile, the GTC class becomes less spec, as it is being merged with the Grand Am GT class. The GX class is aborted, also being merged with GT-Daytona, as no one other than Mazda plans on supporting GX. I believe GX is an important concept, but perhaps not quite now. I can see this being a popular separate class down the road.
Yes, the LMP1 class is going away, but I already wrote about my displeasure while realizing it is a necessary move. If we look at next year's entries in now the top class, P2, it looks quit healthy. Both Level 5 Motorsports and Extreme Speed Motorsports are expected to field two cars like now. It appears Dyson Racing will also enter two cars, one at a minimum. Sources told us the Muscle Milk Team will compete in the new series, most likely in P2.
That's seven cars. Add in the DeltaWing and whatever Daytona Prototype teams join (this will be heavily contingent on how well they improve the performance of the DP to be able to compete with P2), and some may decide to go the P2 route. Suddenly, we have a very healthy top prototype class.
It is reminiscent of what happened to GT a number of years ago. It was split into GT1 and GT2, but GT1 was hardly subscribed with only Corvette and occasionally one other manufacturer supporting it. Finally, Corvette went down to GT2, forcing the demise of GT1. The now renamed GT class became attractive to other manufacturers as well, and you have the current healthy state which exists in GT.
I see the same thing happening to P2, to be renamed Prototype, class. Dare I say this may be the dawn of a golden era in American sports car racing? Dare I say this may become the only real racing series in North America with innovation, manufacturer battles, tire battles, fuel battles? The only racing series where variety is the spice of life?
Future USCR COO and President, Scott Atherton, told Gordon Kirby in a recent interview, "We will not become a spec form of motor sport."
Copyright © 2013 by Russell Jaslow and Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.