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Merger Of Grand Am And ALMS Creates United SportsCar Racing 15
Posted by Kurt Ernst in ALMS, Automotive, Grand Am, Kurt, Motorsports, News, United SportsCar Racing on 03 15th, 2013
United SportsCar Racing Logo

United SportsCar Racing Logo

Last September, one of the worst-kept secrets in the North American racing world was revealed: the American Le Mans Series (ALSM) would join forces with Grand-Am to form a single new series for the 2014 season. The announcement created far more questions than it answered, including the primary question of what the new series would be called.

The answer to that particular question was revealed in a news conference yesterday afternoon: the future of sports car racing in North America will soon be in the hands of United SportsCar Racing, which will be sanctioned by the International Motor Sport Association (IMSA).

And here’s where things get a bit convoluted. From what we can tell, the Grand-Am series (backed by NASCAR) is essentially taking over the assets of the ALMS. IMSA was the sanctioning body for the ALMS, which also has ties to the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO), which governs competition at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Despite Grand Am being the “owner” of the new series, sticking with the ALMS’ sanctioning body should make it easier for United SportsCar Racing teams to compete at Le Mans, since the ACO and IMSA (via the ALMS) have worked together since 1999.

The new series will run five classes, including Prototype (consisting of Grand-Am Daytona Prototype, ALMS P2 and DeltaWing cars), Prototype Challenge (ALMS LMPC cars), GT Le Mans (ALMS GTE cars), GT Daytona (Grand-Am GT and ALMS GTC cars) and GX (Grand-Am GX cars).

Will the rest of the integration go as smoothly as the early steps have? We’ll know for sure when the green flag drops on the next 24 Hours of Daytona in January 2014.

Mazda6 Skyactiv Diesel To Compete In 2013 Grand-Am Series 30
Posted by Kurt Ernst in Automotive, Diesels, Grand Am, Kurt, Mazda6, Race Cars on 11 30th, 2012

Mazda6 SKYACTIV-D clean diesel race car – image: PRNewsFoto/Mazda North American Operations

Mazda’s new Mazda6 sedan will begin hitting dealers in early 2013. While the styling update and new Skyactiv four-cylinder engine would be news enough, the Japanese automaker announced yesterday that it would be bringing the Skyactiv diesel variant of the car to these shores in the second half of 2013 as well. That makes Mazda the first Asian manufacturer to import a non-commercial, clean-diesel vehicle into the United States.

Mazda is still finalizing the Skyactiv-D engine with the EPA, so output figures aren’t yet available. In traditional Mazda form, however, the manufacturer will look to prove the car in competition, even before it’s available to consumers.The Mazda6 Skyactiv-D will make its racing debut in the Grand-Am GX class at January’s Rolex 24 endurance race in Daytona Beach, Florida.

Mazda has worked with SpeedSource to develop the car, and the diesel engine has already met the team’s goals for performance (over 400 horsepower) and durability (over 50 hours), while using a surprising percentage of production Mazda components. Even the block of the 2.2-liter engine started life as a stock piece.

The Mazda6 diesel represents the first-ever diesel racer in the Grand-Am series (though they’ve been raced for years by Audi and Peugeot in the rival American Le Mans Series), and Mazda hopes the car will earn the company’s 24th class win at the Rolex 24 race.

Good News, Race Fans: Grand Am And ALMS Joining Forces 6
Posted by Kurt Ernst in ALMS, Automotive, Grand Am, Kurt, Motorsports, News, racing on 09 6th, 2012

Grand Am Prototypes run at the Porsche 250 in July 2006 – image: Jeffrey Keeton

If you’re a fan of sports car and endurance racing in the United States, you’ve probably had to choose between following the Grand Am series and the American Le Mans Series (ALMS). Grand Am, now owned by NASCAR, can trace its roots back to the birth of the SCCA-back United States Road Racing Championship in 1962. The ALMS doesn’t have quite the same legacy, but it brings the drama of European endurance racing to America, allowing those of us on this side of the pond to see the same cars campaigned at the Circuit de la Sarthe during the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

For the past 12 years, the two series have battled each other for sponsorship and fan dollars, but that’s about to change. At a press conference in Daytona Beach on Wednesday, the two announced a plan for unification at the start of the 2014 series. Through 2012 and 2013, the Grand Am and ALMS will remain as is, but will kick off the 2014 season in January at the 24 Hours of Daytona, long a premier event on Grand Am’s calendar.

Yesterday’s press conference raised more questions than it answered, and it’s clear that the merger is still in the planning stages. There’s no official name for the new, unified series yet, and the specific classes haven’t been defined. The new series will look to embrace FIA and ACO (Le Mans’ governing body) regulations, which will allow more foreign teams to compete (and more U.S. teams to run at Le Mans), but the details haven’t been worked out just yet. One interesting talking point was a provision to allow teams to miss a series race without penalty, further indication that teams would be allowed (and even encouraged) to run at Le Mans.

While there was clearly a sense of cooperation and good will at yesterday’s press conference, there’s a lot of work to get done before the new series kicks off in 2014. Mergers between the two series have been discussed in the past without agreement, so let’s hope that both sides can continue to work together towards the common goal. For U.S. sports car racing fans, things are about to get a whole lot more interesting.

Image credit: Jeffrey Keeton, CC 2.0