Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Future of Sports Car Racing?

The Blancpain Endurance Series kicked off its season this past weekend as well with 35 (34 took the start) cars. I think many are slowly coming around to the idea that the ALMS should expand the GTC class to all GT3 cars.

I submit to the court the entire 3 hour race on Daily Motion -

ALMS/Indy Car/World Challenge Weekend At Long Beach

Thanks to an insider at the ALMS, I was given free VIP access to the ALMS paddock and race this past weekend. The race though the PA was hard to hear when the cars went roaring by was good otherwise. It was slowed by an early and long yellow period and finally killed by in the last 10 minutes as it finished under yellow.

You can find the results of this past weekend's race elsewhere on the net.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

More fall out from Sebring/Start of Season Ver.2

Since I can't post on the larger forum(s) anymore (Ten Tenths) and I don't feel like posting my opinions on smaller outlets(Speed TV, ALMSFans), I guess I'll be posting to my blog much more.

Anyway there seems to be same discussion on both sides of the Atlantic - "Do We Need Prototypes?"

The ILMC was clearly designed for the manufacturers (OEMS) and they have responded with supporting that over the national series be it the LMS or ALMS. Philip Peter in what could be termed as a "thinking out loud" moment said this weekend that he's considering dropping LMP1/2 cars from his LMS series since the field is weak (4 LMP1 cars, 6/7 LMP2 cars) compared to his GT-E/GT-E AM field.

Our LMP Classes are weak, need proof? Long Beach GP Entry List -

LMP1= 2 LMP2= 2 LMPC = 6 GT = 14 GTC = 7 Total = 31

Need I say more?

Murphy, myself and TWK of LTC and others have called for the ALMS to cut the support cord from the LMP's and focus on the GT class. A few people seem to think we have reached a peak in the class. Nonsense! We see new teams entering (Paul Miller and West Yokohama) or current teams constantly improving (BMW, Extreme, RSR Jaguar, Robertsons). Its time to promote this class to be the center piece of the series.

If the ILMC is to be a World's Championship that everybody seems to want (according to Daily Sportscar), what does that mean for the national series, especially the ALMS? Stephen Ratel's SRO rescued the 24hr race from its irrelevant status in the early 90's. When they announced the ILMC and new rules they threw Ratel under the bus for dropping the GT1 class for 2011, claiming the SRO and ACO were moving in different directions. Really? Not from where I sit!
Does the ALMS need any more examples of the ACO looking out for number #1 at all times? Sure the lack of commitment from Audi North America means no R15++ for the ALMS this season and maybe never again, but that doesn't mean we should wait for another manufacturer to commit to the ALMS' Prototype classes before doing what needs to be done.

We already have the best by any measurement you want to make, GT series on the planet.

Why not build and expand on that?

As I have posted before on Ten-Tenths (since deleted), GTC could easily mean 10-12 additional cars if not more. Alex Job is on record saying he buys cars every season, if GTC became a FIA/SRO spec GT3 class he would have bought a GT3-R instead of a GT3 Cup car for 2011. BMW has started to win on a regular basis with its Z4-GT3 hardtop including this winter's Dubai 24 hour race. Benz debuted its SLS racer late last year and its been competitive right out of the box. These cars would easily be on the expanded ALMS GTC grid, including all the Porsche Cups being replaced with GT3-R versions of the 911.

Even as we stand currently there's a 7 car battle for 3 podium positions every single race weekend. The pace of the Jaguar's have improved and the Robertson's have continued the Ford GT's development. Its not hard to conceive a 7 car battle could be a 9-10 car battle by mid season and I haven't even mentioned the Lambo(s) yet...

If the ALMS is committed to the GT classes, it could easily have grids of 20 GTE cars and 10-12 GTC (GT3) cars.

Isn't usually the best race at any ALMS weekend the GT class - Yes
Wouldn't having a 10-12 car tussle for the podium be better than watching underfunded operations circulating at the front - Yes

Here's another reason for making the move.

During the winter it was rumored and confirmed that Greg Pickett's team was looking at all its options including becoming a Porsche supported customer team. Instead Pickett bought an Aston Martin-Lola and a 2011 GT3-Cup car for the Patron series. He's clearly looking to advance and expand his operations. He could easily become not only a Porsche GT-E team with the factories' blessing (Factory Drivers) but also a GTC (GT3) team. He could go from running a single car in the big show, to running as many as 3 cars in the big show.

I have no doubt the ALMS would become stronger without Prototypes. You would force the media to cover the more hotly contested GT classes by default. The races in GT are always much better, even if you occasionally have a dominating performance by one team as each track the ALMS goes to favors one type of car over another, ever so slightly.

After this month's Long Beach GP, the ALMS has some big decisions to make with its long break.

The easy things it could do -
  • Expand Online Coverage to Everybody (partner with a site like Daily Motion)
  • Commit to GT/GTC for the Future (2012)
  • Expand GTC to SRO/FIA Spec GT3 cars
  • Eliminate LMP-1 at all regular season events

Its likely Scott Tucker will take his LMP2 toys and run them in Europe next season, leaving the LMP2 class empty and the LMP1 class on life support, which it is currently. The only question marks are -
  • Does Dyson continue supporting the ALMS
  • Does Highcroft return as a series regular
Dyson I believe will continue in with the ALMS and I think will be competitive in GT-E, the family's history does have GT cars in it, it would be a return to GT racing for them.

Highcroft I believe is on to bigger and better things. Will they return to the ALMS? Maybe but some other things will have to happen and I'm not talking about this season which I'm afraid the chance of seeing Highcroft full time in the ALMS this season are slim and none. I think they'll focus on the ILMC races in Europe that don't clash with Brabs FIA GT1 schedule. Then return to the States to run Petit but that's it. In 2012 they will be the lead team for Wirth/HPD's new closed top LMP1 and also expand to either a single or two car Indy Car team.

Everybody else is making their move, the ALMS needs to make theirs.

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