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The two former rival endurance racing series in the United States - Grand Am and the American Le Mans Series - have spelled out how they are going to merge into a unified competition class structure that will debut in January 2014 at the 52nd running of the Daytona 24 Hours.
Although class names have yet to be determined (and will probably depend on sponsorship) this is how it will work. The Grand Am DP and ALMS P2 classes - as well as the Nissan DeltaWing prototype - will race together for 2014 and 2015, and will continue under a single set of class rules as the premier class in US endurance racing from 2016.
The ALMS Prototype Challenge class for experimental cars will continue to run as a separate category, while the enormously popular production-based Grand-Am GT and ALMS GTC cars will race in one class, again under a single set of class rules from 2016.
If possible the GT production-based class will also include Grand-Am's new GX class, which will debut at this year's Daytona 24 Hours later this month. If not, the GX class will continue on its own as a separate class.
BEST OF BOTH WORLDS
Grand Am managing director of competition Richard Buck said: “This is a 'best of both worlds' approach that reflects the fact we have a true merger; both organisations' competition departments on a balance of performance for the top prototype class, plus overall class specifications across the board.
“We're not rushing; we're getting input from drivers, teams and stakeholders throughout the sports car industry because we want to get it right the first time.”
International Motor Sports Association and ALMS chief operating officer Scot Elkins agreed: “We've had a lot of help from important partners and stakeholders; the priority has been to enable as many teams as possible to continue racing with their existing cars.”
ELIGIBLE FOR LE MANS
The only category that will fall away completely is the horrendously expensive ALMS P1 prototype class. This is also the premier class at the iconic Le Mans 24 Hours, but it has been many years since an American manufacturer has managed to compete successfully against the European aristocracy of the sport at this level.
Elkins added: “We also want to thank the Automobile Club de l'Ouest, the convenors of the Le Mans 24 Hours, for their help in making it possible that cars racing in the new top US endurance racing class will still be eligible to race in Class P2 at Le Mans.”