O Opinions & Commentary

Grand-Am/ALMS combined class structure for 2014: Everything continues but LMP1

Gary Marentette ALMS

During the pre-season testing for the Grand-Am Series competitiors at Daytona held the first weekend in January, officials of the merged Grand-Am and ALMS series revealed their plans for a unified competition class structure as of the 2014 season.

With the exception of the LMP1 class, which will be dropped in America, all the ALMS and Grand-Am classes will be carried over into the new combined American sports car race series. The rules for LMP2 and the ALMS GT cars will continue to be aligned with those used by the ACO at Le Mans, ensuring that these cars will continue to be eligible for the 24-hour race and can be expected to provide a good contingent of American entries for the French race.

As it stands now, the LMP2 cars can run faster lap times than the Daytona Prototypes, so we can look for some adjustments to down force, tires or power to make the DPs competitive with the P2s. If they can get the equivalencies between these two classes right, we can expect to see some great racing at the front of the fields in 2014. Given that the two different kinds of cars gain their speed in different places around the track, we may see one category dominant at a tight, twisty track (P1) and the other category dominant at a high-speed, open track (DP)

The ALMS GT cars (which are Le Mans eligible) are significantly faster than the Grand-Am GT cars. They will run in two separate classes, the Grand-Am GTs combined with the ALMS GTCs.

The Delta Wing car will be folded into the DP/P2 class, while the spec Prototype-C class will remain a separate class. The future of the new ALMS GTX class is cloudy but the intention seems to be that it will be folded into the new Grand-Am GT/ALMS GTC class.

In all, this means that there will be four classes going into 2014, class names yet to be determined, typically all running together in the same race each weekend.

Given that tire choice is now free in ALMS while Grand-Am is contracted to Continental Tire, there are many question marks about tires for 2014. The series reps talked about being loyal to their sponsors, which implies a solution which keep the current tire contracts alive at least in parts of this new complex class structure.

One question that likely won’t be addressed until next fall is which of the current Grand-Am and ALMS venues will continue on the calendar of the combined American sports car series in 2014. Daytona and Sebring are obvious. Then Road Atlanta, Watkins Glen, Road America, Laguna Seca, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park? But as for the rest, we can’t expect a longer schedule that before, so inevitably some tracks are going to be disappointed – some great ones and some not so great.

Photo: Gary Marentette

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