The 2011 American Le Mans Series season will (likely) widely be remembered as the one with two very successful events, Sebring and Petit Le Mans, a very questionable television/broadcast package with ABC, ESPN2 and ESPN3.com that fans and some media are very critical of and other than the ALMS serious fan, some other races. What’s this you say? Have you lost your mind? The season is only two races old, we’re in the Le Mans break, Lime Rock is but a month away, we got bunch a great races leading up to Petit-Le Mans!
Sebring, Round 1 of the Intercontinental Le Mans Championship was a great success, other than the TV broadcast-actually a .com broadcast and infomercial. Long Beach, other than a fair showing of the GT class, showed the reality of the series and what the remainder of the 2011 season will look like, except for Petit Le Mans, another ILMC event.
Sebring and Petit Le Mans, both venues in the new Intercontinental Le Mans Championship, attract an international field, larger crowds and more media coverage than the other North American events. The European Le Mans series is dealing with the same issues; reduced grids, team defections to the ILMC and the same general ambivalence to the series. The situation for the Euro LMS Series is so dismal that series organizers will likely ditch the LMP1 class and run non-ILMC events in 2012.
The ALMS is not in any better situation. If it’s been dismal for the Euro LMS, it’s just plain dire for ALMS whether anyone wants to admit it. There’s nothing on the ALMS table right now that would indicated 2012 is going to be any different and there’s a lot of news that suggest it’s going to get worse before better. There is no Audi or Porsche Factory, or semi-factory squad waiting in the wings or a new manufacturer stepping in to energize a LMP1 or LMP2 field. There is no manufacturer introducing a LMP car for purchase for private teams. Even if they were, there are not enough private teams with the kind of cash to buy, much less field them. The money isn’t out there for a domestic sports-prototype GT series.
If the American Le Mans Series is to maintain its own identity it may be time for the ALMS and IMSA to move in a different direction, one that includes a GT series outside of ACO regulations. The American Le Mans Series and IMSA should maintain its relationship with the ACO and ILMC with Sebring and Petit Le Mans, (and I would strongly urge negotiating a new “live” TV package for these two races). After all, it makes no sense to sacrifice your two most significant events by severing ties with the ILMC. Next, leave prototype racing to the “world” series and consider something really radical; Common rules!
Common rules with the GrandAm GT class, or FIA GT3 and GT4 regulations. It makes economic sense for the owners and the manufacturers. It would open doors to more privateers, including European based teams looking for an American audience. There’s no shame in a cross-over racing. It is the private teams you are relying on now and it’s time to set egos aside. A separate GT series, outside of ACO regulations is practical. The ALMS is not a feeder series to the 24 Hours of Le Mans. American based teams wanting to run at Le Mans can field an entry in one of the two U.S. ILMC events, or the ALMS can negotiate a deal with ACO for a special invitation for its new GT series.
The post Sebring blues is turning into a major hangover for ALMS and the series is in need of short term fixes with quick effect. Grand Am is a step ahead of you. You’re likely going to be competing with a DTM series in 2013 that has plenty of potential to become a fan favorite. You no longer have what separated you from every other North American GT series; the exotic, advanced technology designed prototypes. It’s time to go and grow in a different direction. The alternative is very ominous.