The 2013 24 Hours of Le Mans will be started by Grand-Am Road Racing founder Jim France, the Automobile Club de l’Ouest has announced.
The 68-year-old, who is also NASCAR vice-chairman, will give the signal to start the twice round the clock race as American sports car racing heads in to a new phase of expansion from 2014 after unveiling in April 2013 that the American Le Mans Series and Grand-Am Series would merge under the ACO banner as United SportsCar Racing.
The appointment of France marks the first time in the event’s 90 year history that the start of the race will have been given by two members of the same family, after brother Bill France, Jr. dropped the flag to start the race in 1976.
“I will be waving the flag to start next month’s 24 Hours of Le Mans on behalf of the entire North American sports car community,” said France.
“It demonstrates the universal interest in the consolidation of America’s two leading road racing organizations. The world-wide racing community is already anticipating the debut of United SportsCar Racing at the 2014 Rolex 24 At Daytona, with its close association to the ACO and link to the 24 Hours of Le Mans.”
France will be handed the French flag symbolically from ALMS founder, Don Panoz, in the presence of the President of the ACO, Pierre Fillon.
“We are particularly honored that Jim France has accepted to give the start to the Le Mans 24 Hours in this very symbolic year, in which we’re celebrating the 90th anniversary of the greatest endurance race in the world,” added ACO President Pierre Fillon.
“It proves just how close are the links between the club that created endurance racing and the authorities of North American motor sports.”
“On a personal note,” concluded France. “It’s gratifying to serve in a role that my brother Bill performed in 1976. My dad Bill Sr. [NASCAR founder] always appreciated the international appeal of sports car racing, which he felt was epitomized in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.”