The Grand-Am Rolex Series and American Le Mans Series have made official the merging of the two championships for the 2014 season.
The deal was announced in a press conference in Daytona Beach and symbolically sealed with a handshake between Grand-Am founder and NASCAR vice chairman Jim France and ALMS founder Dr. Don Panoz in front of the gathered media members.
Though news of the deal was only broken last weekend Dr. Panoz revealed that the agreement was initially put in place six months ago. However, the time between the agreement and the announcement has been taken mostly dealing with the legal matters, rather than with specifics of calendar and the all-important class structure that will go some way to deciding the success of the new championship.
As such Scott Atherton, Jim France and president and CEO of Grand-Am Ed Bennett who sat alongside Dr. Panoz on stage could give few details, but hinted at several clues.
Atherton, president and CEO of the ALMS, said that the ALMS GT class would be an addition to the 2014 Rolex 24 at Daytona, which the quartet frequently referenced as remaining as the season opener, presumably in its current late January slot.
Among the calendar, mooted at 12 races, the 12 Hours of Sebring was also mentioned specifically.
It appears to have an early part of the agreement to maintain links with the ACO, with negotiations with the ACO on-going. The intention would be for teams from the new “American Sports Car Series” (as Dr. Panoz labelled the new, and officially nameless entity) to be able to “qualify” for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Furthermore it appears any calendar for the new US series will accommodate teams travelling to and competing at Le Mans.
Aside from Atherton’s insistence that the current ALMS GT class would be a part of the new series there were few details of the class structure of the new championship, though Atherton’s referral to the deal as a “true merger” suggests it is unlikely that the Rolex Series’ Daytona Prototypes will be only eligible prototype class.
One of the interesting asides was the news that the DeltaWing had been part of the agreement with the experimental machine at made its race debut at Le Mans in June being acceptable by the new series.
Also confirmed in the press conference was that the two circuits owned by the Panoz Sports Group – Sebring International Raceway and Road Atlanta have been merged into a new entity that also includes the assets of the ALMS, IMSA and Grand-Am.