Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Sports Car Racing together again. Almost Full Circle.

September 5, 2012 world record for kept secret Filed under: ALMS,BUSINESS,Grand-Am,IMSA,MOTORSPORTS,Sports Cars — Lynne Huntting @ 10:25 am Ed Bennett, Jim France, Don Panoz & Scott Atherton. Photo courtesy GRAND-AM. Ed Bennett, Jim France, Don Panoz & Scott Atherton. Photo courtesy GRAND-AM. Today’s Media Conference at Daytona to announce the “historic, landmark merger” of the American Le Mans Series and GRAND-AM Road Racing was long on hope and short on details; but there are sixteen months to make it happen for one American sports car racing series. The Fab Four were present for the big announcement – JIM FRANCE, vice-chairman NASCAR & GRAND-AM founder ; SCOTT ATHERTON, President & CEO, Panoz Motor Sports Group; Dr.DON PANOZ, ALMS founder; and ED BENNETT, Grand-Am CEO. Other notables on hand included ED BROWN, president and CEO of Patron; COLETTE BENNETT, national sports marketing manager for Rolex; chairman and CEO of NASCAR, BRIAN FRANCE; CEO of the International Speedway Corporation, LISA FRANCE KENNEDY; NASCAR president; MIKE HELTON; NASCAR board member, GARY CROTTY; MARK REUSS, President, GM North America; JIM CAMPBELL, General Motors US Vice President of Performance Vehicles and Motorsports; JOHN DOONAN, Motorsport Director, Mazda North American Operations; BETH PARETTA, director of marketing and operations, SRT Motorsports; ANDRE OOSTHUIZEN, VP marketing, Porsche Cars North America; International Motorsports Association, chief operating officer, SCOTT ELKINS; President and general manager of Road Atlanta, JEFF LEE; president and general manager at Sebring International Raceway, TRES STEPHENSON. In opening remarks, France pointed out that this was a new world record for a kept secret in motorsports – six months and 14 days. What we know: •The new entity will take effect in 2014 starting with the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona and then onto The 12 Hours of Sebring, events which now can be co-promoted. •Probably a 12 race schedule •The impetus for joining sports car series started with Ed Brown of Patron talking with Jim France, who then happened to run into Atherton at an industry gathering … and meetings began •American Le Mans Series; Chateau Elan Hotel and Conference Center; GRAND-AM; International Motor Sports Association, Road Atlanta and Sebring International Raceway will be combined into a new entity, which also includes Panoz Motorsports Group. •The new organization has a Board of Directors: Chairman, Jim France; Vice Chairman, Don Panoz; and members Lisa France Kennedy; Ed Bennett; Scott Atherton; and NASCAR Vice President/Deputy General Counsel, KAREN LEETZOW. What we don’t know: •Name – Branding •Classes and categories •Schedule for 2014 •Technical rules and regulations •Broadcasting •Relationship with ACO and FIA •Staffing •Officiating •Communications •Future of the eight groups within ALMS and GRAND-AM: ALMS’ CooperTires Prototype Lites Powered by Mazda Series, Ferrari Challenge, IMSA, IMSA GT3 CupChallenge by Yokohama Series, and Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Michelin. GRAND-AM’s Continental Tires Sports Car Challenge, Rolex Sports Car Series, and TOTAL Performance Showcase A sampling of the many sound bites: France said “We do not have a name. We will be going through a plan. We have got some ideas on how to come up with a name for the new combined series.” Panoz said what was being created is the American Sports Car Series, stressing the American part. “We have to take care of our own business, our own market, addressing our sponsors, our fans, our teams, and that’s exactly what we are going to do. Of course we are going to pay attention to what’s going on around us, but we’ll be acting responsibly in our own best interests.” France ended the session by saying “And at the end of the day, we’ll find a way to race and compete with each other and figure things out.” This story is from and our colleague, Lynne Huntting. Credits where needed. ________________________________________________________________________________ Editor's Note: Sports Car Road Racing has its roots back in the early 40's before NASCAR or NHRA were even formed. John Inskip put up a little money to help start an Automotive Sport Car Hobbyist Group called the “Sports Car Club of America”, (SCCA) around 1944 in New England. A few years later a fellow by the name of Cameron Argetsinger wanted to put on the first SCCA race in Upstate New York. Cameron had one small problem. He did not own what at the time was required by the SCCA to be a full, voting member of the SCCA. He did not own a proper Sports Car as required by the Club By-Laws. Cameron went to that same John Inskip’s sports car dealership in New York city, (Mr. Inskip was also the Importer and Distributor of Rolls-Royce Automobiles, after having been the Manager of the Rolls-Royce Factory in the USA) where he purchased an MG Roadster. Cameron could then put on what was the first SCCA Sanctioned Sports Car Race on October 2nd, 1948 in Watkins Glen, NY. Years later the Competition Director of the SCCA, Charles Rainville, did quite a bit of work for the Inskip Family. Charlie did Coachwork, Restorations and Repairs on Aston Martin, MGs, Rolls-Royce and Bentley Automobiles. Charlie also did quite a lot of Race Prep work of his own, and for the Inskip Race Shop called Competition Engineering in Providence, RI. Sometime after that first race in Watkins Glen, NY. a second SCCA Race was promoted and held in or around, Ft. Lauderdale, FL. The promoter of that event was a man named William France, (Big Bill to his friends). This relationship would last forever just about. You see in around 1969, Charlie Rainville and John Bishop wanted to leave the SCCA and start a Professional Sports Car Series. So with help from the France Family, (by way of an introduction to RJ Reynolds Camel Brand), John Bishop and Charlie Rainville started the International Motor Sports Association, (IMSA). Fast forward. Years later IMSA would become the sanctioning body of the American LeMans Series, and its owner, Dr. Donald Panoz. Fast forward again to the late 90’s and the people from the early IMSA days, John Bishop, Mark Raffauf and others join up with the France Family again and form Grand American Road Racing Series. And here we are today, everyone is getting back on board, to form a better, and stronger (I hope) Road Racing Series. Now drivers like Darren Law, Patrick Long, Bill Auberlen, Joey Hand, Patrick Dempsey, and many others won’t have to miss races, or split the time between series. In theory, the best drivers, in the best cars, at the best tracks. I hope this will be a win-win all around. But not everything that looks good on paper really works out. However I’m hoping this marriage works and lasts longer than the honeymoon. So today we have the DNA from the first Sports Car Road Races, NASCAR Stock Cars, (Cup Cars used to be called Grand American), IMSA and Grand-Am hopefully joining forces for good and not evil. Like the latest Avenger Movie, it started off a little bumpy, but then as the group realized they were all on the same team, they started to work better together. Let’s hope that is what happens here. Dicken Wear, Editor-in-Chief. "The Motorsports Report" Also of note: Peter Argetsinger is a talented Race Driver and Driver Coach, Michael Argetsinger is a gifted author of some of the best books about racing anywhere. And the Children and Grandchildren of Charlie Rainville, and John Inskip still restore Rolls-Royce Automobiles, and Build Race Cars. Ford, Firestone and Inskip Family Members are in touch to this very day from the early 1900's.

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