GT: Growing What’s Already Great
Regarding the 2014 sports car merger, GT prospects are tantalizing. That’s with a full year of split GT action in the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón and the GRAND-AM Rolex Series still to come.
One of ALMS President and CEO Scott Atherton’s key bullet points at the September merger announcement was that its GT class – considered by many the best GT racing currently going worldwide – would be adopted basically as-is for 2014.
That’s fortuitous because ALMS GT in 2013, as ever, fits the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” template. Corvette Racing enters with a target firmly on its back after sweeping the driver, team and manufacturer titles a year ago, despite a defeat at Le Mans.
Stiff competition endures from Ferrari (Extreme Speed Motorsports, Risi Competizione and possibly more), BMW Team RLL with its new Z4 and new tires, SRT Motorsports in its first full year, Porsche squads Team Falken Tire, Paul Miller Racing and the just-announced CORE autosport entry, and the TRG Aston Martin. GTC should be bolstered as well with Flying Lizard and Alex Job – two of Porsche’s most successful teams – leading the single-make category’s grid this year.
GRAND-AM’s GT grid is nothing to scoff at either, with more than 30 cars entered in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, and close to half of those projected for the full season. Slightly less modified than their GTE-spec counterparts, the variety between Ferrari, Audi, Porsche, BMW and GM leaves little to be desired. Several drivers have a one last chance to race upwards of 20 times a year across the two championships.
For 2014, the closer-to-production GTE-spec cars will be in one class with a mix of Rolex GT and ALMS GTC in the second. The powers-that-be have to work to ensure the OEMs – and fans – are accepting of the prospects of the same manufacturers fielding close to the same cars, or with the same nomenclature, in two different categories.
Ensuring a place for both all-pro and pro-am driver distinctions is also important, particularly given the number of gentlemen drivers who bring budgets across the GT categories.
Aspiration-wise, too, Rolex Series teams could consider upgrading into the higher level GT class. Conceivably, it could happen with Porsche’s new 991 and Corvette’s C7 likely to premiere in 2014, and if older models are made available to interested customers.
GX and GT3 are the other wild cards. GX’s future depends entirely on its first year in GRAND-AM, and if it stays, would best fit into the second GT class for 2014 rather than added as a third. The GT3 platform, popular worldwide, has not yet found a permanent American home but did see modified versions of the Ferrari 458 and Audi R8 debut in GRAND-AM in 2012. Reports and rumblings of a worldwide single GT platform featuring GT3 rather than GTE base is also something to ponder if not immediately, certainly down the road.
Still, GT can boast an already great product across the board heading into the year. All that’s left to do is increased marketing of it without diluting the customer base that’s brought the fields to such great heights.
Tony DiZinno is a motorsports journalist who has worked with RACER, Michelin Alley, Motorsport.com and other publications. He is a recent graduate of Marquette University and a regular contributor to ALMS.com. His blog will appear every other Tuesday. Follow him on Twitter - @tonydizinno.