#ThePeople of #TheFuture
In many cases, a merger is only as good as the key people involved. In the four months since the announced merger between the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón and GRAND-AM’s Rolex Series, there’s no questioning the dedication and determination of both parties diligently putting together the framework.
Beyond the quartet of series founders and heads (Jim France, Dr. Don Panoz, Ed Bennett, Scott Atherton), several others are working tirelessly in the background. The fusion of ideas and people from both series into one continues in earnest.
Some stand out more visibly; one such person is IMSA COO Scot Elkins (at right), who spent most of the interim period between the Sept. 5 merger announcement and Friday’s conceptual class reveal taking to Twitter on a near daily basis to provide progress updates and interact with fans, drivers and other key stakeholders in gathering input.
Elkins and Richard Buck, GRAND-AM’s managing director of competition, jointly revealed the class structure Friday at Daytona, and already showed a sense of unity.
“Richard and I, and all of our groups together, have done a lot of things that are critical to the merger process,” Elkins said. “A lot of us have become very good friends during the course of the process."
With prior experience overseeing IMSA’s Balance of Performance adjustments, Elkins is more than qualified to do likewise for the 2014-15 classes. That includes balancing P2s, DPs, and perhaps the DeltaWing in one class, PC in another, and the separation of ALMS GT and Rolex GT into two classes.
Buck (at right), a five-time Indianapolis 500-winning crew chief with Penske Racing, has overseen management of GRAND-AM’s competition department since joining the organization in July. He was one of two new hires then – the other was Gabriel Cadringher, who brings a heavy FIA background to the organization. Cadringher worked as the FIA’s overall technical department director and also as Formula 1’s technical delegate.
There’s change in the competition department as ALMS race director Paul Walter replaces GRAND-AM’s Mark Raffauf in that role for this season and the unified series. Raffauf will focus on GRAND-AM operations and logistics for 2013 and beyond while Walter has a busy agenda, serving the race director role for no less than four series next year (ALMS, GRAND-AM, Pro Mazda and USF2000 – the latter two on non-conflicting weekends)!
Lastly, Roger Bailey joined GRAND-AM as chief appellate officer and will act as its final judge of appeals and rulings. The prominent Englishman most recently ran IndyCar’s Indy Lights Series through 2011, and has sports car experience both with McLaren and IMSA – the latter as technical director from 1980-84.
With the merger and class structure announced, the players outlined above have already taken two of the biggest steps toward the official 2014 series reveal. Their work now will focus on other aspects such as the series and class names, schedule and marketing plan. If all involved maintain their sense of optimism, transparency and focus, there’s a good chance of “The Future” continuing to shape up in a positive way.
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