Planning under way for next year's Rolex 24 At Daytona
With another Rolex 24 At Daytona in the history books, Grand-Am officials can turn their full attention to next year's race, the first for the unified Grand-Am and American Le Mans series.
Planning for next year's race — the 52nd annual Rolex 24 — began even before last weekend's race was under way.
“We're already thinking ahead,” said Herb Branham, managing director of communications for Grand-Am Road Racing. “We're not down to minute-by-minute planning for 2014, but there's an element (of planning) every day that is aimed at the 2014 Rolex 24.”
"It's going to be monumental for sports-car racing in North America," he added. "It's going to be fun.”
The race will include at least four classes of cars. The series is still working out the details, such as class names and car specifications, but the initial classes were announced earlier in January.
Series officials expect to announce the names of the classes within a couple of months, Branham said Monday.
"The specifications will come later in the year," he said
Series officials have said the unified series would retain the majority of classes from both series, with the exception of Le Mans' P1 prototype class.
The series will combine the Grand-Am's DP and the Le Mans' P2 classes — as well as the uniquely shaped Nissan DeltaWing prototype that debuted in the ALMS last season — and will work to balance the performance of the different cars.
The Le Mans Prototype Challenge (PC) class will continue, and both production-based grand touring (GT) classes will continue as separate performance-based categories.
Series officials said they would explore the possibility of adding Grand-Am's GX class, which debuted in last weekend's Rolex 24, to the Grand-Am GT class next year, or allowing it to run separately as a fifth class.
While some fans last weekend said they're excited for the changes, others weren't so sure. They said they're waiting to see how things shake out.
Alex Job, owner of Tavares-based Alex Job Racing, is one of those who's looking forward to the merger and the 2014 Rolex 24.
Job — whose No. 24 Audi R8 won the GT class Sunday at the Rolex 24 — said recently it will be “interesting” to see how officials in the newly combined series get all of the details worked out.
Joie Chitwood III, president of Daytona International Speedway, said the event won't really change the Speedway's planning for the race, but he thinks the merger will get more people excited.
“I continue to be intrigued about the excitement of the merger of Grand-Am and Le Mans,” Chitwood said. “It's good for our sport and for our spectators.”
“There's no more politics involved in who races and who doesn't,” Chitwood said. “Anytime you put the drama behind us, that gets fans interested and excited.”
And it won't just be good for the fans and drivers, Branham said.
“It's going to be great for the area and great for the local economy," he said. As Bill France Jr. used to say, Branham said, “everybody is going to be winning in this deal."