ALMS President Scott Atherton
AutoRacing1: We're here today in New York City with
Atherton, the president of the American LeMans Series.
Atherton: Thank you, it's very nice to be here.
AutoRacing1: There's been a lot of excitement in this series recently.
Do you agree with
Atherton: Well, I think, yeah, is the short answer. But we like to think
it's just been a steady crescendo, you know. Just about every major
category of measure, whether it's TV ratings or fans on-site or
sponsorship involvement, you know we are seeing double digit increases and
have been. To be here in New York City this week and to have the
kind of response we receive from what we would call mainstream media has
just confirmed what we've always felt, that we've got a great product and
the awareness continues to grow.
AutoRacing1: This year we know the Aston Martin is coming into ALMS,
but is it true that
the Maserati MC12 has been approved now?
Atherton: No, I wish I could tell you... As we sit here today, it's
technically not approved or at least it hasn't been given the green light to
join the series. But it is something that Iím working literally every day
on. It's taken a tremendous amount of time and effort. And right now we're
very close and if we are able to confirm that car, it's going to be quite
a spectacle to see going out there up against the Saleens and the
and as you mentioned, the Aston Martins.
AutoRacing1: The reports we heard was that if it does come in, it will not
be eligible for points. Is that true?
Atherton: Well, unfortunately, for me to comment on that type of detail
right now, I think would potentially jeopardize the agreements that we are
working on; so there's a number of dynamics that are involved with how
that car will be competing potentially within the American LeMans Series,
and I guess Iíd just rather leave that one for the public announcement
that will hopefully be coming in the not too distant future.
AutoRacing1: We're here in the financial capital of the world New York
City. Could you tell us what kind of media attention that you've had this
week while you were here?
Atherton: Yeah, actually the core reason for coming is twofold. One, we
were the featured speakers this week at the Manhattan Sports Car Club and
Chowder Society which I kind of have a hard time saying without cracking a
smile, which I think that that would be a compliment. Great group, great
organization. I've heard much about it for years and never have gotten the
chance to be a part of it until this week.
main reason we are here is to unveil the JeanRichard special edition watch
that is commemorating the 12 Hours of Sebring. So we had a couple of
days in between those two events and as a result of that, weíve done our
best here to get as much attention from the media that we could. Itís
resulted in a feature story and a nice picture and an even better headline
in the New York Times. Anytime you can put any form of the motorsports
into the New York Times is a good day; and when itís the American LeMans
series itís a great day.
I was interviewed by Bloomberg Financial Radio,
Lehto who is our current champion from the Champion Audi team, was interviewed by a number of media outlets. He did the WB Morning Show
this morning. He did Sports Illustrated for Kids yesterday. Thereís
probably others; I know thereís others that Iím not remembering. Itís been
a good week all the way around.
AutoRacing1: From your perspective, we see the Grand Am series out
there and although theyíve got a lot of cars in their series, they still
seem to be struggling with TV ratings and attendance at the tracks. Does
that series hurt your series? And from your perspective do you wish sports
car racing was all one
Atherton: Hum, boy thatís a tough question to answer. Has it hurt us? I
think what Grand Am represents is certainly an alternative for
participants. I donít think that itís fair to say that itís an alternative
when it comes to spectators and TV ratings. I think that people, our fans,
vote with their feet, their wallets, and their TV remote. And as long as
thatís the case, weíre going to be in good shape.
More than anything else,
I see Grand Am as a point of confusion because we do share a lot of
drivers in common; we share race tracks in common. The platforms probably
couldnít be farther apart. You know, you have one thatís truly a world
class platform thatís based on a world standard that's now shared between
the FIA and the ACO and you have another platform thatís unique unto
itself. We really donít have anything that is in common as far as what
product is on the race track.
But for a casual observer, they look pretty
similar. And without being able to stand up there and explain to them the
subtle differences, which in some cases are not so subtle, it does become
a point of confusion and that canít help. So I donít think that there has
been any harm inflicted per say, but confusion isnít necessarily a good
AutoRacing1: I guess we see that with Champ Car and the IRL as well
(a split), itís
quite unfortunate, really.
Atherton: Yeah, Iíve seen even recently some quotes from Grand Am
leadership that they believe that the two series can co-exist, Iím
assuming for the few reasons Iíve just named off. And I wouldnít argue
with that. I think that the two can co-exist and probably the same can be
said about the Champ Car and IRL. In a perfect world, itís probably not
But I guess thatís why thereís freedom of choice in this
country. You know, you do have a choice, and I like our positioning. I
love where we are at in terms of our growth as a series. Thereís a lot
more coming through our pipeline than weíve had in recent times and itís
all good. Itís all very high quality and itís going to be spectacular for
AutoRacing1: New York City is a pretty exciting place. NASCAR is making a big
effort to try to get a race here. Do you think that maybe someday ALMS
could race in the city?
Atherton: Boy I sure hope so. And actually one of the many meetings that
weíve held or were participating in this week was on that very subject.
There seems to always be one or two initiatives in play to try and bring a
proper race into this market. Whether on a temporary circuit or a purpose
built circuit thereís a lot of interest in having us be a part of that for
the obvious reasons that we bring a lot of manufacture involvement.
you talk to the management of Audi or Porsche, and you question them about
whatís the most important retail market for you, both of them or all of
them really have the same answers - that itís this northeastern corridor,
that thereís a lot of product thatís consumed here.
Therefore, thereís a
lot of interest by those manufacturers in securing a race. We love racing
at Lime Rock and I donít see anything changing there. But the opportunity to
be anywhere in close proximity to New York City would truly be a home run
AutoRacing1: Scott, thank you very much for your time. I know you
have a busy night ahead of you. Good luck with this coming season.
Atherton: Thank you very much. I appreciate the opportunity.