No. 988
March 20, 2019

About The UjianNasional

Author, commentator, influencer. "The Consigliere." Editor-in-Chief of .

Peter DeLorenzo has been in and around the sport of racing since the age of ten. After a 22-year career in automotive marketing and advertising, where he worked on national campaigns as well as creating many motorsports campaigns for various clients, DeLorenzo established on June 1, 1999. Over the years DeLorenzo's commentaries on racing and the business of motorsports have resonated throughout the industry. Because of the burgeoning influence of those commentaries, DeLorenzo has directly consulted automotive clients on the fundamental direction and content of their motorsports programs. DeLorenzo is considered to be one of the most influential voices commenting on the sport today.

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August 19, 2009

The end of "racing in a vacuum" is here (finally).

By Peter M. De Lorenzo

(Posted 8/17, 6:00pm) Detroit.
Scott Atherton, President and CEO of the American Le Mans Series, not only intends on keeping the series' advanced technology "green" formula updated, but based on the announcement he made last weekend at Road America he wants to make the road racing series approachable for more participants too. The current four-class structure that the ALMS operates (LMP1, LMP2, GT1 and GT2) will become Le Mans Prototype (LMP), Le Mans Prototype Challenge (LMPC), Grand Touring (GT) and Grand Touring Challenge (GTC) beginning in 2010. LMP1 and LMP2 cars will compete as a single LMP class in 2010 with exception of the most prestigious ALMS endurance events - the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring and the Petit Le Mans Powered by MAZDA6. Those two endurance classics will continue to adhere to the ACO technical rules for LMP1 and LMP2 in order to comply with the eligibility requirements to compete at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The idea behind the new LMP Challenge class is to present competitors with a more viable - and lower cost - option to go prototype racing. The class was introduced earlier this year as part of the Le Mans Series in Europe and at the 24 Hours of Le Mans through the collaborative efforts between the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) and ORECA/DPPI. In Europe, the ORECA Courage FLM09 that comprises the class has a minimum weight of 900 kilograms, which is similar to the LMP cars but is limited to 450 hp, considerably less than the LMP cars (which range anywhere from 500 to 700 hp). Featuring a full carbon fiber chassis, carbon brakes and an Xtrac sequential gearbox with paddle shifting, the LMP Challenge car represents an affordable “value engineered” entry to Le Mans prototype racing, as the ALMS referred to it. All LMPC cars will race on tires from a single supplier.

The ALMS will display the LMP Challenge cars during this year’s Petit Le Mans weekend. On September 27 - the Sunday following the race - IMSA will provide an opportunity to qualified teams and drivers (with prior approved reservations) to test the LMPC ORECA-Courage LMF09 at Road Atlanta.

The GT class will continue to follow specifications for the existing ACO / Le Mans GT2 class, which means essentially no changes from what we're seeing on track right now. And the GT Challenge class, which was introduced earlier this year - currently Porsche 911 GT3 Cup race cars from the Patrón GT3 Challenge by Yokohama series - will continue on in 2010, but efforts are underway to include other versions of the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars as well. Expect interest from some other manufacturers to materialize in the future too, and this would go a long way toward legitimizing the class, which is viewed by many right now as simply a field-filler exercise.

“The new format for 2010 will create more opportunities for more teams and manufacturers to participate in the American Le Mans Series, while at the same time providing fans with the chance to see new cars, teams and drivers in both prototype and GT competition,” said Atherton. “There is no question that developments in the economy - and especially the auto industry - have changed the business environment now and for the foreseeable future. For any organization to remain ‘status quo’ is a likely death sentence. The global economic situation has created a new paradigm that is requiring all businesses to take innovative approaches to how they must operate going forward. We believe we have implemented changes that will enable the Series and our participants to thrive,” continued Atherton.

The class changes are supported by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO), the organization that operates the 24 Hours of Le Mans and establishes the rules and regulations for Le Mans style racing worldwide.

As part of the ALMS' "green" mantra, all classes of cars will continue to race on alternative fuels or powertrains such as low sulfur clean diesel, E85 cellulosic ethanol, E10 and E10/gas-electric hybrid. The American Le Mans Series continues to work with the U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, SAE International and the Series’ automobile manufacturers to develop innovative technologies for future production cars so that they will not only be more fuel efficient, but will also deliver overall performance and fuel efficiency with minimal environmental impact. The American Le Mans Series is the only racing series that currently meets all the green racing protocols set by the EPA and DOE, and a delegation from the EPA and DOE was highly visible at Road America last weekend as they representatives were being exposed to the series "live" at one of its premier racing venues.

“I think the American Le Mans Series is ideally positioned to benefit from the current and future focus of all auto manufacturers," Atherton concluded. "Recent announcements by major auto manufacturers and our government leaders confirm that racing series which provides opportunities to showcase and develop relevant new technologies - with an emphasis on the environment - are the future. We have never been more confident in our positioning and look forward to expanding our green racing initiatives to better serve the teams and manufacturers competing with us."

Some will view this announcement by the ALMS as yet another stop gap measure while the series rides out the vagaries of manufacturer involvement, because when manufacturers are "in" with both feet it's usually great for the series, when their involvement is intermittent and uneven, not so much. I, however, view it as a tweaking of the ALMS formula and its direct connection to the world's most prestigious endurance road race - the 24 Hours of Le Mans - that will allow the series to survive the constantly changing whims and wishes of the world's auto manufacturers as they wrestle with linking future racing endeavors more directly to their ongoing research & development programs.

Atherton is acknowledging what I've been saying for several years now - and what the manufacturers are now saying in public and in private - and that is that racing in a vacuum is no longer viable or doable. The recent manufacturer exodus from Formula 1, for instance, will continue because the FIA has repeatedly failed to understand the need to align manufacturers' R&D interests with a rules package that allows those manufacturers to make a direct connection to the technology that needs to be developed for their future product programs. The globally redefined automotive world has been sent into a swirling maelstrom of intense competitive - and budgetary - pressures, and without this direct link major league racing series are doomed to be relegated to the scrap heap of irrelevance.

The IRL has been wrestling with a new engine formula for years now but if its new rules package in 2011 doesn't have a minimum miles per gallon requirement (or corresponding energy measure for alternative fuels) in place then they will have failed. As I've stated repeatedly, a requirement of 10 mpg initially - which would then go up incrementally over a certain period of years - would do more to bring creative approaches back to The Speedway than any other specification they could ever come up with.

As excruciatingly slow as the IRL is, however, they're wild visionaries compared to the ostriches that ply their trade in Daytona Beach. NASCAR not only doesn't get it, their abject refusal to acknowledge just how out of touch they are with where the automotive world is going borders on the incomprehensible. The word "relevance" has been removed from dictionaries in the NASCAR offices in Daytona Beach, apparently, as they just recently switched from leaded fuel to unleaded fuel a few years ago, and now they're talking about phasing in a new-fangled invention - "fuel-injection" - to their series. (If you listen closely, that giant sucking sound emanating from Daytona Beach is the France family and Co. sinking deeper and deeper into irrelevance.)

The bottom line in this discussion is that we need creative approaches and innovative solutions to help solve our future transportation needs, and it just so happens that some of the most creative minds in the world are in the racing business. My contention is that we need to let them create and innovate, and major league racing series need to demonstrate the necessary vision by encouraging the world's auto manufacturers to develop their future production technologies on the race track, while providing a relevant forum for them to do just that.

Taking all of these factors into consideration the American Le Mans Series has the potential to be the most relevant racing series in the world. The ALMS isn't quite there yet, but its latest announcement indicates that it not only has the vision necessary to transform the future of racing, it's demonstrating the kind of commitment, dedication and perseverance that will ultimately take racing where it needs to go.

A rendering of a new Le Mans Prototype Challenge (LMPC) car, which will begin competing in ALMS events in 2010.


See another live episode of "Autoline After Hours" hosted by Autoline Detroit's John McElroy, with Peter De Lorenzo and friends this Thursday evening, August 20, at 7:00PM EDT at .

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Publisher's Note: As part of our continuing series celebrating the "Glory Days" of racing, we're proud to present another noteworthy image from the Ford Racing Archives. - PMD

(Courtesy of the Ford Racing Archives)

Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, 1983. The winning No. 06 Team Zakspeed USA Ford Mustang GTP gets serviced in the pits on its way to its only major road racing win in the "Pabst 500" at Road America. The radical front-mid-engined racer was driven by Klaus Ludwig and Tim Coconis. The No. 83 Tony Adamowicz/Don Devendorf Electramotive Datsun 280ZX Turbo finished second (1st in GTO), and the No. 6 Team Zakspeed USA Ford Mustang GTP Driven by Bobby Rahal/Geoff Brabham finished third overall that day. The Mustang GTP was originally developed with a 1.7-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine developing 600HP. For the 1984 season a 2.1-liter version delivered 700HP, but the car was eventually phased out.

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