Does ALMS Have a Dim Future?

I have ALMS on my mind. For the most part ALMS makes me extremely happy, well at least the GT(2) Class any ways. The whole series for the most part is geared towards wealthy automotive enthusiasts- no I am not making that up that is what there market research shows and how they want it. The series is beginning to have more success in the 18-34 year old bracket (male) but what is concerning to me is beyond the numbers, it is the future.

ALMS has had very little in terms of competition for US road racing- aside from the Grand AM Series which also pairs prototypes and production based cars in different “classes “. Grand AM is owned and operated by NASCAR so it has big bucks supporting it and over the past fewyears it has made significant strides in becoming relevant.

The advantage of Grand AM right now is the variety of cars competing. Where ALMS seems to have an uncanny fondness for Porsche production cars by creating an entire class of them, Grand AM has nine different models in its equivalent class. This allows teams to choose the car they like best (for whatever reason) and gives fans of different brands a rooting interest. Outside the GT Class there is little ALMS offers in variety and this is precisely where the problem lies.

They (ALMS) need to open things up a bit- allow say a BMW Z4 GT3, a Lamborghini (Super Trofeo anyone?) or even an Audi R8 to compete in the boring and pointless GTC class. If anyone cares about the prototypes that race in the US at all would be a surprise to me- so get rid of them, but again I don ‘t have a yacht or a few million in the bank so they are not meant for me. If the Peugots, Audis or Astins raced stateside more often I would care more but Acura is not something I have time for.

Call me crazy but with DTM coming to the US in 2013 alongside NASCAR and Grand AM, ALMS may find itself as old and stodgy. The timing of DTM in the US is at the same time the regulations will match the Japanese Super GT Series, allowing the two to intertwine more in the future.

I am not the only one that feels this way- ABC/ESPNs coverage deal with ALMS is for 2011 and 2012 so they too must feel that this could be the end of what we consider our favorite race series.

I hope I am wrong but just in case I will becoming more familiar with Grand AM…..

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  • Brad

    I don’t have a yacht or a million dollars in the bank either but my favorite thing about ALMS are the prototypes. That said, I’m an automotive engineer and love to see what is out there down the road in terms of advanced development… Especially the Audi TDI’s. It is great to be able to walk around the paddock and check that stuff out.

  • Brad- I love the Audis- Puegots and cars from Le Mans in the EU… the US prototypes are boring and pointless IMHO.

  • JonPD

    Would be great to see more blood brought into the ALMS for sure. I enjoy the races but it really could stand for more competition to liven things up. I still am hoping to see the Z4 GT3 make it to the states and don’t care if its ALMS, DTM, or Grand AM.

    While I have huge respect for the M3 GT2 cars for me personally the Z4 GT3 is the halo racing car in a great many ways for BMW.

  • Gabe

    I loath Grand Am “prototypes” almost as much as I do NASCAR. Just had to get that out…

  • Mark

    Long live LMS and ALMS LMPs! I love the prototypes. LMS and ALMS would not exist but for the prototypes. I also think that US DPs are a bit boring as pretty much a spec series, but it’s fun to watch nonetheless.

  • Bimmer1

    I don’t agree that the ALMS in any kind of trouble at all. They do need to allow other models to run in the GTC class and getting more cars to run in P1, but that doesn’t mean they are in trouble. The ALMS is the strongest road racing series in the US by a long shot for both attendance and competition level. The GT2 class in ALMS was the most exciting and most competitive class to watch this year in any series worldwide. The team and manufacturer championships literally came down to the last lap of the last race of the year. It was an awesome thing to witness in person, and as a huge BMW fan it was almost unbelievable when the Ferrari ran out of gas on the last lap! As someone who frequents both Grand Am and ALMS races every year, I can tell you first hand the ALMS is doing way better than the NASCAR sponsored Grand Am series. The crowds are bigger in ALMS, as is the amount of sponsor dollars in ALMS. NASCAR is in trouble, attendance and merchandise profits are way down. They are not pumping that much money into GA, as their other priorities that make the most profit are not doing so well. They are scrambling to reinvent NASCAR right now as interest is hitting a new low in recent years. And as far as financial backing goes, Don Panoz (owner/founder of the ALMS, inventor or the nicotine patch, Panoz Cars owner, Road Atlanta Owner, Skip Barber investor, etc.) has more money than God. They are hardly hurting for cash flow. Last year was the most successful ALMS year to date. They are doing just fine. You talk about having more models involved in GA, but there are only two or three different options of chassis used in the GA DP class and they are more or less the same car. There’s no room for innovation or modifications making it almost like a spec class in those regards. Whereas the ALMS prototype rules are much less strict, thus allowing teams to build the car and make modifications as they see fit within the general guidelines. It also promotes innovation which helps manufacturer develop and test new technologies. The DP cars don’t do anything in that regard, which is something any manufacturer is going to want to see before they commit millions to racing in the series. Racing is much more than just marketing these days, but NASCAR can’t seem to figure that out. They still promote 20 year old technology for god’s sake. If there’s not technical advantage to showing up, the manufacturers are going to stay home and save their $$$. The problem last year in GA DP was no one could even come close to Ghinassi as they dominated the entire season. Talk about boring racing. The season was practically over before it even started and once Pruett got in the car the race was over. GA is NASCAR’s version of road racing, it’s way too restrictive to what chassis and modifications you can use. Sure, the ALMS prototype classes were lacking in overall numbers this year, but a lot of that had to do with the upcoming rule changes and teams working on new cars. It was more of a timing issue than anything else. With Audi focusing on their new R18 development, the main competition for many was not racing in the states so it made no sense for them to come here last year other than for the ILMC races. I suspect that also kept the Aston’s from coming stateside as well, since Acura (or Honda) isn’t really much competition in P1 for any of those cars. Acura/Honda knew they would be the only P1 car, which meant they were a shoe in to win the championship which they could in turn use as a marketing statement. Forget the fact that they will never mention they only won because there was no one else to race against. All they had to do was finish most of the time and they won. I have a lot of respect for David Brabham, but that car was not fast enough to compete with the likes of Audi/Peugeot. The ILMC races clearly showed that. In P2 I still enjoyed watching the Dyson Mazda and Muscle Milk Porsche run. Those Mazda’s are fun to watch. And at least the cars that were running were unique and don’t look like they all came out of the same cookie cutter. ALMS still had just as many prototype variants running as Grand Am did, just not as many total cars in the field. Hopefully, that will change as it’s the one big negative for ALMS right now. Hopefully manufactures will see more potential in the US racing market soon. I believe that we are on the cusp of road racing taking off in the US. I’ve seen the changes and increase in interest first hand these past few years and it was obvious something very special was going on when I attended Petit LeMans this past year. The GT cars in Grand Am aren’t even close to the speed of the ALMS GT2 cars and are boring to watch in comparison. There are plenty of different cars running in GT2, and they are the cars that you want to see racing at that level. I have no desire to see 6 Camaro’s and 8 RX8’s running when I can watch Porsche battle it out with BMW, Ferrari, and Corvette at a much faster pace. The level of competition just doesn’t compare. I do agree with you that the GTC class needs more variety. I was hoping the Z4 GT3 and R8 would be included this year but it didn’t happen. We’ll have to see what happens in 2012, but all of last year they talked about introducing other makes and then decided against it. Only time will tell on that I guess, but here’s hoping they make a change soon. With that in mind though, the racing in the GTC class last year was great to watch. You point about CBS/ESPN TV contracts is not a valid point. Last year they signed up to do two races IIRC. Now they want to do as many as they can. That means they do see the value in it, enough so where they think Americans will watch and they want to be a part of it. The time frame they committed to is irrelevant, since almost no major sporting contact for TV or radio lasts more than a year or two. Those contracts constantly have to be renewed to protect all parties involved. That is the norm. Honestly, I’m fine watching them on the SPEED channel, but CBS obviously feels there is a larger market they are not reaching by not airing the races on more accessible channels.