Baltimore Street Racing / ALMS Grand-Am Merger

Uploaded by drive on 03.09.2012


LEO PARENTE: Today is a special Shakedown, two parts.
First, our visit to the Baltimore Grand Prix to look
into how a street course changes the racing experience.
Drive had a camera there for one day.
Turns out it was the key day, you'll see.
And part two is our weigh in on the story that started to
emerge from Baltimore, about the America Le Mans series,
GRAND-AM sports car racing merger.
John Dagys of broke the story, did the
journalistic heavy lifting, and earns himself the right,
or the penalty, to join us here on Shakedown to talk
about what's happening, what he knows, and what we can all
expect from the rumored Wednesday official
Now this could be the greatest thing since the invention of
the condom or as dangerous as unprotected sex.
When we all come back from this break,
we'll all go to Baltimore.
After break two, we'll Skype in with John and the ALMS
GRAND-AM story.
And by the way, I'm wearing a condom right now.

JOHN HINDHAUGH: The event itself, last year, did not
look like a first-year event.
If you'd said they'd been holding an event here for 10,
15 years, I would have completely believed it.
The amount of uptake and interest from the locals was
absolutely outstanding.
Were there some problems?
Were there some teething issues?
Yeah, they were.
I think it's very brave that given what's happened with the
original promoters, the city has decided to stick with it.
I think it's the right decision.
I think you only have to look at the crowds last year to
believe it's the right decision.
LEO PARENTE: So the problem with the race track is another
track, the light rail track.
On the far end, they paved over it to make it smooth, but
they've left this rail exposed on the front straightaway.
The speed bump has become a launching ramp.
The compression is making the cars get in the air.
The LMP car has broken a suspension, and the Indy cars
are going airborne.
They're grinding the track.
This is not going to work.
They're going to have to go to that chicane.
BEAUX BARFIELD: I see out there that, if you look at the
profile of the pavement, the front edge, before you get to
the tracks, is just enough of a lip that it bottoms out and
launches the car.
So I believe, for example, the things that we've been
discussing, there would be some pavement
required to go in there.
But it would be very risky, because it's
still completely unproven.
So if we put pavement in there tonight, and that didn't fix
the problem, we're sitting here having this
conversation tomorrow.
So I think as much as I'd rather have pavement than a
chicane or best option, since we proved it worked last year,
is to put a chicane back in.
LEO PARENTE: The front straightaway challenge aside--
maybe we'll talk about that at the end, because you're going
to out and have to qualify--
talk to me about driving this street course and, really, how
you have to attack it differently than, maybe, a
regular road course that came from Road America.
Jan, maybe start with you.
What's your approach?
JAN MAGNUSSEN: Well, obviously, you have to be a
little bit more careful when you're learning the grip
levels and the lines, just because there is no curves and
then a bit of run off.
There's a big penalty for making mistakes there, so just
approach it a little bit more on the safe side, and don't
roll as much speed through the middle as you'd probably like,
But you'll get there at the end, but you just work up to
it a little bit slower.
And then you'll be looking for, where is
the grip in the track?
Where's the bumps?
What to stay away from, and what can you use,
and stuff like that.
DERRICK WALKER: Well, a bumpy track like this, which is sort
of extreme, it's artificial, really.
It's not that the place is that bumpy, it's just the way
it's configured.
It needs a little bit more work to make it raceable.
But you know, these cars can run all day
long on this surface.
It's just not good for good racing.
So they need to make them a little bit smoother.
But you try to get grip wherever you can.
It's all about grip.
You've got to be on the road to feel the grip, so you've
got to keep it on the deck, and you're
looking for that grip.
LEO PARENTE: Last part, jumping to Indy car.
You said the similarity in the philosophy of setup.
But is this the biggest challenge for this new Indy
car this track here?
DERRICK WALKER: No, I wouldn't say it
was the biggest challenge.
I think it's just part of the tool box you have of
configurations that you apply to the car.
These cars, they run a lot closer to
the ground than these.
And when you look at the aerodynamics on an Indy car,
the whole floor is a big wing, and you've got these wings
front and rear.
A lot of wings, so they have a lot downforce.
So they jump up and down, you lose the downforce, so pitch
sensitive is a little bit of an issue.
But your speeds are a lot slower here, so it's just
about keeping the wheels on the ground and the grip.
Sounds familiar, right?
LEO PARENTE: Two things you need to do as a race car
driver, find the shortest distance,
find the fastest distance.
Kind of number three, you find every trick you can to get
those first two accomplished.
I'm fixated on the chicane, because already in the first
session, the quick drivers have already figured out, you
put the center of the car on the first part of the berm,
jump the berm into a better corner in.
The faster the traction, the better corner
out through the chicane.
When you broadcast a race like this, are you looking for
particular things to evoke what's going on in the racer's
head on a street course?
JOHN HINDHAUGH: I think the difference about the street
course is that we get much more of a feel of the speed of
what's going on, because there are things closer to the
cars-- the edge of the track, the
concrete, the catch fencing--
that gives you a visual clue as to just how
quick these cars go.
Take them out into the wide open spaces, particularly
somewhere like a Silverstone, which I've just come back
from, or a Formula One-type circuit in Europe, and it's
difficult to place in your mind and have your eyes see
just how quickly these cars are moving.
LEO PARENTE: It's pretty obvious the success of a
street race like Baltimore, transitioning the city into a
racetrack, is all about attention to detail
and a lot of work.
But just like everything in racing, all that preparation,
you're still on the knife edge of success or failure.
But this event has a huge popularity, even in the city,
and with all the racing community.
Unlike Detroit, when the fans walked away when the track had
a problem, the fans stick around.
The racers want this to happen, and that speaks for
the tenacity of the mayor to bring investors back in and
keep this race going.
And guys like Andretti and his marketing team, and his racing
team, to bring their experience, their expertise,
to bring this race back and bring it to life.
So that was our visit to the Baltimore Grand Prix, to find
out about a street course and how it affects the road racing
While we were there, we also found one of our friends from
the race track, John Dagys from
He's a reporter.
He's a journalist.
He's a photographer.
He's a videographer, all about racing.
John, first of all, about that videography stuff.
On behalf of Drive, you've got to stop doing that, OK?
We don't need the competition.
JOHN DAGYS: We'll see about that.
But John's on here because he broke a story that's really
big in the world of sports car racing.
John, why don't we just start by you telling the Shakedown
crowd what is the story you broke?
JOHN DAGYS: We're expecting an announcement Wednesday, in
Daytona Beach, that will confirm the merger of the
American Le Mans series and GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car
Series, likely by 2014.
LEO PARENTE: Well, without breaching your
confidentiality, the integrity of reporting, we'll get into
more of hte details-- or at least I'll try to-- but let's
set the tone.
Do you feel this is a good thing or, oh my
god, let's all duck.
This is going to be potentially bad.
Where do you feel this is headed?
JOHN DAGYS: Overall, I think it's a great
thing for the sport.
I think after we've all been striving to see one series
combined in unison.
But I think it'll be a challenging next few years in
seeing how the two series will integrate.
There's a lot of questions still to be answered.
What's the class structure?
How many races?
Who's going to be in charge?
Does this include the sale of the Road Atlanta and the lease
of the Sebring International Raceway?
Will any INSA staff be moving over to GRAND-AM?
What's this series even going to be called?
Do we know it's still going to be called GRAND-AM?
There's a lot of questions coming in the pipeline for the
next few months.
And I think we'll get some of those answers on Wednesday.
LEO PARENTE: Let me back up, because you made a comment
earlier to your followers that you were at Silverstone for
the WEC race, and you saw GRAND-AM
and ALMS people there.
Is there any global involvement?
I mean FIA seemed to have built a relationship with
NASCAR Holdings or GRAND-AM.
And obviously, ACO via Le Mans is part of America Le Mans
series kind of structure.
Any global aspect to this that we should be thinking about?
JOHN DAGYS: I'm not sure yet.
And I really don't know how this will play out.
I know the ALMS has one year remaining on its ACO contract.
I believe they just renewed it in June.
Then the sanctioning agreement with the ACO goes through the
end of 2013.
So I think that might be part of the reason why the ALMS
still has to be around next year to
fulfill that agreement.
Beyond that, I really have no idea how this will be moving
going forward.
Wishful thinking would be great to see, some kind of Le
Mans component inside the new series, to have teams over in
the States having easy access to the 24 Hours of Le Mans,
but I'm not convinced that will happen.
We've seen in the past that GRAND-AM strives to be a
premier national championship.
And while they have a lot of races on the international
stage, and they're trying to grow their fan base through
that with the North American Endurance Championship, I just
don't know how an LMP2 car or a GTE car can be run in a
unified GRAND-AM series without any modifications,
unless there are significant changes made to the other
existing GRAND-AM classes that if, or would be retained.
LEO PARENTE: So John, from your investigation reporting,
who was involved in this discussion
and decision process?
Was it cigars at the top with Don Panels and someone from
the France family?
Was ALMS, GRAND-AM, NASCAR holdings management involved?
Were there manufacturers involved?
Was there team input?
Who do you think was involved in bringing this together and
providing input?
JOHN DAGYS: I think it was a combination of both.
I think it all started, probably, with the top series
executives, the CEOs, the presidents of the
And then it probably trickled down to some manufacturers.
I do know that a few manufacturers may have been
left in the dark over this.
I can't disclose who or what they may be.
But I think that some of the closest series partners had
some kind of a say, or at least were told in advance of
when this was going to be coming down.
LEO PARENTE: And you think that was true at the team
level, too, some of the key teams on both sides?
JOHN DAGYS: I'm not convinced on the team level.
I think maybe some of that information may have trickled
down from the manufacturers to the teams.
That's just an educated guess right now, at this point.
LEO PARENTE: Have you heard anything about the Le Mans 24
entries that are part of ALMS structure?
JOHN DAGYS: Not right now.
All I know is that the ALMS has three auto invites to give
out at the end of this year, and they're at large entries.
So in the last year, I think they had about eight or nine
entries to give out, class winners, the Petit Le Mans,
champions of each class.
This year, they were scaled back, under the new agreement,
for just three auto invites.
And it's up to the ALMS/IMSA to decide who the hand goes
out to for next year.
LEO PARENTE: Has there been any discussion about the type
of cars, or are we premature?
Are we going to learn more about it on Wednesday?
And before you answer, let me preface that if you look at
lap times, basically, here's where we sit.
An LMP1 and 2 are the fastest cars.
If I look at Road America laps, they're doing 1:52s,
1:56s, P1 and P2.
LMPC, from the American Le Mans series, is a 1:58, 1:59.
A DP at Road America is about a two-minute lap.
In the GT side, the America Le Mans GTs are quick at a 2:05
around Road America.
GT from GRAND-AM is only as quick as a GTC car and that's,
frankly, up at around the 2:13, 2:14, 2:12 ranges.
Have you heard anything about how these are all going to
come together?
Or is there going to be a big sale of cars that no longer
have a place to race?
JOHN DAGYS: Yeah, that's the big question
right now as well.
I've heard some rumblings of how the class
structure could be.
I think it's safe to say we'll see some kind of a mix between
GRAND-AM and ALMS classes, but the big question is how.
I think it's safe to say that LMP1 will probably go away, at
least in its current form, because A, they're too fast,
and there's too few of them in the States.
There's only three cars right now.
And I don't see any more on the horizon.
In Daytona prototypes, I think we'll see those cars
definitely stay.
That's the marquee class for the Rolex Series.
And they've just gone over with a whole new remake of the
body styles.
And there's some more manufacturers in the pipeline
for that, as well, in terms of creating manufacturer-specific
body work and some engine developments in
the pipeline as well.
LEO PARENTE: I'll be the one that'll say Ford--
I'll be the one that will say that they told me that the
Roush EcoBoost V6 twin turbos online are going to come out,
so you're right.
There are things are happening.
JOHN DAGYS: Yes, that's one of them.
LEO PARENTE: Thank you for confirming.

You and I both know there's been a lot of discussion of
GT3 spec and a lot of discussion of ProAm classes.
If you look at GRAND-AM, I could make the argument that
there's a lot of ProAm in that.
And the discussion of ALMS to have particular classes has
been percolating.
Any of that, do you think, factors into that--
JOHN DAGYS: I think it's very important to have a ProAm
aspect of it, because that's something that GRAND-AM really
has been lacking in previous years.
They didn't have a separate class for a championship.
Obviously, they had the Truman and Akin awards, which was
kind of like a little race within a race situation.
But it really discouraged a lot of the gentleman drivers
from the sport, especially in Daytona Prototype.
I can count almost a list of a dozen drivers that have left
DPs over the last six years and have gone to race
somewhere else because they didn't have a chance of
winning against the likes of Ganassi and GAINSCO and
SunTrust with all pro driver lineups.
So I think it's very important to have a ProAm class, at
least maybe one in Prototype, and one in GT as well, to
encourage participation on that end.
And I think that's what we've seen in the America Le Mans
series grow and prosper in the recent years, having LMPC,
GTC, and then LMP2 come back online with some ProAm
components as well.
So if we're starting with a clean sheet of paper in GT, I
think it would be great to see a GT3 class over there ProAm,
and the other class would be some kind of an ACO, ALMS, GTE
category, which, my personal opinion, would be untouched.
I'd love to see that be a pure GTE class, like we've seen in
the States and worldwide.
LEO PARENTE: And here's my piece about cars.
At the end of the day, the racing competition matters,
but the manufacturers are here to sell cars
and sell race cars.
And what you just mentioned would kind of speak to that.
But if it's not a global spec, that makes it a challenge.
And I know that companies like BMW and Porsche have been
working really hard to find a unified spec to build less
versions but still sell cars.
And I'd argue that our phone call to Ford would be really
easy to justify building a GT3-type Mustang for this next
generation, since they're trying to make that a little
more of a global brand.
But I digress, and I think we're on the same page.

JOHN DAGYS: I'm sorry?
What was your question?
LEO PARENTE: I think we're on the same page in terms of
having a unified spec for something the manufacturers
can build against.
JOHN DAGYS: Yeah, I think a unified spec would be great to
see, and it has to be a global platform.
That's why I've been a big pusher of the GT3 platform as
of late, because you've seen how successful it has been all
parts of the world, pretty much except the North America.
So I think that's kind of a good plug and play situation
for now, but maybe that can evolve in the future.
GT2 or GTE/GTC, whatever you want to call it, that's a very
successful platform right now and in the States
But you look in the WEC, there's only five entries in
GTE pro, so is that really sustainable the long run?
But then you have other manufacturers, like Viper,
just jumping and building the GTE car.
Then BMW is looking at, probably, doing a Z4 GTE car.
Audi's been rumored to be developing a GTE car.
So I think all these main sanctioning bodies have to get
together and come to a common agreement on what platform of
cars there should be.
Because if you make a specific car for each series, a
specific class for each series, there's going to be no
common link between the different
championships worldwide.
And while during this merger we're starting out on a fresh
sheet of paper, I think it's important to get
that going right now.
LEO PARENTE: I can tell you that some of the people that I
spoke to in Baltimore after your article broke, their look
in the eye was either, please, Leo, don't ask me because I'm
under an NDA, or don't ask because I'm pissed off.
I don't know.
So you've kind of lit the wick and made everyone be aware of
what they need to do to communicate and move ahead.
Because the last thing we need is a lot of unknowns.
It's time to plan for the future, 2013.
And in a bigger picture, something's got to happen.