Beginning in 2014, the Grand-Am Sports Car Series and the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) will join forces in a merger that will combine the two most prominent sports car series in North America.
The details were announced in a press conference held Wednesday at Daytona International Speedway, the site of the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
While particulars such as what to call the new series, technical specifications, class configuration and the schedule have yet to be finalized, the news is welcome for fans of sports car racing.
Since 2000, the two sanctioning bodies have competed head-to-head, fracturing a fan base along with splitting apart the two most prestigious sports car races in North America – the aforementioned Rolex 24 and the 12 Hours of Sebring. At the same time, sports car racing in general has fallen well below the radar both in terms of popularity with the masses and support from manufacturers and sponsors.
The hope is with one central governing body it will be easier to contain costs, attract support from sponsors and car companies alike and in turn raise the profile of sports car racing, which has waned in popularity since the early 90s.
"This is an epic moment for sports car racing in America," Ford Racing director Jamie Allison said. "The opportunity to take the best of ALMS and Grand-Am and create a strong, unified, professional road racing series is what the fans have wanted, the teams have wanted and the manufacturers have wanted for many years."
Due to existing contracts already in place, the merger won't take effect until 2014 with both series operating different schedules in '13. However, when the yet to-be-named series debuts in 16 months at Daytona, the expectation is that this will put sports car racing back on the path to relevancy in North America.
"Today's announcement will transform sports car racing on this continent, along with having world-wide industry implications," Grand-Am president/CEO Ed Bennett said. "Aside from the organizations involved, everybody wins: Drivers, teams, manufacturers, sponsors, tracks – and most all, the fans."