SEBRING, Fla.Top-flight professional sports car racing in North America will operate under the United SportsCar Racing series banner starting in 2014, combining the assets of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) and Grand-American Racing Series.
Grand-Am and ALMS principals disclosed the new series name and logo March 14 at a press conference in Sebring prior to the 12-hour ALMS endurance race at Sebring International Raceway March 16.
The united series will debut at the 2014 Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway, where the cars from the two series will compete head-to-head under one set of rules for the first time.
The International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) will continue as the sanctioning body for United SportsCar Racing, the groups said.
Speaking at the announcement were Grand-Am President and CEO Ed Bennett, ALMS President and CEO Scott Atherton, and SME Branding Senior Partner Ed O'Hara.
The United SportsCar Racing's five competition classes will be:
c Prototypecomprising Grand-Am's Daytona Prototypes and the ALMS' LMP2 and DeltaWing cars. The ALMS' LMP1 category is being phase out;
c Prototype Challengea spec-class for General Motors V8-powered ORECA chassis, retained from the existing ALMS class structure;
c GT Le Mans (GTLM)consisting of the ALMS' current GT class;
c GT Daytona (GTD)combining Grand-Am's current GT class with the ALMS' GT Challenge class for Porsche 911s; and
c GX classa new-for-2013 class that will keep its name.
The March 14 announcement came a little more than six months after the two former rivals announced their merger on Sept. 5, 2012, at Daytona International Speedway, which is home to both Grand-Am and NAS-CAR.
The announcement regarding the new name ended a four-month project that involved New York-based SME, an agency whose client list includes the NFL, NHL, UFC, the New York Yankees, Kentucky Derby, Madison Square Garden and NASCAR.
The name United SportsCar Racing is derived from a submission by Cocoa, Fla., resident Louis Satterlee in Grand-Am's Name the Future fan contest, SME said.
The logo, with its race helmet-like imagery, was developed to be an icon with a modern feel, representing a part of motorsports that is immediately recognizable.
IMSA was co-founded in 1969 by the late Bill France Sr., who in 1948 co-founded NASCARwhich is Grand-Am's corporate parent. IMSA also will sanction the new organization's various ancillary series, including the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge, Ferrari Challenge, the IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama Series, the Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Powered by Mazda Series, and the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Michelin.
The announcement did not address the united series' tire choice question. Grand-Am has awarded Continental Tire the Americas L.L.C. with the exclusive race tire contract for all of its classes, while the ALMS maintains an open-choice tire policy for its prototype and GT classes.
Conti also recently was awarded the spec tire contract for the ALMS' Prototype Challenge Class and Yokohama is the spec brand for the GT Challenge Class.
This story was compiled from Tire Business reporting and reports from Autoweek magazine, a Detroit-based sister publication.