Racing into a new era for the series of tomorrow

Alternative fuels, new teams and solid schedule highlight State of Series address The American Le Mans Series revealed its vision for the future in today's annual State of the Series address at Road Atlanta. Series President and CEO Scott ...

Racing into a new era for the series of tomorrow

Alternative fuels, new teams and solid schedule highlight State of Series address

The American Le Mans Series revealed its vision for the future in today's annual State of the Series address at Road Atlanta. Series President and CEO Scott Atherton spoke to a packed audience of teams, executives and members of media launching a playbook of goals to "winning the race to 2010". Atherton also introduced three new teams to the series as well as unveiling the 12-race 2008 schedule, which is nearly identical to this season's.

"Last year we announced a comprehensive initiative centered around the utilization of alternative fuels for racing - and it could not have gone better," said Atherton. "We also presented what we referred to then as the best overall schedule in the history of the Series. Today, we are enjoying the most successful season ever - and announcing similar news and programs that will only build upon the very positive momentum we are experiencing."

The ALMS solidified its stance as the "worldwide leader in alternative fuels" by revealing plans to adopt an E85 ethanol blend in addition to its E10 and clean diesel fuel used by the Audi R10 TDIs.

"The next step for us is to go to an E85 as an additional option in fuel," he said. "We have several major manufacturers that are looking at allowing their on-track activities to lead to what will be their production initiative. We're going to take relevance to a whole new level."

In addition, Atherton said a major announcement regarding a collaboration between government agencies and the series involving "green" technology will come in the first quarter of '08.

Also during the address, three new independent teams representing three manufacturers announced intentions to compete next year in the GT2 category. More significantly, all three new cars will be ACO homologized.

Lou Gigliotti's LG Motorsports will campaign two Corvette C6s, built by Riley Technologies.

"We're going to have a multi-million dollar showroom stock effort," Gigliotti declared. "The ACO rules require a significant number of manufacturer-based stock technology. There's a lot Riley can do and they're experts at it. That's why we went to them. We're excited to be teamed up with Riley. We're moving onward and upward."

The longtime SCCA racer, currently an owner/driver in the SPEED World Challenge, hopes to have one car ready for the annual Winter Test, which is slated for January 28-30 at Sebring International Raceway. Gigliotti and Doug Petersen are the only confirmed drivers so far.

"It should be no problem getting everything done by the time we get to Sebring," Gigliotti said. "We'll have enough time to do testing. Like Bill [Riley] said, they've already cancelled Christmas so they're going to be working straight through until we get to the track."

Prime Time Race Group announced that it would campaign a factory-supported Dodge Viper Competition Coupe next year. The intent is to have more Vipers on the grid starting at Sebring in 2008.

After entering the last four races of this season, team owner/driver Joel Feinberg has high hopes for next year.

"I've been racing IMSA Lites for two years now and found that the folks here put on a great show," he said. "It's very competitive. Coming out of World Challenge in the Viper with the recent homologation for GT2, we're going to support the effort for '08 and years following."

The third and final team announcing plans for 2008 was Doran Racing. The Ohio-based organization is in the process of building two Ford GTs for customer Oliver Kuttner.

"The first car should be on the track in November or December for a shakedown run," said Doran. "Then, the first public debut should be at the January winter test."

Doran explained he would like to run one car all-season long, but they don't have the funding in place at the moment. A debut in the Twelve Hours of Sebring is planned. Although not giving its full blessing, Ford has been cooperative with the homologation process.

"It's not their favorite project for competition but they seem to be somewhat accepting of the inevitable outcome," Doran stated. "They're not trying to kill us or anything but they're not going out of the way to help us either."

All three cars will be homologated by the Automobile Club de l' Ouest (ACO) immediately following the season and also be eligible to compete in other ACO-sanctioned events such as the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the European- based Le Mans Series.

The 2008 schedule was also revealed during the address. It once again features twelve races starting off with the traditional Twelve Hours of Sebring on March 15. The majority of the schedule remains unchanged. However, the St. Petersburg date moves a week back to April 5 and the Miller Motorsports Park race shifts from a Saturday to Sunday and will be run on the 3.06-mile outer course instead of the 4.5-mile full circuit. The date for the Northeast Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park has also been moved, now running one week later on July 12. The schedule concludes with the 11th annual Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta on October 4 followed by the season-finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on October 18.

The series will once again have doubleheader weekends with IndyCar at St. Petersburg, Mid-Ohio and Detriot as well as partnering with Champ Car at Long Beach, Houston and Road America.

"When we announced last year's schedule, I said that if we could come back and duplicate it in '08, we would be overjoyed," said Atherton. "Again, I believe we have the strongest overall schedule in American racing. We touch nearly all the important business markets and race at the best road courses and street circuits in North America. The fact that we have announced virtually the same schedule this year is the hallmark of a maturing, stable, successful series. We could not be more pleased."

The series also announced a three-year extension with television broadcaster SPEED. Exact details on the series' television package will be announced at Laguna Seca.

Atherton concluded by revealing the series' objectives towards "winning the race to 2010". A series title sponsor along with planned growth in venues and important markets have been marked as priorities.

With Corvette Racing potentially not taking part in the entire 2008 season unless a full-season competitor arrives, the status of the GT1 category remains in question for next year. Atherton spoke after the address in regards to this issue.

"Unfortunately or fortunately, however you cut it, we don't have the Aston Martins here competing against the Corvettes," Atherton said. "So that hasn't been a dynamic that we had in the past.

"I'm very concerned [about the lack of competition in GT1]," he added. "There's a lot of effort being put forth to address that. It's not a new revelation. It's been an ongoing priority for us. I'm confident there's a solution for it. We just have to get our arms around it."

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