A full 16 months of planning and preparation, merging the assets of the GRAND-AM Rolex Series and American Le Mans Series, officially culminates with today’s running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
#TheFuture is now, officially, #ThePresent.
The TUDOR United SportsCar Championship has been through a lot already without even running its first race. Figuring out the classes, rules and regulations, driver rankings, series personnel, sponsorship and marketing partners and more have all been steps in the process.
But today, all the off-track drama should take a backseat to 67 cars, with more than 200 drivers, in four classes racing flat out for 24 hours.
“It’s a combination of the ultimate relief and the peak of anxiety and angst, only because, as you say, it’s been 16 months of planning and preparation and now it comes down to execution,” Scott Atherton, IMSA President/COO told Sportscar365.
Atherton highlighted the people involved as the key to the fusion of the two series’ assets, blended together into the TUDOR Championship.
“The highlight of this merger has been the people and the way everybody has pulled together,” he said. “A lot is happening for the first time. We’re blending technical rules, We’re blending protocol and procedure, We’re blending marketing approaches. Everything from how the cars are gridded to how the announcers present the prerace.
“If you name the category, chances are it’s a combination of what was GRAND-AM and ALMS and it’s now TUDOR United SportsCar.”
The new level of manufacturer involvement cannot be understated. Some of the Rolex 24’s most iconic moments have involved Corvette, SRT Viper, BMW and Porsche – all of which are now represented at Daytona under truly factory programs for the first time in years.
It’s the same with Michelin, which returns as a tire manufacturer to Daytona for the first time in more than a dozen years. The French tire giant has more than a million miles at Le Mans over the past 16 years, but less than 10,000 miles of testing at Daytona entering race week.
And then there’s the optimistic part of this, where realistically, North American sports car racing has a tremendous opportunity to seize its share in the marketplace.
If the TUDOR Championship takes off from this launching point, it could enter a stratum of the sports and entertainment society where neither GRAND-AM nor ALMS was really ever able to reach for a sustained period.
It’s that opportunity, and whatever momentum grows after this weekend, that will truly determine how high the TUDOR Championship can climb.
“If your heart’s not beating right now, chances are you’re in the wrong spot,” Atherton said. “The passion that’s come out of everybody as we go into this race week mode – and I hate to use the word – but it’s palpable. You can feel it. Within our staff it’s at the highest level it could be. This is it.”
The buildup and anticipation ends once the new Rolex 24 starting flag, as revealed Saturday morning by ACO President Pierre Fillon and ISC Chairman Jim France, drops at 2:10 p.m. ET.