Against the backdrop of the Lone Star Le Mans – the only 2014 event featuring both the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship and the FIA World Endurance Championship – IMSA and ACO officials have unveiled an expanded program to recognize top-performing Pro-Am drivers in the Prototype (P) and GT Le Mans (GTLM) classes beginning in 2015.
The Jim Trueman Award will be utilized to recognize the top-finishing Pro-Am in the P class, while the Bob Akin Award will recognize the best Pro-Am racer in GTLM on both a per-race and season-long basis. The winners will be recognized during podium ceremonies at each TUDOR Championship event, and the highest Pro-Am points finishers in both classes will earn season-ending awards at the annual TUDOR Night of Champions.
Additionally, the season-ending Trueman and Akin Award winners will have the opportunity to earn automatic invitations to the 24 Hours of Le Mans event in 2016 from their participation in IMSA. The Bob Akin Award winner would earn an entry in the LM GTE Am class at Le Mans, while the Jim Trueman Award winner would be eligible to compete in the LM P2 class with a car registered in the appropriate ACO homologated category.
“For the Automobile Club de l’Ouest and IMSA these two invitations to the Le Mans 24 Hours underline our common will to build a championship in the purest tradition that gives endurance racing its particular strength,” said Pierre Fillon, President of the ACO.
“Together, we’re building up the Lone Star Le Mans rendezvous, which will become another key center of world endurance racing in the pure Le Mans spirit that the ACO has defended since 1923 and the creation of the Le Mans 24 Hours.
“In 2015, two Pro-Am drivers will be given an automatic invitation for the following year’s Le Mans 24 Hours depending on their results. The Automobile Club de l’Ouest is delighted that these two invitations will enable two drivers from our sister series, the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, to fulfill their dream and race at Le Mans, thus strengthening the already tightly knit links between the ACO and IMSA.”
Drivers must have either a Silver or Bronze rating and have built a career in another profession outside of auto racing to be eligible for Trueman or Akin Awards.
To win the season-ending award and the Le Mans automatic invitations, they must compete in the four Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup events (Daytona, Sebring, Watkins Glen and Road Atlanta) at minimum. Trueman and Akin points and awards will be presented at every TUDOR Championship event.
“Pro-Am drivers have been and likely always will be the heritage of sports car racing,” said IMSA CEO Ed Bennett. “We are very pleased to further build on the collaborative strategic alliance between the ACO and IMSA, while further building sports car racing around the world.
“Our Prototype Challenge (PC) and GT Daytona (GTD) classes have been specifically organized to include mandatory Pro-Am combinations, but a number of Pro-Am drivers also have aspirations and dreams to race in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
“This expanded program enables those drivers not only an opportunity to race at Le Mans, but to also gain experience driving the same cars they race here in the TUDOR Championship in North America.”
The Jim Trueman and Bob Akin Awards originated in the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series in 2005. The Jim Trueman Award – named after the legendary sports car racer, former president of Red Roof Inns and former owner of Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course – was presented to the top Pro-Am driver in the Daytona Prototype (DP) class every year through 2013.
The Bob Akin Award also debuted in 2005 to honor the top Pro-Am driver in the Rolex Series GT class. The Award’s namesake was a two-time winner of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring (1979 and 1986) and was president of the Hudson Wire Company. The Bob Akin Award also was last presented in the Rolex Series in 2013.
This year, the Jim Trueman Award will be presented to the championship-winning Pro-Am driver in the TUDOR Championship PC class, while the Bob Akin Award will go to the Pro-Am driver that wins the GTD class championship. Both will be presented at the TUDOR Night of Champions at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York on Monday, Oct. 13.