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Sweedler, AIM Working on LM24 Program, TUSC Return in GTLM

Bill Sweedler finalizing FIA WEC, TUSC programs with Ferrari…

Photo: IMSA

Photo: IMSA

After coming up short in this year’s GT Daytona championship, Bill Sweedler and AIM Autosport are working towards a multi-faceted program for 2015 that’s likely to include a bid for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, select FIA World Endurance Championship rounds and a move to the GT Le Mans ranks in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.

Sweedler confirmed to Sportscar365 that he’s close to finalizing a deal to make his debut in the famed 24-hour endurance classic with a GTE-Am class Ferrari F458 Italia. The program, which could be operated by AF Corse and run under the AIM Autosport banner, is set to feature an all-American driver lineup, including Sweedler and longtime co-driver Townsend Bell.

“We’ve actually evaluated [an entire season] of WEC but I just don’t have the ability to make a full-time commitment at this point and time,” Sweedler told Sportscar365. “So we’re trying to find another individual like myself that we can put in a full-season entry, I do the beginning of the season, they do the back-end of the season.”

Sweedler said the Le Mans/FIA WEC program is 90 percent finalized, which would include AIM’s technical staff embedded into the team. “Le Mans is number one on the list to compete next year,” he added.

Work is also underway on a move from the TUDOR Championship GTD class to the new GTLM-Am subclass with Sweedler’s GTE-spec Ferrari, which was last run under the West/Alex Job Racing banner in the ALMS in 2013.

Announced last month, IMSA will recognize the top-finishing Pro-Am drivers in the P and GTLM classes in 2015 with the Trueman and Akin Awards, respectively. Both end-of-season winners will receive automatic invites to Le Mans for the following year.

“We’re absolutely evaluating the GTLM-Am program but I only want to be there if there’s going to be competitors,” Sweedler said. “There’s no point going out if there’s not going to be a group of guys to race against.

“I’m talking to several guys and I think there’s a lot of people contemplating doing it. If you go around the paddock and look at the guys who have run GTE programs but guys who just come in for the endurance championship, I think there’s six or eight cars that could potentially be fielded.”

While a return to GTD also remains an option, Sweedler and the Ian Willis-led AIM squad have voiced their displeasure over the current Balance of Performance situation in the class.

After leading the championship through the majority of the season, Sweedler and Bell ended up third in the GTD standings, with their Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 struggling for much of the season in terms of performance.

“I don’t think it’s any secret that Bill’s not happy with the BoP,” Willis said. “Everybody complains about it and I don’t want to sound like a broken record.

“BoP is the nature of sports car racing today. If it’s done right, it makes for an excellent show. If it’s done wrong, it drives fans and teams away and TUDOR is running the risk of the latter, in all categories.

“That’s frustrating. After a year, to make changes with two races to go does not inspire a lot of confidence in a sanctioning body going forward next year.”

Willis, meanwhile is evaluating an expansion to the Pirelli World Challenge, although without Sweedler, who said he remains committed to endurance racing.

The scale of AIM/Sweedler’s proposed GTLM-Am program, meanwhile, has yet to be determined and will be largely budget driven. Willis said they’re currently in discussions with potential tire partners that could help support the effort.

“With the GTLM-Am class, it’s an opportunity for us to move into the next level of exposure,” Willis said. “GTD is the bottom category so it’s tough to gain exposure.

“Budget-wise, I don’t know if a full-season is on the cards but we’ll certainly try to make something like that happen.”

Willis said the team’s 2015 TUDOR Championship program should be finalized by the end of this month.

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365 as well as the recently launched e-racing365 Web site for electric racing. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for FOXSports.com/SPEED Channel, and contributes to other publications worldwide. Contact John

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