published: Wednesday, September 05, 2012
New group leasing Sebring Raceway
By BARRY FOSTER
Special to the News-Sun
It appears that the 61st running of the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring fueled by Fresh From Florida may also be the swan song of the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patron at the Sebring International Raceway.
Reports surfaced this past weekend that a merger is in the works between the ALMS and the NASCAR-based Grand American Road Racing Series presented by Rolex.
It remains unclear as to how much the deal might entail, although at a special Aug. 30 meeting, the Sebring Airport Authority approved the reassignment of the leases both to the operations at the Sebring International Raceway and Chateau Elan Hotel and Spa.
The lease will run through July of 2030, with an option for the tenant to renew the term of the lease through July of 2080.
The name on the leases is listed as Citrus Raceway LLC, a Florida limited liability company, and was dated effective as of Feb. 16 of this year.
In any case, it appears the deal is structured around a change in 2014.
A press conference to announce details reportedly is to be held today at Daytona Beach.
The ALMS was created by business magnate and racing enthusiast Don Panoz as an American tie-in to the world famous 24 Hours of Le Mans. In fact, for many years the series rules came directly from the American Automobile Club O'uest, the organizers of the French endurance classic. The first race of that series was the 1999 12 Hours of Sebring.
In addition to hosting some of the world's greatest drivers and cutting -edge sports car racing machines, the series is noted for many technological advancements, including a wide array of so-called "green initiatives" including the use of ethanol in the cars, solar powered equipment, non-fossil oil and different tire technologies while maintaining and improving the quality of racing on the track.
Grand Am, as it is known, originated in the year 2000 as a successor to the now-defunct United States Road Racing Championship. It was seen as the successor to the International Motor Sports Association's GT Championship, which had been replaced by the ALMS.
The crown jewel of that racing series is the 24 Hours of Daytona.
Like the ALMS, the Grand-Am series has had a number of different prototypes and production based classes of cars in competition. In 2003, the series introduced Daytona Prototypes. Their formula of low-cost racing has led to large fields of competitors -- so large, in fact, that prototype and production-based classes have held separate races at shorter tracks.
Although there has been quite a bit of speculation in the sorts of cars and classes that would emerge from such a melding of the racing series, of more immediate importance is what happens at the Sebring International Raceway and the historic 12 Hours that has been held there for six decades.
Principals are not discussing any of that information before today's press conference. The story broke over the weekend at the Baltimore Sports Car Challenge and Monday was Labor Day, meaning a holiday for those involved in the discussion.
Merger (by: Mark Martin - 9/5/2012)
I feel it was bound to happen. Both series were suffering due to the economy. Although ALMS provided a great show for the 60th running of the 12 Hours of Sebring, participation has been down at most of their events the past several years. The lack of a good television contract hurt them as well. Ditto for the Grand Am series. It was particularly noticible at their inaugural race at Indianapolis in late July which I attended. Let's hope for a successful merger of both series that retains the integrity of competition, increases the number of teams participating, is great for the fans, returns international creditability to the 24 Hours of Daytona, and above all, continues to provide the excitement here locally the third Saturday of every March.
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