Letting Go Of Tradition And The Wheel
© Andrew S. Hartwell
With the introduction and rapid growth of the Grand American Road Racing Association's Daytona Prototype class, the world of top level prototype sportscar road racing has been tilted on its axis. The earth still turns in the same direction but the gravity of the situation for gentlemen racers has been changed. And the changes being wrought have opened up some interesting questions.
At the start, road racing in America was all about the rich guy with the hot new European street car that didn't look anything like everybody else's American made street car. It was about the gentlemen with money to burn, racing each other on private land in pursuit of bragging rights and maybe a bottle of champagne or a trophy. The racing went in every direction - up hill, around corners to the left and to the right, under bridges, and even over railroad tracks. It was called 'road racing' for a reason.
Today, anyone wishing to go road racing in an American series - running a car at the top prototype level - has the choice of one of two options. They can elect to run a 'pure' prototype LMP1 class chassis in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) or they can go with the newly-defined prototype as it exists within the Grand American Road Racing Associations (Grand Am) Rolex Series. The former is most closely linked with traditional sportscar prototypes in that the cars tend to represent the latest in technological advances and are priced accordingly. The latter is more closely associated with a kind of hybrid racer that combines a measure of technological prowess with a good dose of financial restraint.