I’ve got mixed feelings about the demise of the ALMS and the creation of the All-New United SportsCar Racing.
On one hand I’ve always enjoyed the ALMS and love the fact that the fans are way friendlier than IndyCar and GranAm fans, as well as the series was the first to really encourage race fans to come down onto the grid pre-race and mingle with the cars and the drivers.
However, on the other hand, I found the racing just went on too long. With a race lasting a minimum of 2 hours 45 minutes it was excruciating when covering the race and either being out in the sun all that time or sheltering whenever possible from the rain. I can’t imagine covering other longer races like 4, 6 or even 12 hours … ugh. I understand that it’s endurance racing – and the fans that paid their hard earned money and travelled who-knows-how-long and far to get there, get their money’s worth, but for me it was painful having to get up at 4am to get to the track for a 7am photo meeting that lasted all of 20 minutes – for a race that doesn’t even start until 3pm!
As for the GrandAm series – I used to enjoy that – it was shorter, but Scott Pruett bullying everyone out of his way, along with a race controller that turned a blind-eye to his bumping others off the track, while punishing anyone that retaliated or got in his way – that was too much for me and I quit watching. Let’s not even discuss the butt-ugly DP cars they were driving – C’mon..tell me these aren’t the ugliest cars you’ve ever had the misfortune of eye-balling!!
The “merging” of the two series’ (let’s be honest ALMS are being swallowed) looks to be a sensible option because GrandAm had a TV audience but virtually no one attending the races – they had tens of race fans at most events, while ALMS had a very large live audience, but few could find it on-line thanks to some obscure deal with ESPN3 that almost no cable or satellite company bothered to have in their lineup.
Together I think they’ll thrive, and I really do believe the United SportsCar Racing series will be a huge success. In 2015 the U.S. version of DTM will join the circus and together they will dominate North American racing – but they won’t be allowed to surpass the moving billboards of NASCAR because the owner of the United SportsCar Racing series also owns NASCAR and that’s their bread and butter, so we know they won’t allow it to decimate NASCAR, but if it’s hugely popular then the France family have full control over both series’ and they will decide what happens, either way – a very smart move indeed.
Well that’s my 2¢, now onto more pictures….
Most of them were taken at Mosport, just outside of Toronto. It’s a great track and used to alternate with Montreal for the coveted Formula 1 Canadian Grand Prix until Montreal managed to snag it permanently. It’s been completely re-built over the past couple of years, re-named Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and is looking like a first-class racing facility all over again.
My first picture (from 2007) is one that happened to be a one-time deal. Apparently in the all-important photographers meeting that year no one was told what the ‘rules’ were regarding the starting lap. As such, I got to go down to the wall at the start/finish line as the entire field came screaming towards me. No one has been allowed to do this since – at least not until the third lap anyway!
In 2008 I got to see the GrandAm series twice – once in Long Beach and once at the beautiful Laguna Seca racetrack. Here’s an interesting story from Long Beach… I’m walking through the pits during the GrandAm race and I stop at the Crown Royal/ Eddie Cheever’s team just as they are making a pit stop. The car comes to a full stop and one of the team members hands me the lollipop…like I’m a part of the team and meant to be standing right there.. After the stop is over and the car peels away they’re all giving themselves high-fives, I’m standing there with the lollipop and I yell at one of the guys and hand it back. This is the look I got from the whole team when they realized I wasn’t actually a member of the team (guess the photo vest didn’t give it away).
At Laguna Seca I got this shot of the cars all lined up on the Thursday afternoon. I have no idea why, but it’s all about being at the right place at the right time. I think it’s kinda cool.
At Mosport I got to see my dream car in action for the first time. These pictures aren’t particularly great, but they are Aston Martin, so enough said…
The 2009 race at Mosport was memorable in a couple of ways. It was one of the last times the Panoz was going to be on the track before the all-new one was to be released to the world – and quickly disappear. It’s not the prettiest car in the world but our friend and race car driver Andreas Wirth got to drive it at Road Atlanta, so it is a little special in that sense.
The second reason it stood out that year was the weather. It was so dark and rainy – especially on the Saturday, that you’d swear it was night time instead of 1pm!! It did however present us with some really cool shots. Here’s a few of my favourites.
After the horrible weather of 2009 that went without any type of accident, 2010 was beautiful and almost became the way we died – seriously. We were out on the back stretch – the longest and very straight part of the track, but with a good climb uphill. We’d stopped, taking a couple of pictures and moved on – only to turn around 30 seconds later and see this…
Apparently the Porsche was hit from behind by the Aston Martin Prototype being driven by Jonny Cokker
The Porsche made a 90 degree left turn into the arm cove barrier – right where we had been standing – and ripped it out of the ground, pushing it back about 3 ft/1 metre.
If you look at this picture you can get a little bit of an idea how far he bounces back onto the track (the truck is still a metre from the barrier). The race was cancelled with about 45 minutes still to run – it took them a week to fix the barrier.
Jonny explaining what happened to SpeedTV
The celebrations went ahead after much-delay. One thing I love about Mosport is the placing of the podium – just perfect for pictures with the sun at a perfect angle (though many photographers complain about it).
The big news for Mosport in 2011 was the all-new highly anticipated Panoz Abruzzi race car! And boy was it UGLY!
Just like Julia Roberts – no matter the angle or the light – ugly is just ugly and there ain’t nothin’ you can do about it!! It ran at Road Atlanta and Mosport before being sent off to the glue factory, never to be seen again.
2012 was unique only because the Lotus was there – I think it only ran at a few races that year, before disappearing into history like the Panoz. Unlike the Panoz it was actually a good-looking car – too bad it suffered from reliability issues and no real financial backing from the company.
My parting shots of the American LeMans Series are what I think makes it special… 1) fans being invited down to the grid pre-race to mix it up with the cars, teams and drivers and 2) how close they allow you to get to the trophies at the end of the race before they get handed out.
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I’m going to miss the ALMS, but I’m hoping the unique aspects will remain and be incorporated into the United SportsCar Racing series.
I hope you enjoyed my little review and a big thanks to Sam at Racer Views for the great trip down memory lane.
Photos and words by Iain Shankland, Copyright 2013
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