American Le Mans Series chiefs have announced that it will overhaul its class structure for the 2010 season in an effort to make the series more accessible to teams, and therefore boost grid numbers.
The ALMS will keep a four-class system, with the current LMP1, LMP2, GT1 and GT2 classes being replaced by Le Mans Prototype (LMP), Le Mans Prototype Challenge (LMPC), Grand Touring (GT) and Grand Touring Challenge (GTC).
The LMP class will be open to all cars running in the current LMP1 and LMP2 classes, with the exception of the events at Sebring and Petit Le Mans – which will continue to run to the current ACO LMP1 and LMP2 rules.
As a result, cars like the Acura ARX-02a campaigned by Patron Highcroft Racing and de Ferran Motorsports will be in direct competition with the Lola B09/86-Mazda campaigned by Dyson Racing. Currently, the two cars run in LMP1 and LMP2.
The LMPC class will be open to cars that have run in the new Formula Le Mans Series in Europe and will provide a cheaper method to enter prototype competition, with the cars set to take part in a display at Petit Le Mans before a test is held at Road Atlanta for team's wishing to try out the ORECA designed car.
GT will run to the current GT2 regulations and will be the headline GT class following the demise of GT1 this season, with manufacturers like Porsche, Ferrari, Corvette and BMW already represented, while the GTC class will be a continuation of the Challenge Class introduced this season for cars from the Patron GT3 Challenge.
For 2010, the GTC class will be open to other versions of the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, while it is likely that other manufacturers will be added in the future. Ferrari, Aston Martin, Dodge, Corvette, BMW, Ford and Jaguar are all represented in GT3 in Europe.
“The new format for 2010 will create more opportunities for more teams and manufacturers to participate in the American Le Mans Series, while at the same time providing fans with the chance to see new cars, teams and drivers in both prototype and GT competition,” series CEO Scott Atherton said.
“There is no question that developments in the economy - and especially the auto industry - have changed the business environment now and for the foreseeable future. For any organisation to remain 'status quo' is a likely death sentence. The global economic situation has created a new paradigm that is requiring all businesses to take innovative approaches to how they must operate going forward. We believe we have implemented changes that will enable the Series and our participants to thrive.
“Our sport has always been about evolution, and our plans for 2010 and beyond reflect it.
“We intend to stay ahead of the rest of the industry. We are the first movers to embrace a value-based new set of classes while at the same time retaining the core elements of what has made the American Le Mans Series the benchmark professional sportscar racing series in modern times. The automotive industry is going through radical changes, and the same can be said for most of the motorsports industry. With today's announcement we are adding value-based opportunities that expand accessibility to a broader base of competitors, manufacturers and teams.”
The announcement has been made with the full support of the ACO, which runs the Le Mans 24 Hours and establishes rules for Le Mans style racing around the globe.