GRAND-AM is to merge with the American Le Mans Series (ALMS), it was announced at Daytona International Speedway on Wednesday morning.
“Today's announcement will transform sports car racing on this continent," said Ed Bennett, the president and CEO of GRAND-AM. “This new approach is going to be revolutionary, as we take the best components from two premium brands, combine them and then benefit mutually from the considerable resources both sides will bring to our efforts.
"This is a bold move – and the right one – for the long-term, optimum growth of sports car racing.” he said.
As well as merging the two series, the announcement also revealed that the deal included a transfer to GRAND-AM of the running of the Road Atlanta circuit and Sebring International Raceway, among other property and business assets.
“This merger will blend the best assets and attributes of each organization in terms of technical rules, officiating, marketing, communications, personnel, scheduling and broadcasting," said Scott Atherton, the president and CEO of ALMS. "The result will be one of the strongest, most competitive and powerful motorsports marketing platforms in the world."
There will be no immediate change to the two series in 2013, with integration under one brand following in 2014.
The board of directors of the new organisation will be chaired by Jim France, the son of NASCAR founder co-founder William Henry Getty France, with NASCAR already owning the GRAND-AM Series. The vice-chairman will be ALMS founder Don Panoz. ALMS started in 1999 basted on the template of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and GRAND-AM had followed the next year with the prestigious Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona event.
“This merger will strengthen professional sports car racing beyond what either of our organizations could have achieved separately,” explained Panoz. “ALMS was founded for the fans and I'm personally gratified that they will benefit greatly as we now work together with GRAND-AM to take this sport to the level at which it belongs in the North American and international motorsports landscapes.”
GRAND-AM's marques include the Rolex Sports Car Series, the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge and the TOTAL Performance Showcase, as well as the Ferrari Challenge that is operated by Ferrari North America. The ALMS sanctioning body is the International Motor Sports Association.
The announcement of the merger was warmly received across US motorsports circles.
"This is an epic moment for sports car racing in America," said the director of Ford Racing, Jamie Allison. "The opportunity to take the best of ALMS and GRAND-AM and create a strong, unified professional road racing series is what the fans have wanted, the teams have wanted, and the manufacturers have wanted for many years.
"We at Ford congratulate the GRAND-AM and ALMS leadership and all those involved in helping put the merger together for the good of the sport," he said. "The new, unified approach has a lot of appeal to Ford due to the potential international alignment [as] we are a global auto manufacturer."