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Bill Oursler On Keeping Up Appearances

You remember, don’t you when your mother tried to fix you up with an ugly – most likely the daughter of a close friend. “Why dear,” she would say. “It isn’t what’s on the outside that counts; what really matters is what’s on the inside.” Sure, mom, and I bet she’s got great hair too. And, ugliness is what many believe is at the heart of the lack of acceptance, perceived or otherwise,  for the Rolex Sportscar series’ Daytona Prototypes by the ticket buying public and their stay-at-home television watching counterparts.

Your mother should know…

As one grows older there is the recognition that substance, not appearance is the principal criteria on which such judgments ought to be made. Indeed, one has to wonder if some of the box-like Japanese motor vehicles that are being seen in ever increasing numbers, would be enjoying the kind of sales success that they have were it not for the influence of the female population. As a distaff friend of mine puts it: “We never had that problem of choosing our dates by looks alone.” Perhaps then, the Grand Am ought to target female racing enthusiasts who can see beyond the outside skin of the Daytona Prototype set to see what’s underneath.

The thing is that my friend and my mother are right; the Daytona Prototype concept of equality is a good one upon which to base a road racing series if you believe that close, tight competition is what sells. Clearly Grand Am officials have done a great job in bringing equality to the track, a fact evidenced ironically by the recent successes of Bob Stallings’ Gainsco Pontiac Riley team that claimed three straight races, all by under ten seconds or less, during the late spring and early summer.


Such was their performance and that of drivers Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney, that there was concern that the Rolex tour was “going to hell in a hand basket.” Yeah, sure. Most championships would love to have winning margins of ten seconds or less’ yet when it happens in the finely tuned atmosphere of the Grand Am, the worry beads come out. all of which should give you a clue as to just how good the racing in the Rolex Series is.

When one adds the highly recognizable driver names to the mix, one can only wonder why the stands aren’t full and the TV ratings through the roof. The current reality is that spectators if not a rare breed, have not exactly proliferated over the years since the current format came into effect in 2003. Nor have the “boob tube” ratings lifted off the runway either. In fact, while Grand Am officials might tend to dispute this, much of the sports car enthusiast public appears to be dismissive of the Rolex tour.

And, that is unfortunate, for what the Grand Am is trying to sell is a better than good product. However, like Broccoli, whose taste buds aren’t brought to life by the vegetable, no amount of discussion about how wonderful it might be is going to change our minds about voluntarily accepting it despite its attributes. With the current design age of the Daytona Prototype community now approaching six years, the Grand Am is thinking about making changes.

Gimme another drink, I can still see her face…

One can only hope that one of the first areas officials will consider is the overly cabs and even more spacious windshields which make, in the opinion of most, the Daytona Prototypes look so weird. If one ignores what’s about the beltline, and concentrates on what’s below it, the Rolex sports racers aren’t that much different from similar cars in other series. Given that the racing is good, given that the “names” are there, and given that the Daytona Prototypes have achieved great acceptance with competitors, a cosmetic makeover may be the trick to turning things around with the public. Do me a favor though, just don’t talk about the hair.

                                                                              Bill Oursler
                                                                               July 2007

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