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Bill Oursler on the ALMS’ View of Elephant Mountain

  In the fast moving world of motorsport, patience remains a virtue. It is far better to
take a bit of extra time, whether during a pit stop, or in writing the regulations that
determine its look and often its outcome, than to plunge ahead without regard for
the consequences simply to satisfy momentary needs. Unfortunately, those
seemingly overwhelming needs too often drive patience not only to the back of
one’s mind, but outside of it altogether.

  Never was that more clear than the difficult position the old Camel GT found itself
at the start of the 1993 season when there were just two serious contestants for
the IMSA-bred championship: Dan Gurney’s All American Toyota prototypes and
Reinhold Joest’s two aging, and only semi-effective counterpart Porsche 962s.

  The year previous IMSA and its Camel tour had been riding high with
manufacturer entries from Nissan, the aforementioned Gurney Toyota squad,
Chevrolet, Jaguar and Mazda in the headlining GTP category, and Honda in the
Camel Lights division. The problem with this wretched excess was that at the end
of the season there could be just a single crown winner for each class, and while
Honda and Toyota emerged with smiles on their faces, the rest did not.

  In fact, so displeased were they and their financial departments that they took
their cars and went home, starting a slide for IMSA that only stopped with the
arrival of Don Panoz late in the decade. With Panoz came the birth of the American
Le Mans Series, the current heir to the long tradition of sports car competition
extending back to its re-establishment in the years immediately following the end
of the Second World War.

Baltic and Mediterranean to Boardwalk and Park Place and back…
  During the time since, the ALMS has had its successes and its failures in trying
to overcome the unfortunate legacy left to it by the failure of the GTP universe, a
failure that was, at least in this columnist’s opinion unnecessary. One has to
admit here that being a critic with the unwanted burden of responsibility for fixing
the things thought to be wrong is far easier than giving to actually make the
changes, and make them work as planned.

  Even so, it seems clear that the perception surrounding the decision by IMSA’s
management in the late 1980’s to cripple the relatively large number of 962s
running in the series through new restrictive rules led to their owners’ deciding to
park, rather than continue to race them. In the short term, IMSA’s actions were
highly effective bringing in new manufacturers and teams, this pumping in some
much needed new life into a championship whose importance could be rightly be
said to have been seriously diluted by the Porsche’s domination of it. Yet, when
1993 arrived and IMSA needed desperately to boost its extremely thin fields, those
962s, which could have helped eliminate that problem, remained at home under
dust covers.

  Now the revitalized IMSA and the ALMS are beginning to find themselves in
somewhat similar circumstances. In spite of the series’ recent gains in terms of
the announcement at Portland that Andretti-Green, Adrian Fernandez and Duncan
Dayton’s Highcroft Racing teams will represent Honda next year in LMP2, the size
of the ALMS grids have not substantially increased this season. Indeed, if anything
they are down, with just 22 cars starting at Portland as further evidence of that fact.

Stay, just a little bit longer…
  The result of those small fields has put pressure on the ALMS and IMSA to keep
its competitors happy, lest they decide, like the 962 brigade a decade and a half
earlier, to take their toys and go home. Complicating matters is the competing
pressure to make the ALMS entertaining for the fans, something which has led
IMSA to introduce its “performance balancing” program to keep a level playing field
in order to provide a variety of winners.

  Unfortunately, just as the previous generation of IMSA folks (and even the SCCA
before it when it attempted to “balance” its original Can-Am by essentially
legislating the Porsche turbos out of the tour in order to give the largely privateer
corps of no boosted Chevrolet entrants a chance, and wound it killing the
championship instead) “performance balancing” can be a slippery slope.  The
reason for spending the huge amounts of money to race is to win, which means
there are going to be a great many displeased losers.

  This year the non winners have been more than a little vocal in espousing their
cause, with the result that regulatory changes to implement performance
balancing have come so fast that one could say that IMSA and the ALMS have
been operating not on the “rules of the day,” but rather the “rules of the moment,”
with changes coming so quickly as to be bewildering. Take for example the Dyson
Racing AER Lolas which were given a 40 kilo weight break for Portland, only to
have IMSA want to put 20 kilos back before the start of the event itself. And, as if
that weren’t enough, after the Corvette complained about the fact that IMSA had
mandated smaller air restrictors for the GM sports cars after having saddled them
with some 300 pounds of extra weight to make them more equal with the ProDrive
Aston Martins, IMSA reversed itself almost immediately on the air restrictor issue,
upsetting the ProDrive contingent and leading to rumors that the Aston Martins
might not come to Road America.

Taxation without representation
  Obviously ALMS can ill afford to have a team such as ProDrive even think drop out
at this point, or have Rob Dyson contemplate about doing the same. Yet, just as
obviously IMSA needs not to be acting in haste. Originally one of the attractions of
the ALMS was the promise of rules stability, something which has gotten lost in
the “performance balancing” equations as it is currently being implemented.

  Moreover, no one should have been surprised about the performance superiority
of such cars as the Audi R10 turbo diesels, or the Roger Penske run Porsche RS
Spyders. Likewise Aston Martin has had more than a year to figure out where they
spend against the Corvettes, just as the privateer Porsche teams who are running
the now three-season old 996-based 911 GT3RSRs ought to be shocked that the
new Risi Ferrari 430GT is the faster car in the GT2 category.

  To complain about these disadvantages is like the homeowner by what should
have been a half million dollar home for a tenth of that price and then bitching that
it even though it is next door to Kennedy Airport, the airport should shut down so
the homeowner can sleep in peace. The saying “buyer beware” applies here to
both the homeowner and the ALMS entrants.

No strikes, no balls, four errors
  Before the 2006 ALMS campaign even started, everyone knew from winter testing
who was going to be fast, and by how much. To suddenly cry “foul” is more than a
bit disingenuous. High technology based racing means that everyone is going to
push the technology limits on an on-going basis, a process which is equally going
to lead to in inequities. So if you know that starting out, why complain later. IMSA is
right to use performance balancing to make its series better, but not in what
appears to be an “Ad Hoc” way. If the “losers” want so desperately to win, then let
them go to the Rolex Grand Am tour where they won’t have to worry about being
technology challenged.

                                                                                             Bill Oursler
                                                                                             August 2006

gimme back my car
Top of Page
a shot at the title
license to ill
IMSA trash
needs work
problem or the cure
sportscarpros Across the Border

Features on or from Guests
No. Class Team Drivers Car Sponsors
0 DP Tuttle Team Racing Brian Tuttle, West Palm Beach, FL; Jonathan Cochet, France BMW Riley Tuttle Team Racing
01 DP CompUSA Chip Ganassi with Felix Sabates Scott Pruett, Auburn, CA; Luis Diaz, Mexico City, Mexico Lexus Riley CompUSA
3 DP Southard Motorsports Shane Lewis, Jupiter, FL; BMW Riley Southard Motorsports
4 DP Howard - Boss Motorsports Andy Wallace, England; Butch Leitzinger, Rebersburg, PA Pontiac Crawford The Boss Snowplow
04 GT Sigalsport BMW Gene Sigal, Los Angeles, CA; Peter MacLeod, Bellevue, WA BMW M3 Motul/ enVista/ OMP
5 DP Essex Racing Rob Finlay, Charlotte, NC; Michael Valiante, Vancouver, BC Canada Ford Crawford Make A Wish/ Z-Line Designs/ Finlay Motorsports
05 GT Sigalsport BMW Matthew Alhadeff, Los Angeles, CA; Bill Auberlen, Redondo Beach, CA BMW M3 Alhadeff Motorsports/ Motul/ enVista
6 DP Michael Shank Racing/ Mears Motor Coach Mike Borkowski, Miami Beach, FL; Antoine Bessette, St Bruno, QC Canada Lexus Riley Michael Shank Racing/
7 DP Tuttle Team Racing Brian Tuttle, West Palm Beach, FL; Jonathan Cochet, France Pontiac Riley Tuttle Team Racing
8 DP Synergy Racing Burt Frisselle, Kihei, HI; Brian Frisselle, Kihei, HI Porsche Doran GlycoMax
09 DP Spirit of Daytona Racing Doug Goad, West Bloomfield, MI; Larry Oberto, Seattle, WA Pontiac Crawford Spirit of Daytona Racing
10 DP SunTrust Racing Wayne Taylor, Apopka, FL; Max Angelelli, Italy; Jan Magnussen, Denmark Pontiac Riley SunTrust
11 DP CITGO Racing by SAMAX Milka Duno, Venezuela; Marc Goossens, Belgium Pontiac Riley CITGO
12 DP Lowe's Fernandez Racing Adrian Fernandez, Mexico City, Mexico; Mario Haberfeld, Brazil Pontiac Riley Lowe's
14 GT Autometrics Motorsports Cory Friedman, Charleston, SC; Gordon Friedman, Charleston, SC Porsche GT3 Cup Mill And Textile Supply/ Mac Papers
17 GT SAMAX Robert Bell, England; Porsche GT3 Cup SAMAX
19 DP Playboy/ Uniden Racing Guy Cosmo, West Palm Beach, FL; Michael McDowell, Monroe, NC Ford Crawford Playboy/ Uniden/ Palms
21 GT Matt Connolly Motorsports Jeff Altenburg, Ellicott City, MD; John Angelone, Bridgewater, NJ; Matt Connolly, Bethlehem, PA BMW M3 23 DP Alex Job
Racing/ Emory Motorsports Mike Rockenfeller, Monaco; Patrick Long, Las Vegas, NV Porsche Crawford Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team
24 GT Matt Connolly Motorsports Bill Cotter, Seattle, WA; Todd Hanson, Atlanta, GA BMW M3 Matt Connolly Motorsports
31 DP Team Cytosport Greg Pickett, Benicia, CA; Scott Sharp, Tequesta, FL Pontiac Riley XCYTO Energy Drink
38 GT Bernheim Racing Steve Bernheim, Beverly Hills, CA; Dwain Dement, Laguna Hills, CA Porsche GT3 Cup
39 DP Crown Royal Special Reserve/ Cheever Christian Fittipaldi, Brazil; Eddie Cheever Jr, Orlando, FL Porsche Crawford Crown Royal Special Reserve
40 DP Derhaag Motorsports Chris Bingham, Clyde Hill, WA; Randy Ruhlman, Greensboro, NC Pontiac Riley PLP/ Preformed Line Products/ Coyote Closures
41 GT Team Sahlen Eric Lux, Amherst, NY; Charles Espenlaub, Lutz, FL Porsche GT3 Cup Rembrandt Charms/ HRPworld/ GOJO/ Hawk
47 DP TruSpeed Motorsports Charles Morgan, Little Rock, AR; Rob Morgan, Ladera Ranch, CA Porsche Riley Querencia Golf Club/ Wright Motorsports
50 DP Rocketsports Racing Paul Gentilozzi, Lansing, MI; Tomy Drissi, Los Angeles, CA Ford Crawford X-MEN 3 The Last Stand the Movie
56 GT Beachman Racing Bruce Beachman, Woodinville, WA; Rick Delamare, Snohemish, WA Corvette Beachman Racing/ Sunset Chevrolet
57 GT Stevenson Motorsports Tommy Riggins, Jacksonville, FL; Vic Rice, San Rafael, CA; John Stevenson, Swansboro, NC Corvette Stevenson Automotive
58 DP Red Bull/ Brumos Porsche David Donohue, Westchester, PA; Darren Law, Phoenix, AZ Porsche Fabcar Red Bull/ Brumos Porsche
59 DP Brumos Racing Hurley Haywood, Ponte Vedra, FL; JC France, Ormond Beach, FL Porsche Fabcar Brumos Porsche
60 DP Michael Shank Racing Mark Patterson, Bronxville, NY; Oswaldo Negri, Aventura, FL Lexus Riley Flight Options/ Nett App Lexus Riley
64 GT TRG Paul Edwards, Nipomo, CA; Kelly Collins, Newport Beach, CA Pontiac GTO.R TRG
65 GT TRG Marc Bunting, Monkton, MD; Andy Lally, Dacula, GA; RJ Valentine, Braintree, MA Pontiac GTO.R TRG/ F1 Air
70 GT SpeedSource David Haskell, Plantation, FL; Sylvain Tremblay, Coral Springs, FL Mazda RX-8 Mazdaspeed Motorsports/ Mazda USA
71 GT SAMAX/ Doncaster Racing Greg Wilkins, Toronto, ON Canada; Dave Lacey, Toronto, ON Canada Porsche GT3 Cup Minestar Solutions/ Tim Hortons72 GT
Tafel Racing Robin Liddell, England; Wolf Henzler, Germany Porsche GT3 Cup NEC
73 GT Tafel Racing Jim Tafel, Alpharetta, GA; Andrew Davis, Bogart, GA Porsche GT3 Cup NEC
75 DP Krohn Racing Tracy Krohn, Houston, TX; Nic Jonsson, Sweden Ford Riley Krohn Racing
76 DP Krohn Racing Jorg Bergmeister, Germany; Colin Braun, Ovalo, TX Ford Riley Krohn Racing
77 DP Feeds The Need/ Doran Racing Terry Borcheller, Gainesville, GA; Harrison Brix, Campbell, CA Ford Doran Kodak/ Amp'd Mobile/ Sirius
80 GT Shoes for Crews/ Synergy Racing David Murry, Cumming, GA; Leh Keen, Dublin, GA Porsche GT3 Cup Shoes for Crews/ Synergy Racing
81 GT Synergy Racing Steve Johnson, Bristol, VA; Robert Nearn, England Porsche GT3 Cup Comfort Systems USA/ Johnson Commercial Development
89 DP Pacific Coast Motorsports Alex Figge, Vail, CO; Ryan Dalziel, Orlando, FL Pontiac Riley Playboy/ Vonage/ Palms Casino
97 DP CyberSpeed Racing Tony Ave, Mooresville, NC; Skip Cummins, Houston, TX Pontiac Riley CyberSpeed Racing
98 GT Pacific Coast Motorsports David Empringham, Toronto, ON Canada; Ross Thompson, Phoenix, AZ Pontiac GTO.R Pacific Coast Motorsports
99 DP Gainsco/ Blackhawk Racing Jon Fogarty, Portola Valley, CA; Alex Gurney, Irvine, CA Pontiac Riley Gainsco Auto Insurance

point of order
Roger Ramjet
the circle game
 cover up