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Grading on a wild curve…  what do May flowers bring ?

  A reader asked how John Brooks and I deal with our writers and what makes it
on to SCP. Pretty easily actually, Brooksie edits and captions everything from the
Euro/U.K. side and I do the U.S. version although once in a while I look at AC’s
stuff if Brooksie can’t. Then there is the stuff that is backed up and in the can that
deserves to run and should but time and space is a problem. Lame excuse from
my side, I should just spend a week and edit through it as even the outdated
interviews and reviews offer a fascinating look at the particular moment. Just don’t
ask when this will happen.

  After the high of seeing history made at Sebring, the ALMS disappeared off the
radar and the sensory onslaught of million car fields of the Grand Am took over in
what seemed to be a dozen races while the only news from the ALMS was that
Honda through it’s Acura division was coming to the series. I suppose the whining
about the speed of the Audi R10 and the carping from the Porsche Penske camp
should be mentioned. So it has… for Atherton and company a return to action
couldn’t come fast enough as press releases and statements are not what race
fans want. Clearly Grand Am’s strategies to stay visible after the post Sebring
ALMS slumber leading up to Houston worked.

  Enough has been said on this SCP about the recent west coast rounds of the
Grand Am there isn’t much to add except this one observation from Laguna. The
car count in the DP class has grown to the point that yellows are standard
equipment. Several of the teams now running prototurtles simply are not ready for
prime time. I asked one owner of a better than average DP team what could be
done and he suggested that if you have three offs or incidents that the black flag
gets waved and the offending prototurtle gets some shelf life. It is a thoughtful
approach and if the grids continue to grow, worth considering.

Pomp and Silliness
  This time of year the air is full of Edward Elgar's brassy top of the pops theme
and mailboxes are full of the final grades. So in keeping with the festive
atmosphere that for many ( this hack included ) included a whole lot of fear, The
University of SCP announces the grading of the season so far.

Grand American Road Racing
  As a race series and business plan they have to get a grade of B+

  On track competition is fierce in DP but only a half dozen teams have a shot at the
overall slot. Grade: B

at a Grand Am race is always full of surprises, that is the only constant
to be sure of. Grade D

ranks are of less importance to the GA brass, why bother ? That's what cousin
Nascar is all about. Still there are teams that toss away good money buying a
Porsche Cup 997 only to remove the parts that make it a Cup car, like the
centerlock wheels, and spend thousands of dollars making it something it wasn’t.
Then GA has the audacity ( wait, it's my site ) I mean the balls to allow the Pontiac
in GT. Change the program in the Porsche ECU and you can drive it to the
supermarket. Pull that stunt with the GTO and go directly to jail and pick up the
Pontiac at impound. Oh yeah, bring a cashiers check. This mockery of rules
favoritism is on par with SCCA's blanket amnesty of the Cadillac bump and bingo
from last year's Speed GT.

  Only the smarts of Tafel's Tony Dowe will give the Porsche a chance against the
superior platform of the GOAT. Other than that, pass the trophy to GM.
So… GA GT playbook a grade of F. Efforts of all the teams not driving a Pontiac in
GT get a grade of A for willing to put up with it.

   Advertising awareness valedictorian is the chain of Ruby Tuesday. Easily the
class act of the series in properly using the GA series to highlight their burger
joints, they hit the ground at full revs with Alex Job Racing and were quickly
rewarded with the big time. The undernourished twins of Rocky and Patrick woke
up to see their grilles in the papers on a national scale. Expect all the TV's at Ruby
Burger to be tuned to any GA race that #23 is running. I walked in to one of the
burger bistros and was greeted with a large banner showing the AJR Crawford
along with the panzer kids.

  No one ( and Pontiac does not count ) has approached blanketing the public with
the hype that Ruby Tuesday's has on a large scale. Right now they are to Grand
Am what Audi has been to the ALMS.

DP Chauffeur Honor Roll: Scott Pruett, Mike Rockenfeller, Jorg Bergmeister

DP Team Honor Roll:  Team Chippy, Alex Job, SunBus, Uniden

GT Chauffeur Honor Roll: Wolf Henzler, Robin Liddell, Kelly Collins, Bill Auberlin

GT Team Honor Roll:  Tafel, SAMAX

  Braveheart Award: Grand Am Prez Roger Edmondson who restored credibility to
the high ranks of management in a culture that has misplaced the road map of
accountability. After the mess at Phoenix, he stood tall.
Let's start a dump Max Mosley campaign and get Edmondson on board at the

American Le Mans Series
  A whole different gig here and if there is a business plan, I don’t know what
exactly it is. A lead class with fewer cars than presently in my driveway. And just
about as reliable percentage wise.

  When the ALMS is on track, they constantly show excellence, no question or
doubt about that fact. The mounts in LMP1 are not for the weak of ability, GT1 ( the
former GT2 ) is as serious and professional a class as ever put together. The low
numbers of cars can be explained that it takes a lot of talent and cash to carry
THAT load. Teams such as Oreca, Prodrive, Pratt, etc. It takes more than a village
to take a challenge to that mob.

  The GT2 ( nee GT3 ) teams that fill the top bracket are so good that is it any
surprise that Alex Job was able to go to Grand Am and run overall ? Put
Petersen/While Lightning and even the Lizards in that category. Multimatic is
turning the Panoz effort around with the capable David Brabham back in the fold.
Risi has already been in top classes, so as a race series based on what we see
actually on the track, the ALMS deserves an A-. From a content viewpoint a C.

  For classroom conduct such as officiating, Marty and Co. are not perfect but
damn consistent and these days that is saying a lot. And if you bitch enough the
IMSA folk will actually get a consensus ( for the next season ). Grade: B+

Current Events: Grade: Incomplete
  This is where the management of the ALMS is late with the assignments. Does
anybody remember what LMP2 ( or LMP 675 ) were originally supposed to be all
about ? Where have all the Pilbeams gone, long time passing… the escalating
costs of the smaller LMP class was all it took for that other series to get off the
ground. Now faced with a headline grabbing Porsche that will cost more than what
an R8 did a few years ago, have these people lost it ? Ever hear of a salary cap ?
How about anything calling itself a prototype be forced to live within a reasonable
means. Showing up to run with a car that costs what the entire grid of 2-675’ers
combined is bad business. Make the Porsche run in LMP1 as it may be built to
current rules for LMP2 but using it as the series flagship over a seven year old
design Audi is just plain wrong !

  Let's not forget that the restrictions placed on the R8 seriously hamper it's
performance. Put the R8 back in 2002 specs if it must be handicapped at all and
give the brave warrior it's due. That's what made the double at Mid Ohio such a
sham and undeserved. Competition, not a catwalk. Hey Roger, ya beat a team
with a horsey girl and a Norelco driven by Guy Cosmo. Of course the ALMS for
Penske is all about moving the hardware off his dealership floor. For the Captain,
his racing hall of fame passion is a center stage seat at Indy as just witnessed.
Now that was a performance ! I also don’t want to hear about Lexus, Acura or
anybody else coming down the road to the ALMS…. you don’t get graded if you are
not enrolled.

  Back to class…

  All stops pulled out, fifth encore rave up pole position: Allan McNish at Sebring
raised the bar so high that the lowlander became a mountain. A+

  Regardless of what happens at Le Mans, the R10 is the racecar of the year and
the absolute head of the class of 2006.

  Pratt High vs. Prodive Academy this Saturday night at 7 PM. A different kind of
football is being played between the Vettes and the Aston Martin squads. Passes
and tackles. Cool….

  Scholar Bowl: At the Houston GP, Brad Kettler brought his game to a Joest level
and put Nishy and Dindo in contention for the overall right from the start. He
delivered and they delivered. The Majic Man had reason to smile.

  Perfect Attendance: A big moment for Alex Job Racing collecting win number
50 at Houston. Quiz time, how many sports car race teams are still running today
that were around when IMSA became PSCR and they became… and teams not
just in name but as a means. And yes, Joest does count as one of them.

  LMP Class Valedictorian: Liz Halliday… why not ? She has more points than the
Penske drivers at the moment and something that hype goddess Danica Patrick
has yet to achieve… victories.

  GT1 Chauffeur Honor Roll: Tomas Enge, Ron Fellows

  GT2 Chauffeur Honor Roll: Brabs, Bergmeister

  LMP1 Chauffeur Honor Roll: McNish, Weaver

  LMP2 Chauffeur Honor Roll: Maassen, Clint Field

  GT Team Honor Roll: Pratt & Miller, Flying Lizard

  LMP Team Honor Roll:
Audi Sport, Intersport

  Special Mention:  The 2006 ALMS Media Guide    Grade: A

  In the battle of street circuits, the ALMS had a better result at Houston with
regards to clean, heads up racing. However, Grand Am got the headlines and the
crowds with their association with the annual Long Beach Grand Prix and Pop
Festival. ( life is like a neon rainbow – cool tattoo ) There is a long tradition at Long
Beach and GA skillfully played their cards, introducing the show to thousands. The
ALMS at Houston suffered a virtual local press blackout as Houston media
concentrated on the main show of open wheeled go-carts being pedaled by the
likes of Paul Tracy. This was a shame for as much as I dislike parking lot GP’s,
Houston was not too bad, had decent organization and when compared to what
Grand Am suffered through in Phoenix on a dueling weekend, a revelation of sorts.
The combining of series is not what the ALMS needs, if the show is being sold as
a top bill then act like one and not a support act. The teams and the fans deserve
as much.

                                                                                   Kerry Morse
                                                                                     June 2006

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