A Quick Refresher - Grand-Am


Picture Copywrite Grand-Am 2006
By Sam Tickell

Need a quick introduction to the world of Grand-Am??? The basics are here including a quick description of the cars, the calender, the rules and the series history.

Grand American Road Racing, or Grand-Am is one of the USA’s most competitive road racing series. Grand-Am features its own set of rules which differ from any other forms of endurance racing. This series is not associated with the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Like other endurance series, there are multiple types of cars in the field.

The Classes

Daytona Prototype

The rules were rewritten in 2003 to create this type of car. In Grand-Am these cars are the most powerful, and designed to win outright. These cars are mid-engine, fully closed vehicles but bear little resemblance to road going cars that you and I drive. Costing around $400,000 per car, this series is relatively cheap in the world of motorsport and because of this, the Grand-Am series has thrived. There are seven different constructers that create the chassis including Riley and Doran.

Engines for this category are derived from production based power plants but additions like a turbo and superchargers are not allowed. Currently there are six engines allowed for this category, including Lexus, Ford and Infiniti. The teams to watch in 2006 include Suntrust Racing and defending champions CompUSA Chip Ganassi with Felix Sabates.

GT Class

This class is based on production road cars that anybody can purchase. The race cars are exotic in nature and boast many performance differences than their road going counterparts. Much of the car is redesigned to reflect the high class racing series that they are competing in. The rule makers strive to keep performance equal. They do this by imposing weight penalties for cars that are successful. This also has the advantage of keeping costs down, as teams will not spend excessive money in finding an advantage as it will be erased with weight penalties.

These cars can reach 170 mph and weigh at least 2500 pounds. Many different cars compete in this category including Porsche, BMW, Pontiac, Mazda, Maserati and Ferrari. The cars to watch out for are the Porsche GT3 and the BMW M3 models, which have won every championship in the category.

The Races

The series is made up of 15 races with the Daytona Prototypes racing 14 times and GTs racing 13 times. The famous Rolex Daytona 24 Hours is the blue ribbon event. This race, held in January attracts many one-off competitors and represents the only top line 24 hour event in the USA. Other prestigious races include the Sahlen’s Six Hours at the Glen, at the Watkins Glen circuit in June and the Miller Motorsports Park event which lasts for nine hours. This event is held in Utah in August.

Other races are usually held over 250 miles. With the calendar lasting from January to August is tightly packed and makes one international event at the Mexico City track in March.

Other Rules

As Grand-Am is an endurance series, each car must have at least two drivers. Both of these drivers must compete in the race to conform to the rules. Like in all endurance racing, both drivers must complete a certain portion of the race and a driver can not continuously drive for too long. Driver parings may change from race to race, meaning that a single driver may become champion although, each driver team receives equal points from each event.

There is both a championship for the Daytona Prototype class and the GT class. Championships for drivers, teams and manufactures are all up for grabs each season. 35 points are on offer for the winners with the next 29 finishers scoring points.

The Series

This series was formed in 1999 in an effort to give stability to road racing in the USA. In 2003 the rules were rewritten to reflect what is seen today. Grand-Am also prides itself on rule stability, meaning that if a team was to enter this year, they could use the same equipment for many years to come. This series is licensed by the FIA, the same body that licenses Formula 1 and the International GT category. This series has no association with the 24 Hours of Le Mans with the equipment being ineligible for Le Mans competition and the competitors are given no recognition for entry in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The Grand-Am series is however a prestigious series that draws world class fields to world class events. For more check out www.grandamerican.com.

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