ALMS plan to boost grids

The two prototype classes will be combined for next year’s American Le Mans Series.

Championship bosses have revealed that they will tinker with the rules to ensure parity of performance between LMP1 and LMP2 in an attempt to recreate the classic Audi versus Porsche versus Acura battles of 2007-08. Series president Scott Atherton said the move was a reaction to “the economic realities faced by the United States”.

The decision comes against the backdrop of reduced manufacturer participation and a smaller prototype grid in 2009. Audi and Porsche withdrew ahead of this season and Acura appears unlikely to stay in 2010, while there have been between just seven and 10 prototypes competing regularly in the ALMS this year.

Atherton denied that the announcement had been made in the knowledge that neither Acura nor Audi would return to the series in 2010.

“We are careful to point out that Audi, Acura and other manufacturers fit into our expectations and future plans,” he said. “What we have done is put together a set of rules that are not dependent on one or more of them coming.”

Atherton stressed that the move had been made with the full agreement of the Automobile Club de l’Ouest, organiser of the Le Mans 24 Hours. He insisted that changes to the rules would be “relatively subtle”.

The two ALMS blue riband enduros, the Sebring 12 Hours and Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta, will continue to run to pure ACO rules. This recognises the fact that Petit is a qualifying race for the 24 Hours – the winners of each class get a guaranteed entry – and that Sebring will be a round of the ACO’s new Intercontinental Cup for prototypes in 2011.

A prototype grid will be boosted by a new ‘challenge’ class for the Formula Le Mans one-make car that has its own series in Europe in 2009. There will be only one GT class for GT2-spec cars in next year’s ALMS, which will not feature the new breed of GT1 car that comes on line in Europe in 2010.