GRAND-AM: US-Based DTM Series Confirmed
It's official: GRAND-AM and NASCAR will partner on a US-based DTM championship starting in 2013. Marshall Pruett | Posted October 17, 2010 The DTM is officially headed for the United States. The 12-race US-based championship for the extreme DTM cars will begin in 2013 -- one year after GRAND-AM's flagship Daytona Prototype class undergoes a serious remodeling project -- that will serve as a sprint racing support show for GRAND-AM, NASCAR Sprint Cup and the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
“Only days after BMW officially announced its commitment to the DTM from 2012, this is more good news concerning the future of the DTM”, said Hans Werner Aufrecht, chairman of the ITR group that runs the DTM.
“Internationalisation has been our goal, in order to ensure that cars to DTM regulations can be used in more countries all over the world. We have had very constructive talks with the GRAND-AM organisation and we are very excited with this new partnership.”
GRAND-AM president Tom Bledsoe says he expects the new venture with the DTM to serve as a major boost for his series.
“We are proud to forge these new relationships with the many manufacturers choosing to embrace the DTM vision, and we look forward to welcoming these exciting cars to the USA. With these announcements, we can begin planning with our media partners, race tracks and teams. The addition of a DTM-style sprint race will increase the attraction for our fans and help grow all GRAND-AM series.”
Many questions (and doubts) have surfaced about the DTM+GRAND-AM+NASCAR partnership, with this author receiving a steady stream of correspondence on the topic. Most of those inquiries centered on the belief that this new partnership is the first step by NASCAR to launch a Sprint Cup series in Europe, but SPEED.com has learned that the initial contact between the parties came from the DTM reaching out to GRAND-AM, and not from NASCAR to the DTM.
Mazda's Robert Davis thinks a US DTM series will only add to the quality of GRAND-AM events, delivering a second form of GT racing to go with the Mazdas, Camaros, Corvettes, BMWs and Fords in Rolex GT. (Marshall Pruett)
The main question to be answered now is how the US DTM series will be populated. Through discussions with parties involved with the 2013 series, we understand the most likely scenario involves factory involvement from Audi, Mercedes-Benz and BMW, with an undetermined number of existing DTM teams running satellite programs in the USA on behalf of the DTM manufacturers.
The German DTM series currently serves as a playground for Audi and Mercedez-Benz (BMW will join for 2012), where full factory racing teams fight for the championship while a number of privately owned teams campaign DTM cars with some level of factory assistance. The same model is expected for the 2013 US DTM series, giving the three marques the chance to battle each other on American soil while completing the rest of the grid with US-based teams.
Details are still somewhat vague, but the opportunity appears to exist for GRAND-AM teams to expand into the US DTM series provided they reach an agreement with Audi, Mercedes-Benz or BMW.
Whether the US DTM series would be open to teams outside of GRAND-AM and NASCAR is unknown, but the fact that the DTM organizers expect to see the new series share the 2013 calendar with the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series could draw the interest from more than just sportscar and stock car entrants.
Chip Ganassi, owner of a two-car NASCAR Sprint Cup team and the 2010 GRAND-AM Rolex Series Daytona Prototype-championship winning team, says that running a DTM program could be of interest to teams in a variety of different series.
"I would think you will get some cross pollination from teams. The good news is that they are trying to get more factory involvement around [GRAND-AM]."
Robert Davis, head of Mazda's North American motorsports programs, believes the inclusion of a DTM sprint series alongside the Rolex Series would benefit everyone involved with GRAND-AM.
"I look at this announcement as a way to grow the overall image and impact and marketability of GRAND-AM. Having Audi and Mercedes and now BMW running on the same weekends with us is not going to hurt GRAND-AM at all. If anything, it will bring out more people who are passionate about our kind of racing. The guys at GRAND-AM are pretty smart about thinking those kinds of things through from the beginning. We don't know a lot about this partnership yet -- it's still early days -- but I think you'll see [GRAND-AM] is going to take care of its entrants while they add something exciting like the DTM to the calendar."
Davis, whose factory Mazda RX-8s claimed the 2010 Rolex GT manufacturer and driver championships, says that concerns about the DTM taking the spotlight away from GRAND-AM are premature.
"If it's good for GRAND-AM, it's good for us. Any way to make road racing a higher profile sport in America is what we need. I watch all of the DTM races and they are well attended, well run and are presented like a premier organization. Those are only positives to be associated with GRAND-AM. Bring 'em on."
Marshall Pruett is SPEED.com’s Auto Racing Editor, and also covers IndyCar and sportscar racing for the site. Pruett grew up at ‘Pruett's Olde English Garage,’ his father's shelter for abused foreign cars, and spent his childhood being dragged across the West Coast to help with his dad's amateur racing exploits.
Pruett spent 20 years working in the IRL, CART, IMSA, and most of the known open-wheel feeder series before retiring from active duty in 2001. And in case you were wondering, he isn’t related to Scott Pruett.