So, that's the theory: What's the practice?
I've always enjoyed watching Grand-Am on TV, so I brought my thirteen-year-old son, Cameron, to Barber Motorsports Park with me. Cameron is a racing junkie who wakes me up in the middle of the night to watch F1 races, but he can't stand NASCAR. I figured that if he liked the racing here, it would be a good indicator of whether Grand-Am works.
His only complaint was about the looks of the front-running Daytona Prototypes. They've been called homely, but they simply aren't sexy in the way that a Peugeot 908 or an Audi R18 are. That should no longer be the case in 2012, because Grand-Am is changing the shape to make the cars look more like serious racers than something someone drew on the back of an envelope.
Otherwise, Cameron enjoyed the racing, particularly in the Continental GS series. Despite being a die-hard fan of F1, where the cars always look as if they're magnetically attracted to the ground, he likes watching cars sliding around -- and probably spends too much time sideways in his own go-kart for optimal results. In Grand-Am, all four classes slide. You can hear the drivers manipulating the cars though turns on the throttle rather than matting it like they do in F1, IndyCar, and even the American Le Mans Series.
The other appealing thing about Grand-Am is that actual racing happens, and no one seems too worried if bits of carbon fiber are occasionally shed or if sheetmetal gets bent out of shape. Bill Auberlen, who races for Turner Motorsport in the Continental Tire GS class and in Rolex GTs, but is also a contracted driver for the factory BMW team in the ALMS, is diplomatic about the differences between the two, but says: "Some of the best races I have ever had have been in the GS class. The racing is very close -- and that's fun. It's a dogfight." Memo Rojas, who shares the Ganassi DP with Pruett, comments: "Racing is passing cars. You need competition and low cost to sustain a series."