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Daytona Prototypes and LMP2 to equalise for new US series

Watkins Glen Grand-Am start 2012Daytona Prototypes and LMP2 machinery will go head to head for overall honours in the new-for-2014 unified US sportscar series, as revealed by AUTOSPORT.

Grand-Am and the American Le Mans Series, which will merge at the end of this season, have confirmed that DPs, LMP2s and production versions of the lightweight Nissan DeltaWing experimental racer will make up the top class of the unified championship in 2014 and '15.

The announcement, made on the first day of the official test ahead of the Daytona 24 Hours Grand-Am opener on January 26/27, also firmed up the remainder of the class structure for the first two years of the new series.

The ALMS one-make LMPC prototype class for the ORECA-Chevrolet FLM09 will continue as a separate category, while the ALMS GT (nee GTE) division will be distinct from the Grand-Am GT class.

The Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars that form the GTC class in the ALMS will be amalgamated into the Grand-Am category. Grand-Am's new GX category for so-called experimental cars could be absorbed into this group or run as a separate, fifth class.

Grand-Am managing director of competition Richard Buck explained that the two bodies had taken an inclusive approach to allow as many competitors from each series to move forward into the unified championship.

"This is a best-of-both-worlds approach that reflects the fact we have a true merger evolving on a daily basis," he said. "This announcement is only a first step in solidifying our class structure.

"Our organisations' respective competition departments are working diligently on balance of performance for the top prototype class, plus overall class specifications across the board."

It is unclear how DPs and LMP2 cars, which are significantly faster on most circuits, will be balanced.

Grand-Am boss Ed Bennett told AUTOSPORT in December that the DPs would be made faster in 2014.

"The performance of the DPs has to go up," he said. "We have to look at the aero - we could give them more downforce - and we think the power will increase, and we are taking a hard look at the tyres that both types of car [DP and LMP2] run on."

There will be no place for LMP1 cars in the unified series, which was made clear in the announcement of the merger in September.

AUTOSPORT says
Gary Watkins, sportscar correspondent

This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end, but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning. Sorry to plagiarise Sir Winston Churchill, but Grand-Am and the American Le Mans Series have only firmed up the starting point for the rulemaking process with this announcement.

Level 5 HPD, Laguna Seca ALMS 2012They have told us, more or less, what we already knew and laid out the future of the unified US sportscar series in a broad-brushstroke kind of way.

The devil is going to be in the detail balancing DP and LMP2 cars across a range of circuits is going to be a devil of a job.

A P2 car is, for example, seven seconds a lap quicker around Laguna Seca than a DP. Bridging that gap will take some doing, especially when reducing the power of the DPs is not an option, something Bennett has already admitted.

The techies at Grand-Am and the ALMS have ideas on how to balance two types of car that achieve their speed in entirely different ways, but I suspect there's still a lot of hard work ahead of them.

Click here for Gary Watkins' full analysis of the challenge of equalising LMP2s and Daytona Prototypes

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