ALMS manufacturers to supply privateers

American Le Mans Series chief Don Panoz has proposed that every manufacturer taking part in the series and its European counterpart should be made to supply cars to private entrants.

ALMS manufacturers to supply privateers

The move comes as a means of ensuring that the smaller teams do not get driven out by spiralling technology and costs. "We're looking at a change, but we haven't bashed out the details yet," said Panoz in this week's Autosport magazine.

"Manufacturers need to understand that if they want to have a strong platform, they can't do it without privateers," he added.

He proposes that factory teams such as Audi and BMW provide identical machinery to privateers as a condition of entry, and the move has been met with positive noises from works teams.

"I think it is an excellent idea," said Audi boss Wolfgang Ullrich, who denied that the Le Mans winning Audi R8 would be beyond the capability of a small team to run.

The suggestion would appear to be a move to head off a situation such as that which afflicted the FIA GT championship after its inception in 1997. As the BPR Global GT Championship, the series had been dominated by privateer teams running McLaren F1s and Ferrari F40s. However, with the arrival of factory teams from Porsche and Mercedes, the series lasted only until the end of 1998 before the top GT1 class collapsed, leading to a swift rule change to be a GT2-only series.

A rule in 1998 requiring works teams to supply cars to privateer outfits failed to stop the two remaining manufacturers pulling out due to lack of competition.

However, the ALMS seems to be in a much more healthy state, with Audi, Cadillac and Chevrolet apparently willing to supply privateers in prototype and GT classes - as well as competitive customer cars from Lola and Reynard.

The Jarama track in Spain could open the European Le Mans Series next year and be the first of the American Le Mans Series non-US races. "We want to shorten the Euro phase of the season by a couple of weeks," said Don Panoz. The Jarama round would enable the series to run two European races for the ALMS itself either side of Le Mans test day in May. Silverstone would become a European only event, moving to July, while the Nurburgring round would move to mid-May.

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