COTA Snags American Le Mans Series
No longer just F1 at Austin Circuit
By Richard Whittaker, 2:05PM, Fri. Jun. 1, 2012
Big and long-expected news: Austin's Circuit of the Americas track has signed up its second big motorsports series, the American Le Mans Series, starting in 2013.
Where F1 is a simple speed race, American Le Mans is about endurance. Based on the famous Le Mans 24 hour race, it uses multiple drivers to max out the number of laps in the set time. In a statement this morning, COTA president Steve Sexton said, "Our vision is to bring premier sports and entertainment programming to Circuit of The Americas and to partner with motorsports organizations that put a premium on innovation, fan experience and environmental sustainability. The American Le Mans Series – with its highly competitive, customer-focused programming and its well-known commitment to Green Racing – certainly fits that vision."
ALMS touts its green credentials, noting that it "the only racing series recognized to comply with the Green Racing protocols developed by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and SAE International (SAE)." The series actually runs two efficiency challanges within each race: The Green Challenge for vehicle manufacturers and the Michelin Green X Challenge, awarded to teams.
The COTA/ALMS relationship makes a lot of sense. ALMS big sponsor is Patron Tequila, which is made by Patrón Spirits, which was founded by John Paul DeJoria, who just happens to be a key investor in the Circuit of the Americas.
The economics of running a top tier race track are very simple: A Formula One race justifies its existence, but it takes more racing series on the calendar to justify the expense. COTA originally had Moto GP lined up, but that may have been predicated on project founder Tavo Hellmund's friendship with former champion Kevin Schwantz. With Hellmund out and now suing his former partners, that has been pushed into the 'maybe' column. Considering the coterie of top end vehicle firms involved in ALMS (BMW, Chevrolet, Ferrari, Honda, Lotus, Mazda and Porsche) this undoubtedly will see some sighs of relief amongst the track's accountants.