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The American Le Mans Series (ALMS) is fading into the sunset after a decade and a half of high-octane competition. Starting next year it will cease to exist as it does today; it’s merging with the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series. But it’s not too late to stock up commemorative ALMS memorabilia.
Derived from the highly successful GT3 class Le Mans sports racer that has won some 110 races and 15 championship titles across the pond, Audi‘s new R8 Grand Am has successfully completed its testing program and is now virtually ready to compete in the Grand Am Rolex Sports Car series for 2012, with the first cars slated to be made available to customers in January.
Given the different regulations between LMS and the Grand Am series, in order to compete in the latter, the R8 racer underwent some significant modifications, notably revised aerodynamic aids, including a smaller front splitter, slimmer rear wing and the adoption of a flat front undertray section. The reduced downforce also required changes to the suspension settings with re-valved shocks and softer springs, along with a slight increase ride height. In addition, as per Grand Am regulations, the European car’s traction control and ABS systems must also be deactivated.
Audi wrapped up testing of the R8 Grand Am car this past week at Daytona International Speedway in prepration for the Rolex 24 hours series opener at the circuit on January 28/29th.
So far, one official team has been confirmed as an R8 Grand Am customer for 2012, APR Motorsport based in Opelika, Alabama, which will run cars at Daytona and other races with its own team of drivers. Audi has a goal of providing cars to a maximum of four teams next year and says that with the APR deal confirmed, negotiations with three others are currently in the final stages.
Along with the debut of the 2011 Mustang GT with its new 5.0-liter V8 engine, Ford has announced that a race version of the car will compete in the Grand Am Series. Called the BOSS 302R, the car is named after the car legendary racer Parnelli Jones drove to the Trans-Am title back in 1970. Five of the Boss 302s will compete at the 2010 season opener at Daytona.
Based on the FR500C Mustang racecar, which Ford brought back in 2005 and updated last year. A base BOSS 302R will be available for $79,000, while a full Grand Am Spec model will retail for $129,000. In total just 50 BOSS 302 R’s will be built.
Grand Am spec models get a special Grand-Am Homologation Package (M-FR500-BOSS R1), which makes them eligible to compete in the Grand-Am Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge (formerly known as KONI Challenge). It includes a close-ratio six-speed transmission, upgraded cooling system, a seam-welded body, race suspension and KONI shocks, ABS brake tuning, a race exhaust and a one-piece driveshaft.
By sending five cars to Daytona, Ford is hoping to recreate some of the magic from 2005 when the FR500C ran their and took its class victory, just days after being delivered to its owner. Since then the FR500C models have won three Triple Crown championships of driver, team and manufacturer’s titles in KONI competition including back-to-back wins in 2008 and 2009, while overseas the FR500C has has taken the 2007 and 2008 driver’s championships in the FIA GT4 class.
“To keep pace with consumer demand, the Ford team has built modern versions of the most iconic performance Mustangs over the years,” said Jamie Allison, director, Ford North America Motorsports. “From Shelbys to Bullitt, Mach and Cobra Jet, it is now time for BOSS to join the list of America’s most coveted Mustangs. The original BOSS 302 was a championship-winning legend and the new Mustang BOSS 302R will carry on the tradition. The Mustang was born to race from the start, and this new Mustang is bred to win.”
GALLERY: BOSS 302R
Official release after the jump:
News has just surfaced that Grey’s Anatomy star Patrick Dempsey (aka McDreamy), will race at the 2009 24 Hours of Le Mans in a Ferrari F430 GT race car.
Dempsey will race alongside co-drivers Don Kitch Jr. and 2008 Gran Am Koni Challenge Champion Joe Foster under the team name Team Seattle. The Ferrari race car will be prepared bu Advanced Engineering.
Team Seattle, which was founded by Kitch, has been operating for 12 years, working to create awareness and support of Seattle’s Children’s Hospital.
Dempsey, it should be noted, is not new to racing, having competed in the 2008 Grand Am Rolex Sports Car series with Hypersport Engineering in a Mazda RX-8. Dempsey will continue to be involved in the 2009 season as he purchased Hypersport Engineering, which will now run under the banner of Dempsey Racing.
When asked about his Le Mans effort, Dempsey had this to say: “while we remain 100% committed to our Mazda-powered Rolex Series program this opportunity to ally with Team Seattle and enhance its efforts to drive funding to Seattle Children’s Hospital and their Team France partner is an opportunity that Dempsey Racing is honored to accept.”
Kitch was eager to show his appreciation to Dempsey and commented that, “Patrick is by no means new to the Team Seattle campaign as he has been very supportive of the effort since we first met at the Daytona 24 Hour… he loved what we were doing and wanted to help in any way he could.”
The 2009 24 Hours of Le Mans takes place on June 13-14.