American Le Mans Series
|American Le Mans Series season|
|Country/region||United States, Canada|
|LMP classes||LMP1, LMP2|
|GT classes||GT1, GT2|
|Champion driver|| P1:Rinaldo Capello, Allan McNish|
P2:Romain Dumas, Timo Bernhard
GT1:Olivier Beretta, Oliver Gavin
GT2:Mika Salo, Jaime Melo
|Champion team|| P1:Audi Sport North America|
The American Le Mans Series (ALMS) is a sports car racing series based in the United States and Canada. It consists of a series of endurance and sprint races, and was created in the spirit of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Teams compete in one of four classes: LMP1 and LMP2 for Le Mans Prototypes, and GT1 and GT2 for Grand Touring cars. Race lengths vary from 1 hour, 40 minutes to 12 hours.
The series was created by Georgia-based businessman Don Panoz and ran its first season in 1999. Panoz created a partnership with the Automobile Club de L'Ouest (ACO), the organizers of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, to begin a 10-hour race in the spirit of Le Mans, dubbed the Petit Le Mans. The inaugural Petit Le Mans took place in 1998 as a part of the Professional SportsCar Racing series, in which Panoz was an investor. For 1999, the series changed its name to the American Le Mans Series, and adopted the ACO's rulebook.
The partnership with the ACO allows ALMS teams to earn automatic entries in the Le Mans 24 Hours. This was a practice that began with the inaugural Petit Le Mans, a practice that continues today, where 1st and 2nd place teams in each class earn entries to the next year's 24 Hours. The ALMS race at Adelaide in 2000 also received automatic entries. Invitations were extended to the series champions beginning in 2003, for the 2004 race. The ACO has always given high consideration to teams competing in ALMS races, and many ALMS teams have seen success in the 24 Hours.
The series began with eight races in 1999, beginning with the 12 Hours of Sebring, and ending at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The schedule expanded to 12 races in 2000, including two races in Europe, and one in Australia. In subsequent years, the European races disappeared, with the creation of the short-lived European Le Mans Series, and later the Le Mans Series. The series also began to move away from the rovals, road courses in the infield of large superspeedways, at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Las Vegas, and Texas Motor Speedway. Lately, the series has visited more temporary street courses, many in conjunction with the Indy Racing League. The series has raced at Laguna Seca, Mosport, Road Atlanta and Sebring in every year of its existence.
The series was the first motorsport racing series in North America to be recognized by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (the EPA), the United States Department of Energy and the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE International) to be recognized as a "Green Racing Series", and is planned to hold an all-new series implemented on series races dedicated to the environment by holding their first-ever Green Challenge during the 2008 Petit Le Mans and would continue at least up to the entire 2009 season.
The American Le Mans Series uses essentially the same rules as the 24 Hours of Le Mans. As with the 24 Hours, the cars are divided into four classes. Purpose-built race cars with closed fenders compete in the Prototype classes (LMP1 and LMP2) and modified production sports cars compete in the Grand Touring classes (GT1 and GT2, formerly GTS and GT). Each car is driven by multiple drivers (2 or 3, depending on the length of the race), and all cars compete together simultaneously.
The team points champions and runners-up in each class at the end of the season receive an automatic invitation to the next year's 24 Hours of Le Mans. Additionally, privateer teams (teams that are not supported by manufacturers) compete for the IMSA Cup as well as special prizes for each race. Currently, factory teams exist in all four classes, with Audi in LMP1, Porsche, Mazda, and Acura in LMP2, Chevrolet in GT1, and Aston Martin, Panoz, Ferrari, and Porsche in GT2. Other manufacturers include Ford and Dodge. BMW, Cadillac, and Chrysler factory teams have competed in the past.
In January, the American Le Mans Series announced it would hold its first "Green Challenge" competition during Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta in October, ahead of the Challenge being implemented at all ALMS races in 2009. In conjunction with the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency and SAE International, the Series has unveiled the Green Challenge's rules and regulations. Two class leading vehicles currently run low CO2 or green engines including the GT1 Chevrolet Corvette C6.R with a E85 cellulosic ethanol powered 7.0 litre V8 and the LMP1 Audi R10 TDI with a 5.5 litre turbodiesel V12.
Note: Driver champions may not have necessarily driven for the same team which won the Teams Championship.