When entrepreneur Don Panoz introduced the American Le Mans Series in 1999, he wanted to tie his new project to the tradition that made the famed 24 Hours of Le Mans the most prestigious endurance race in the world.
Panoz felt the Le Mans racing mystique was magical and should be shared across North America.
Now, in 2007, the American Le Mans Series is the luxury brand of North American racing, with many of the world's top manufacturers, mechanics and drivers competing in events from the airport strip in Sebring to picturesque Road America; and from the streets of St. Petersburg and Long Beach to the rolling hills of Mid-Ohio.
In addition, the Series features a unique format in which four classes of sports cars battle head-to-head. With two or three drivers per car, teamwork is essential in every race.
Largely because of driver changes, Series pit stops are intriguing to spectators and television viewers and help contribute to the excitement of lead-swapping and overtaking on the track. Drivers help each other getting in and out of the vehicles and are responsible for safely securing their teammates in their racing cars before they pull away from the pit area.
Each division of sports car has different top-speed capabilities and races for its individual class championship in the overall context of each race. This adds another dimension to the racing and increases difficulty as racers in each class must navigate the twisting, demanding circuits while simultaneously competing with entrants from faster or slower divisions.
As a result, overtaking is sensational and sometimes dangerous.
These endurance contests can run from 24 hours, 12 hours or 1,000 miles to selected sprint events that last two hours and 45 minutes, making the series' Le Mans-style competition one of the most exciting and demanding forms of racing in the world.
Running under similar rules as those of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the American Le Mans Series brings the competitive pedigree of the famed French racing classic to this continent.
The Series takes pride in its creation of a competitive platform that makes auto manufacturers race with unique and related brands. The Series also delivers high-performance and technologically advanced racing competition via its four classes.
There is cutting-edge technology in the prototypes and a showroom floor link with the GT machines.
With this combination of high-speed, factory-supported teams and major-market races, American Le Mans Series events are televised on CBS, NBC and the growing SPEED Channel. Additional coverage is sent to Europe via MotorsTV and worldwide major and regional broadcasters.
At all American Le Mans Series events, spectators have the opportunity to view the cars, drivers and teams 'up close' in the paddock area, as opposed to a far-away seat behind barrier fences. Each race also features a driver autograph session, and an open paddock offers fans the opportunity to meet their favorite drivers.
A rarity in today's professional sports world is the "open pre-race grid" for fans, along with other activities like Tech Talks, Fan Forums and Driver Chats. This type of interaction gives American Le Mans Series fans a tremendous ability to learn about the sport quickly, with a fan-friendly atmosphere rarely seen in other sporting events.