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Grand-Am Road Racing Media Conference

Sports/Touring Car Racing Topics:  Grand-Am Road Racing

Grand-Am Road Racing Media Conference

Richard Dean
Alana France
Anders Hildebrand
Ross Kaiser
Dave Spitzer
January 13, 2011

THE MODERATOR: So, good morning, that's just to give you an idea of part of the reason we are all gathered here this morning. The Daytona 24 Hours is obviously one of the all-time sports car racing classics, and we are going to make a call over to Daytona in a few moments.
We are delighted to have with us Alana France on our panel, she is the director of international development for GRAND-AM and the Speedway corporation, as well. Sitting alongside her from United Autosports, who have been involved with this program, as well, Richard Dean, who will be running apart, among others, Martin Brundle and Mark Blundell in the 24 Hours.
Ross Kaiser in the raw pursuit, who you have just seen, who is the winner of this year's Sunoco Daytona Challenge. And from Anglo American Oil, Anders Hildebrand, the man behind the promotion.
First of all, guys, if you can move the microphone over a little. We have got Dave Spitzer along the line, who is the competition director.
THE MODERATOR: Good early morning. How is Florida this morning, Dave?
DAVE SPITZER: Absolutely wonderful. Happy to be with you.
THE MODERATOR: The Daytona 24 Hours has been gaining strength in international recognition again over the last few seasons. What's the field looking for for 2011?
DAVE SPITZER: Well, I'll tell you, GRAND-AM is getting set to start the 2011 season bolstered by momentum in variety of areas. We are going to head into our season-opening event, the Rolex 24 Daytona on January 29 and 30 with unbridled optimism.
In addition to being our season-opener the Rolex 24 At Daytona is, of course, our premiere Rolex Series event. Last weekend's test session was fantastic with new track records established in both the Daytona prototype and GT classes.
It's obvious the brand new pavement at Daytona National Speedway is going to produce some great competition. It will be very smooth and help the cars to go a little quicker. The test was also a solid showing for Continental tires, making their debut this year in the Rolex Series.
As I mentioned at the outset, there are many, many positive exciting developments ongoing throughout GRAND-AM road racing, and I would like to take a few moments to mention a few of those so set things up so your guests there can ask when questions when they choose.
First there is considerable movement in the sale of used Daytona prototypes, and that's a very promising development. We are working with OEM to introduce new GT cars and those are coming from many different directions. We will have two new venues on the 2011 schedule, and both are tradition-rich: Road America and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. When you throw in Daytona, Watkins Glen, Lime Rock and Mid-Ohio, you can see our schedule by and large is a testament to sports car racing tradition.
The impending and future changes made to Daytona prototype this year and next, are key supporting our vision for sports car racing and I'm sure we'll take some questions on that when it's appropriate.
As I mentioned, we are doing some new GT car introductions, and that's really been gratifying, using strong partnership and understanding from our current GT teams, the importance of introducing some new blood and our ability to do so fairly.
Our partnership with Continental tires has expanded, and the number of new OEM deals that will be announced shortly. We have an expanding network of investment in GRAND-AM, which is really gratifying. And as we go forward, we are also optimistic because of dialogue with the paddock that is stronger than ever due to the leadership of GRAND-AM president Tom Bledsoe who brought a wealth of experience from his years with NASCAR. We benefit daily from the wise counsel provided by one of GRAND-AM's founders of NASCAR, Jim France, who is a fantastic leader for both GRAND-AM and NASCAR.
At GRAND-AM we feel like we are on a clear path to sustaining and growing our sport. We also think the path we have chosen is unique, enabling us to provide the best sports car racing in the United States.
I would like to thank you for the time to do the introductory remarks, and certainly we look forward to questions from the panel.
THE MODERATOR: Let's start with Anders Hildebrand from Anglo American Oil. Anders, you chose four different U.K. racing categories, and any driver who signed up to be part of the challenge scored points and as we saw in the little clip, it essentially came down to Ross in the Radical Cup, the sports car racer, and the British Formula 3 Champion, Jean-Eric Vergne.
But many guys do you have signed up for the 2010 Challenge?
ANDERS HILDEBRAND: For them it's actually the 2011 Challenge, because it's for the 2011 Rolex 24 Hour Race. It's a bit confusing when we run it in 2010. But we had 94 racers that signed up to compete for the race this year, the 2011 Rolex 24.
THE MODERATOR: So 94 guys, and in the end, as we saw it came down, Jean-Eric Vergne led it for a large percentage of the season and just could not clinch the deal when it came to it. So Ross's last weekend was the key.
ANDERS HILDEBRAND: Yeah, absolutely. It was such a nail-biter. The last two races, Ross's last race was the decider. As you said, Jean-Eric had the lead most of the season. Ross was slowly catching Jean-Eric.
But amazingly, Jean-Eric, he was over a hundred average points and you get a hundred points for a race win. And in Formula 3, that's quite amazing that you can get average points higher than that, because you get points for fastest laps and points for pole position.
So you can gain 140 points maximum per each race but as you know, in British Formula 3, it's very, very intense and Jean-Eric was actually up to average 109 points, but at Snetterton, it was a drying race and Jean-Eric, he was in the lead and it was slowly drying up. And William Buller went in, put on slicks to get the fastest lap. So Jean-Eric actually lost 20 points there and the same thing happened a little bit later in the week.
And so by us, those small variations in performance or a weekend actually means that you can lose the Daytona Challenge. So consistency is key.
At Ross's last race, he was 101 points average before the Silverstone race, and it was a massive grid; it was the Radical U.K. Cup and Masters combined. And you had 50 cars on the grid and Ross qualified on pole in his class, so second row.
The car didn't want to restart, after a delayed start, it was pushed off into the pit lane and had to start the race from the back of the grid. And I thought, that was it; Ross is out.
They won the race in the most spectacular time. Ross set the fastest lap time and his co-driver Terrence, when he crossed the finishing line, after being pushed off by a fellow competitor, in the last corner, he was lapping, so he was pushed off, got off the circuit, came back in, got a puncture, the car exploded on the start and finishing line and it was a dramatic -- gas fire, sorry.
Ross on the apron at the pit lane was like, don't do anything. You could see how tense he was in the last two laps when he got the lead. If he had exploded 100 meters, 200 meters earlier, would he not have finished the race. The car was wrecked, it looked like -- it was terrible.
But the team fixed it and the second race, the day after, the pole position, the fast lap and won the race. Then he jumped Jean-Eric and Jean-Eric had to basically get two race wins in the last race, Brands Hatch, two fastest laps and one pole position.
But as you know, F3 is very intense and you need to set them it up. The performance of the cars varies very much depending on weather and cold and rain etc. They went straight into qualifying and the team didn't manage to get the last 10th out of the car and they qualified fourth and seventh. So his Daytona Challenge was over.
But he was desperate to win it, and his teammate said, I don't know what you've done to him, but from July, August, he didn't talk about Formula 3. He talked about winning the Daytona Challenge.
So I think the GRAND-AM and the Rolex 24 is getting into the mind of the racers in the Challenge, and they are starting to see the magnitude of it.
THE MODERATOR: Maybe that's a chance to bring Dave Spitzer back in, the competition director.
Obviously we have one British driver on the grid courtesy of the Sunoco Challenge, Dave. We have, again, a growing international field, not just from outside the states but obviously foreign drivers racing in the States, like Juan Pablo Montoya. A lot of NASCAR and Indy drivers, a lot of top American racers starting to see January in Daytona as a really important part of their racing careers again. Sports car racing often goes in peaks and troughs, but presumably, you're keen to drive this peak along as far as you can.
DAVE SPITZER: Well, absolutely, and really that's all been a part of Daytona. We are happy to see it building again. There's a couple of things that are unique about that. No. 1, the sport of Rolex is worldwide and world known, and that consistency gives a gravity to the race that's important.
No. 2 we have a unique position on the calendar and there are not many places in the where you can race and January and Daytona is that place. Obviously Daytona International Speedway itself is very special for anybody that's been there. When you walk into the Speedway and you feel the presence of those banks and all of the history, the ghosts and the voices, it's a very special place.
And finally, the investment of International Speedway Corporation, Daytona and GRAND-AM, in reaching out and communicating about what we are doing in Daytona through the work of Alana, through the work of Anders and many other people, both in England and on the Continent and around the world, is paying some dividends, so we are building a lot of relationships that we are proud of and working very hard on exactly what you're saying so making sure that the position of Daytona on the worldwide stage is sound.

Q. I have a question, Dave, concerning the long-term future of GRAND-AM racing. As you maybe know, history in American sports car racing, especially the Daytona race, 20 years ago, you had much, much involvement of the Porsche car, many manufacturers in the Porsche factory. Are you planning to bring back also interest of all other manufacturers in the GRAND-AM Series and are you planning in the long-term future to have races outside the United States of America?
DAVE SPITZER: Yes, well, first on the GRAND-AM Series in the United States and then welcome back to the international.
We have -- the initial vision of GRAND-AM was to build a formula and a set of rules and enforcement of those rules that reinforced the ability to use the same equipment year after year, and to end the cycle of massive capital investment every year, and that was successfully achieved.
We have teams that are able to finance race cars and pay them off over a couple of years and that helps to bolster the strength of the series. We are proud of that. Along the way, the relationships with the manufacturers were not as strong as they had been in the past.
And that was a key recognition of Tom Bledsoe, our president, when he joined. And so over the last, really, 18 to 24 months, I and many members of GRAND-AM have spent a lot of time nurturing and reinforcing the relationships with the manufacturers to attract their investment and to listen to their needs.
There are some changes going on right now behind the scenes in the Daytona prototype category which are specifically meant to attract OEM investment to that category. There are changes going on in GT and there is a great effort within our marketing team to develop a staged approach to OEM investment in the series.
So the lowest level of investment is very achievable for companies even when they are in the bottom of a cycle, a business cycle, as we have just gone through, but it allows them to buy in at higher and higher levels as they see value for pacing races or for doing special events. We are seeing that working very well.
We have relationships with General Motors, Porsche, BMW; there are others. So I think we are up to eight companies that have signed up.
So the answer to your question is: Yes, on many levels, we are bolstering those relationships and of course face-to-face with the individual involved in those companies and Porsche, I am proud to say is one company that we have a lot of strength, a lot of investment, a lot of relationship that's going on.
In terms of international expansion of the racing itself, that's not something that I would like to get into too much right now. It's not a key focus, but certainly as we build those relationships, we are watching those opportunities as they come.

Q. You mentioned changes to the Daytona prototype class. Are we talking technical changes, perhaps a new car?
DAVE SPITZER: Yes, the changes already focused in the area of the body and the roll cage. We are working right now with our constructors and OEM interested parties to develop modifications to the regulations that will see a slightly different proportion in the greenhouse area of the car.
The vision is to retain the majority of the structure of the car, including the suspension corners, the steering, the fuel cell, the engine installation, all of that sort of below the shoulder line, if you will. And simply modify and in some cases, replace the roll cage superstructure and the body work around it.
So we are working through that, just working on basically tweaking the formula and modifying the proportion of the car. We have had the same regulations now for basically nine years and our original commitment was to keep the formula together for ten years. So with an introduction and the refresh coming up in 2012, we will be right on target for that.
THE MODERATOR: Let's move along and talk to Ross Kaiser now. We have already heard, maybe Anders should have got Jonathan's job, but we have already heard the description of how this all boiled down to you ending up winning this prize, the sort of cash value of which is 250,000 bucks. That is a huge boost, and of course, going from 20-, 30-minute national sports car races into such a big arena, a great opportunity, but also a big challenge for a driver.
ROSS KAISER: Yeah, for sure, absolutely. Like you say, the magnitude of the prize is just absolutely huge. It's got to be the biggest prize in Europe, by far; bar none, even.
So, yeah, the races like the Radical, they are a 50-minute race and we do it as a two-driver event so I shared with a guy called Terrence Woodward last year. So kind of puts a bit different perspective on it because as Anders said, the F3 Championship is fiercely competitive, really tough. But you are obviously out there for your own. You are driving for yourself; whereas, myself, driving with Terrence, you may say the level of competition right across the field is not as competitive as something as F3.
But I'm driving with a gentleman driver. So at the time, you are trying to coach them as best you can and trying to give them any input you can and work on the car and the set up and maybe compromise on ultimate pace for something that they can drive in the race, and it does bring up a whole different element to it. And as you saw from the video, it was so, so close coming down to the final round.
Silverstone was a real roller coaster weekend because it started where we qualified great and were up front. Then we had had overheating issues all weekends. So I thought -- I had the great idea of switching the engine off and keeping it nice and cool on the grid. Because the start got delayed and they would not let anyone on to the grid and it would not restart, so I got pushed off into the pit lane. And we managed to fire it up with a jump pack there.
But I had to start from the pit lane. So it goes from looking good, and as Anders said, I thought everything was out the window. I had a great run from the pit lane. Got through the traffic quite well, was up to about third when I pitted. And then Terrence went out, and luckily we had a safety car so that put him within striking distance of the other drivers.
If you're a pro-am category, whoever qualifies for the first race, the pros have to start that race, so Terrence is out with the guys who are on more of a level playing field with him, and he did a great job and managed to hang onto lead.
As Anders said, the car laminated (phonetic) across the line, totally destroyed the car, straight on into the barrier. So going from down to absolutely -- to seeing the car in a complete mess, muckily the team are based at Silverstone. So overnight they took it back to the workshop, totally rebuilt the car.
And then the pressure is really is on for the Sunday. So I knew if we could do the same again, that was going to be the first time that I would actually lead the Sunoco Daytona Challenge, and put the pressure on to Jean-Eric, because all year I had been close but he had just kept the edge all the way.
So we managed to get a clean sweep on the second day, which was close, as well, because there was a collision with the back marker in the lead car and I just missed collecting him. It was so close, it could have been anyone's Sunoco Daytona Challenge to win that, certainly not just myself and Jean-Eric.
That was great but I had to wait those long two weeks to see how Jean-Eric did at Brands. Unfortunate for him, obviously I do feel for Jean-Eric, I know how much he wanted to win it, as Anders said, but I had already seen in Autosport the rookie test drive for Red Bull, so I didn't feel too bad really. (Laughter) I think he was quite happy with what he was doing, and certainly from my perspective, I work at the racing school at Thruxton and that's pretty much my day-to-day job really, just working as an instructor to people who have never driven on a circuit, with your red-letter-type days and showing them around to get a feel for thing.
So to get this opportunity from Anders and Sunoco and Alana and Jim and GRAND-AM and the Daytona International Speedway that have put this together, it's an absolutely huge prize. And like I say, certainly for someone like myself, it really gives you the opportunity to take things to the next level and it's a dream come true.
THE MODERATOR: Well, it puts you in the other seat, doesn't, it from being a guy who spend his racing weekends and weekday job teaching others and encouraging them and giving them your knowledge. You're now the sponge trying to learn fast how to get around Daytona, through the traffic, what the car does, what the brakes, tires and all the other stuff. How is that going back to being a rookie?
ROSS KAISER: It's strange. I've raced in the Radicals for years and know the cars inside out and jump in and away you go.
And like you say, jumping into a Daytona prototype, first test went to VIR circuit, I've never driven before, fantastic circuit, is really great. Yeah, the shoe is on the other foot and there is a lot to absorb.
And especially in the GRAND-AM Series, because I've just flown back on Monday from the test at Daytona it's the official test before the race, and you turn up in the paddock and you just see, like the magnitude of Daytona itself, if you've never been there, I had not, it absolutely blows your mind; the banking obviously, never driven anything like that before. And you see the timing screen come up and you look at the list of names and you've got Juan Pablo Montoya, Dario Franchitti, Jimmie Johnson, Buddy Rice, Scott Pruett, anyone who is anyone in NASCAR, Formula 1, IndyCar, they are all there in the paddock.
Yeah, it's a lot to take in and as I say it's a fantastic experience and just trying to learn as much as I can and at the first test at VIR, Cosmo (ph) was there, he was like my driver coach and it's what I do on a small level back in the U.K. So you think, well, I don't really need a driving coach. But if someone has the experience and can show you some video, and if you've never been on the circuit, it helps bring you up to speed. It's been a lot to learn but I'm thoroughly enjoying every moment of it.
THE MODERATOR: One of your co-drivers had some electrical problem, started out the first day with a brake rotary explosion own on the installation lap, so your time was limited, but Kevin Durant kept saying, you're used to driving maybe 20, 30 minutes of time; over the course of the 24, you'll do about a six-hour race day.
So anything you're doing towards being different in your approach and in your training to keep that going?
ROSS KAISER: Yeah, certainly, I've been trying to train whenever I can between working bits out on the old mountain bike lots, lots of running, trying to get in the sauna a little bit, because I drive an open-top car, and you have the wind and cool air around you. I've driven a couple of long-distance races in the past.
But like I say, predominately I do the Sprint race and I'm in the car for about 20 minutes in the Radicals. So it's maximum attack, where the 24-hour race, the most important thing is staying out of the pit lane and keep circulating around the track.
So you do have to take that into consideration a lot more, think about the curves you're running, which curves you can run and which curves you can't run for the race and just your approach for the race.
Like I say you don't have to go through traffic like a bat out of hell. If you get through traffic too quickly and you damage the car, you're going to be in the pit lane and the race is over.
So it is a different approach. But when you look at the driver lineup, you can see that it's not really going to be a paced endurance race. It's going to be pretty much a 24-hour Sprint race so it's kind of a fine line between erring on the side of caution, but still if you're going to be competitive you have to be pretty much a maximum attack with just a little bit in reserve all of the time.
It's a lot to get used to. The heat in the car is pretty intense. The first test I did, I didn't have a boiler system on my lid which they run just to give you some cool air around your face. So just things like that, running a drink system permanently, the blower system, driver changes. There's a lot more to take into consideration. So there's a lot to learn. I've been learning a lot, and even from now until the race, obviously there's lots of preparation to do.
And we are flying out a week on Monday so we have the week leading up to maybe fine-tune the seats a little bit so I'm a little more comfortable, make sure the radio is plugged in, get used to the drink system and everything else. Yeah, it's a challenge.
THE MODERATOR: Excellent. I'm sure there will be loads of questions for Ross, as well. We'll catch up with those in a minute.
Sitting next to him, Richard Dean. Now, Richard, you will understand all of this stepping up to a new level from your driving career, but now running with Zak Brown, the United Autosports team, you are also really heading into completely unknown territory going into Daytona with your team, because you've got your Le Mans Series cars, your Audis, that you understand and are familiar with, but now you are going to play some somebody else's backyard with a different set of rules and different set of toys. How is that as a team boss starting fresh again?
RICHARD DEAN: We are a new team, United Autosports, a new team and we like to think that we are aiming to be a first-class team so we have to put ourselves against first-class competition.
And as Ross commented there, you don't have to look down the grid for the drivers, but equally, with the teams. I think when you approach GRAND-AM from a team owner point of view and you approach how are we going to best the do this race, there are very few series anywhere in the world where you can come in as a new team and appear on the grid and be competitive.
You know, you can pick a car, they are all very, very equal, and we can get hold of a car and I can -- the three-day test, and by the end of the three days, I had found myself with head phones on sat there on the pit well and thinking, we were p 3 in one session and there we are against Ganassi and Kevin Durant; where can you go and do that and be competitive and have access to the equipment, and I don't know anywhere else. Certainly found myself against Ganassi looking a little bit slimmer and trimmer. (Laughter) I'm trying to lose a bit of weight.
But to potentially be up there and think, we can take these guys on, is a long way to go in a 24-hour race and everyone has got to do their job and they are hugely experienced. But at least we have access to the tools to go and compete. So we are excited about it.
THE MODERATOR: And you are not short of the odd star, you have Martin and Mark, as well. So how has that been going? Obviously Martin has experience from his Jaguar years, but for Mark, he's raced also in Indy cars, but again this is something very different I'm sure.
RICHARD DEAN: Well, Mark Blundell is obviously one of the few British people, Mansell probably one, who has made a successful transition from Formula 1 into Indy cars, and I think Mark has particularly followed all of his success in Indy cars but everybody tells me on the ovals he was very brave and very quick; so an oval at Daytona sent new to him. And he had never raced at Daytona. He had exactly the same impression that Ross did through the tunnel, opens up; even though Mark has been around Formula 1 forever, it's still made an impact on him.
And he enjoyed it. He didn't enjoy it as much the first day because he wasn't quick but by the third day when he was P-3. He loved it.
Martin, as you rightly say, I believe was 20 years ago, this month, where he raced in the Jaguar. And John, you'll know his story, I can't remember who his teammate was, but -- Nielson, there you go.
It came flooding back to him, and Martin has obviously got an awful lot of commitments and has a high profile. I was surprised when he accepted the invitation to do it. His son is racing Formula 3 and he has an awful lot to concentrate on and he doesn't need to go and do this.
But the attraction and draw to come and do Daytona, 24 hours again, in a DP car, was enough for him to dust off the race boots and make the trip over there. And they made a very, very good account of themselves. Obviously the pair of them have not forgotten how to do it.
THE MODERATOR: I don't think you ever really forget how to ride the bicycle once you've learned. From our point of view, being very close, obviously Le Mans is a big draw for British sports car racing fans. But as we said earlier, for many, many year, Daytona has been a really major -- at the start of the season for a lot of drivers in the 60s and 70s, current Formula 1 drivers, as well as other sorts of drivers, they would be looking for a drive and a deal to get to Daytona.
Do you think from our viewpoint here in the U.K. that it is again starting to be that high up on the horizon?
RICHARD DEAN: Well, correct, growing up in motor racing, the Daytona 24 Hours and Le Mans 24 hours were the headline, longest in sports car events in the world. As Dave on the phone there commented, in January, it's a unique location to be able to run a race at that time of the year, which fits very well for European teams to go.
There's obviously been a slight difference in the cars so the European teams cannot bring their cars over any more, because the regulations are different and we don't run DP cars here. The what -- and I don't think the European teams have probably challenged enough, is the fact that there are plenty of cars over there, and they are available.
And we have proved that we can do that and we can go as a European team. We can get access to the equipment. It's very affordable. The GRAND-AM people are hugely accommodating. And it's a great opportunity for a team to go and challenge themselves in one of -- in what is still one of the great, great races. I think the profile of Daytona 24 Hours will come and hopefully be raised in Europe by maybe the presence of European teams like ourselves. But certainly the work that Anders, Alana, Sunoco, GRAND-AM people have done with the challenge. The only complaint I have about that challenge is it wasn't around when I was a driver.
THE MODERATOR: Like so many things. Let's move the microphone on and introduce Alana France. You're sitting there smiling, hearing all sorts of good things about GRAND-AM and Daytona, and really that's your part of it is to raise the international awareness of the race, of the series, and of Daytona Speedway.
First of all, obviously, lots of great comments from the drivers on the repaving. Now this is not just a little patch here or there, but a massive operation; how long of a job was that?
ALANA FRANCE: Actually it was several months and it's pretty -- it's a spectacular track. It was needed, as probably most of you recall from the NASCAR race. But no, the feedback has been really positive. We hosted several media when they came out and again, Daytona is one of those tracks that when you drive inside, you just realize how awesome and big it is.
But we are excited, because Rolex is going to kick off what the repave is going to feel like. And I'm sure that there's going to be a lot of things that the drivers are going to have to do and adjust. You know, it's all new bumps now or bumps that they will be creating.
THE MODERATOR: Fortunately you don't often have bad winters so that's how the longevity comes in.
But again, January and February, Florida is the heart of motor racing, both of the U.S.'s major championships kick off in Florida. You start with the 24, then you have the 500, and from there on in, you've really set the season.
Obviously the Daytona 24, the Rolex 24, has a huge draw internationally. Presumably you're trying to continue that sort of draw to keep the teams involved through the GRAND-AM series, as well.
ALANA FRANCE: Yes. It's interesting because Jim France always brings up his father, Bill, Senior. And his passion was to make Rolex an international event. And throughout the years, there have been changes within the series, but he always insists that we look at that and look at the roots of what that race was all about.
And it's very important to him, you know, that Daytona continue to have a presence within the motor circuits worldwide, not just within the U.S. And that's why we are working so hard to welcome everybody to come over to the states and be a part of those activities.
THE MODERATOR: Well, everybody is very aware of current financial problems that are universal. But the last two years, the Rolex 24 has been epically exciting right down to the very last second of the race, and part of the attraction must be that, as well; that people see a race that is decided literally by hundreds or tenths of a second is at any stage. You must be very proud to go out and have this as your market story; that you have such a great race to show.
ALANA FRANCE: It's wonderful, and that's the foundation of that particular series is to make sure that it's competitive; that there's a balanced field, and that really, it is the drivers that are driving the success of the team.
You know, and it is a team sport. It's not one guy that shines. It's a whole group that has to shine together, and sometimes when guys are very competitive, they have to set aside their egos, and work together as a group. And that's where you really see it. It's a 24-hour endurance race. So you've really got to have everything fine-tuned.
But again, it's the foundation of what GRAND-AM is about. It's competitive racing at an affordable price, or as affordable as can be. So that at the end of the day, the show is what drives people to the event.
THE MODERATOR: Well, I think probably everybody would agree, that's very much a U.S. view of what motor racing -- part of the sport environment is, is that it's got to be entertaining, as well as close; and if you get close racing, you get entertainment and the fans are happy and the TV audience is happy.
In terms of the series itself, again, Dave spoke earlier about starting to tick off now some of the all-time classic circuits. And that must be appealing to drivers and teams, as well. You get Jimmie Johnson, when else is he going to race at Laguna. There are all sorts of extra disciplines that drivers look at while they are in their main core element and starting to go, yeah, if I can do some of that, that must be appealing, as well.
ALANA FRANCE: It is. And they started introducing some of really the greatest motorcycle drivers, dirt drivers, that are now participating in that, as well.
So it's neat that Rolex, the 24 Hours, becomes a place where various disciplines can come together and compete against one another. And the guys, I think it's because the event is something that gives them a chance to maybe interact with someone that they respect in a different field.
So, you know, it is, it's a great opportunity for them to come together at the beginning of the year.
THE MODERATOR: I think that part of it is very valid in the same way other sports have their Olympics where you get lots of disciplines that would otherwise never meet. You get exactly the same at a major event like the Rolex 24.

Q. Do you have also contact to other European racing drivers teams to also move them over to Daytona or GRAND-AM in the future?
ALANA FRANCE: I think one of the things we started off with this program, the Sunoco driver challenge, and there's other opportunities that we have been talking about where we can create perhaps in some of the GT series and things of that nature, right now, it's just maximizing what we are doing.
Another thing is coming out here and meeting with a lot of friends that are in the audience who I thank very much for coming out to the press conference, and inviting media out to our events.
And again, a lot of it is just contacts. It's just talking to people; when there's an opportunity and interest, we act upon it. It's suggestion from media on things we should do, which we have done. It's really just the opportunity to interact.
DAVE SPITZER: Can I add a few words to help with the answer, as well?
DAVE SPITZER: One of the things we have done on my competition is our series manager, his name is Gary Cummins; he spends the majority of his day networking with teams, with drivers, with people that have race cars, their equipment around the world, try to put together all of the deals.
So if there are any teams in Europe, we have a member of the competition staff who is basically full-time in those conversations. And what we have seen is with the currency changes that have taken place all over the world and with the strength of the series and the availability of equipment that Richard Dean mentioned, there is that opportunity. So if there are any teams that are interested, gcummings@grandam.com
THE MODERATOR: Nice plug. I'm sure everybody will be happy to wait for a few minutes if you've got individual questions.
Dave, let's go back to you, final word then. What's the weather forecast? I'm going to be calling the race in a couple of weeks' time. What can we expect?
DAVE SPITZER: It's going to be bright and sunshine, 72 degrees, everybody will be in bikinis.
THE MODERATOR: Okay. But in Florida? Ross was not looking keen on the bikinis.
DAVE SPITZER: No, it's good this time of year. We are blessed with good weather. We have had lots of blue skies and sunshine and hopefully that continues right up through the race.
THE MODERATOR: I imagine the race will do even more of the same. We wish you the very best of luck. Thank you very much indeed for joining us.

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