Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Grand Am - get your act together

I spent the weekend down at Laguna Seca at the Grand-Am Rolex Sportscar event. I wrote four pieces: a qualifying report, a report for the GT race, an interview with Porsche factory driver Pat Long and a report on the Daytona Prototype race. In addition to the two races I wrote about, I watched the two Koni Challenge events. Of those four races, THREE ended under a yellow flag.

There are not many things I can think of that are more unsatisfactory than a race ended under yellow. But to see 75% of the weekend's races end that way was terrible. It seemed to me that Grand-Am officials were far too quick to throw full-course cautions when local yellows would suffice. Yes, they utilized local yellows on a couple of occasions, such as a car spinning on track. But will somebody please tell these people about the step between the static yellow, and the full-course caution... it's called a waving yellow, and it's used for a situation that requires a driver to not just be cautious, but to actually slow down. A stalled car in the middle of the track is a good example of a situation where this would be necessary. Ultimately, the car may need to be retrieved, in which case a safety car may be needed. But sometimes a car can get going again. By this time, Grand Am would have sent out the safety car, when it was not required.

To make things even worse, when a safety car was utilized, it stayed out at least two laps too long. Generally, after the hazard was cleared it would be two more laps before the field was released. In a race where seven (YES, SEVEN!!!) cautions were called, that equates to a loss of an additional 14 green flag laps, or more than 15% of the race. There were 30 laps run under yellow, which theoretically could have been just 15. Having extraction equipment in different parts could also have helped, instead of needing the one crew to scramble from and to the pit lane each time.

All in all, it was a pretty pathetic show, and added to the impression I got as a member of the media that the ALMS are light years ahead of Grand Am when it comes to professionalism. From a press conference where the drivers showed up 15 minutes late, to a press room where race notes and results seemed to take hours to be distributed, I was very unimpressed.

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