It used to be a Corvette. Really. Honestly. Then, two weeks before the Rolex 24 Hour Race at Daytona, GM decided to call all the Crawford Daytona Prototypes Pontiacs. The good part was they got to keep their Corvette engines. Oh, they also got to keep their Corvette taillights. I've decided to call these cars the Pontiac Z06. After all, it still has the LS6 engine-the very same engine that a lot of you guys have in your late-model Corvettes.
The Grand American Road Racing Association (i.e. NASCAR) came up with a plan for sports car racing back in 2002. The wizards that brought us NASCAR looked at sports car racing and decided it was time for a change. The France family had grown tired of the automobile companies coming into racing and spending a zillion dollars and then leaving after three years.
The France clan wanted to create a sports car series where the average multi-millionaire would stand a chance of winning. Level the playing field and give everyone a chance, or at least everyone with a huge pile of money. Thus was born the Daytona Prototype class.
This is the Corvette Pontiac...
This is the
Corvette Pontiac LS6 engine. It's virtually the same engine you have in your Z06. Next to the throttle body are the Penske shock reservoirs. The fun part was running around trying to find Pontiac decals a week before the Daytona 24 hour race.
When Grand Am announced this new idea for sports car racing in North America, there were more skeptics than supporters. The whole idea of very tight rules and unchanging specifications had never been tried in sports car racing before. Traditionally, the teams that spent the most money won. Lobbying for rules changes was also a fact of life in sports car racing; Porsche and Audi have proved that theory any number of times.
Grand Am also had this novel idea that the driver ought to play a role in winning. (Can
anyone name the drivers who won LeMans last year?) In some series, the car is the star, and in other series, the driver is the star. Real quick now, can you name the drivers that won Sebring last year? You also know the Corvette races at LeMans, but can you name any of the drivers besides Ron Fellows?
This novel idea for reorganizing American sports car racing was unsettling to a lot of the traditional sports car fans who predicted doom for the Daytona Prototype cars.
Wheel to Wheel Powertrain...
Wheel to Wheel Powertrain builds the Flis team engines. Doug Goad is President of this long-time GM supplier. Doug is the lead driver for the Flis team. Once you scratch below the surface, you find a real strong set of ties between Crawford, Flis, and Goad. You sort of get the idea that GM is very serious about the Grand Am series, even if they had trouble deciding what set of decals to put on the engines.
Make all the cars equal and the average fan can not only figure it out, but actually enjoy it. This has worked for NASCAR, and it's now working for sports car racing. There are still three classes this season, but next year's plan is to go with just two classes. Interestingly enough, both these classes will be similar in speed. Neither of the two classes will be faster than the other over five or six hours of racing.
One class will consist of the Daytona Prototypes, and the other class will be for GT cars-otherwise known as the Porsche class. Chevrolet at one time had an interest in this class but quickly pulled back. The money was then spent on the C5-R in the American LeMans Series. Ford, Toyota, Porsche, and BMW jumped into the Prototype class last year.
GM arrived a year late to the party, but they're in it big time now. Gary Claudio (one of GM's performance mavens with a corporate checkbook) is on the scene, not to mention a legion of PR types whose main job seems to be taking dealer's wives (all dressed in very expensive casual clothes) around the garage area and having Robby Gordon pose for pictures with them. When the PR minions show up with large expense accounts, you know the factory effort is serious.
The key to this whole thing is to limit everything, including the engines. Once again think NASCAR. This Daytona Prototypes and Grand Am racing became a natural for Flis Racing. Troy Flis spent the past year as crew chief for the Powell Motorsports Grand Am Cup cars. These guys know the LS6 engine better than you know your way to the local mall.