Useful Notes: United Sports Car Championship
Currently America's premier series for sports car endurance racing, formed in 2014 from the merger of two rival sanctioning bodies - the Rolex Sports Car Series and the American Le Mans Series.
- Rolex was founded in 1999 under the auspices of the Grand-Am Road Racing Association, which was run by members of the NASCAR community and was eventually purchased outright by NASCAR Holdings in 2008 in an effort to more efficiently run both racing bodies. Even without this, it was always heavily tied to NASCAR due to the use of a special road course setup at Daytona International Speedway, which has hosted a 24-hour endurance race since 1962. The organization originally bore some resemblence to the various Le Mans series, particularly in the Prototype classes, but diverged significantly starting with the introduction of its own unique prototypes in 2003.
- American Le Mans Series (ALMS) also began in 1999 by Don Panoz, in partnership with Automobile Club de L'Ouest, the sanctioning body for the Twenty Four Hours Of Le Mans, which allowed it to use the exact same cars as used in that race, although some classes were dropped or modified at various points in the series' existence. During its existence, the series played host to one of America's oldest endurance races, the 12 Hours of Sebring, run since 1952.
The two organizations announced the merger in late 2012, and revealed the class structure for the new series in March 2013 at Sebring. The classes are as follows:
- Prototype (P) - A class that merges the former Daytona Prototype class from the Rolex Sports Car series with Le Mans Prototype Class 2.
- Prototype Challenge (PC) - A single-spec class that uses the open-cockpit Oreca FLM09 chassis also found in LMP2. This class was carried over intact from ALMS.
- GT Le Mans (GTLM) - Also carried over intact from ALMS, this is the GT class found in that series' 2013 schedule, which complies with the GT2 class from the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
- GT Daytona (GTD) - Another merger class, in this case combining the GT and GXnote classes from Rolex with the GT Challenge class from ALMS.
Sponsorship comes from Tudor, a "discount" watch brand owned by Rolex, which has sponsored the 24 Hours of Daytona since 1991. The schedule consists of various events carried over from both the previous series, including Daytona, Sebring, the Six Hours of Watkins Glen (carried over from Rolex) and the 10 hour long Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta (carried over from ALMS),note
which together comprise a sub-championship called the North American Endurance Cup (NAEC). While all classes will run together at the endurance races, some of the shorter events will exclude one or more classes.
Champions of the inaugural season are as follows:
- P: Christian Fittipaldi and Joao Barbosa shared honors as co-drivers of the Action Express #5; they (and Sebastian Bourdais, who returned for Sebring and Petit Le Mans) were the inaugural overall race winners of the series as well, taking the first Rolex 24 under USCC sanctioning, and snagged the overall at Indianapolis and Road America as well.
- PC: Jon Bennett and Colin Braun, co-drivers of the #54 CORE Autosport team. This squad also took three of the four endurance events in PC (with James Gue also co-driving the NAEC events, and Mark Wilkins on board for Daytona), missing only Petit Le Mans. They also snagged the PC-only races at Kansas.
- GTLM: Kuno Wittmer took sole honors in this class, driving the #93 SRT Motorsports team until the finale, when he hopped to the same team's #91. The team failed to win any endurance races, instead winning the class at Indy and Circuit of the Americas.
- GTD: Dane Cameron took sole honors here, driving Turner Motorsport'snote #94, which took the GTD class at Watkins Glen, Laguna Seca, Road America and VIR.
This series provides examples of the following tropes:
- Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Besides the car numbers, every car carries an LED display which shows its position in class. These numbers display in red for the two "all-pro" classes, Prototype and GT Le Mans, and blue for the "pro-am" classes, Prototype Challenge and GT Daytona.
- Golden Snitch: Averted. While it's both the longest and the biggest race of the season, the Rolex 24 doesn't count extra for the championship, nor do the other endurance races. The NAEC does award a monetary bonusnote for the winning team in each class, however.
- Loads and Loads of Characters: A natural effect of having at least two drivers per car in a series that, when all four classes run together, puts over sixty cars on the track.
- Marathon Level: The season begins with these back-to-back at Daytona and Sebring, and ends with another one at Petit Le Mans. Watkins Glen counts to a lesser extent.
- My Hero Zero: The Deltawing team runs #0, and their car, originally designed as a possible Indy Car successor, is completely unlike◊ any other sports car in existence, with a significantly narrower front wheel-base than the other Prototypes. Unfortunately, it's also a subversion of the trope as the Deltawing is never very fast and usually drops out with mechanical issues.
- No-One Could Have Survived That:
- It took less than three hours for the series to produce its first crash of this nature, after the #62 Risi Competizione Ferrari, being driven by Matteo Malucelli at the time, stalled on the infield portion of the track, in a spot where the cars were driving directly into the sun. The #99 GAINSCO-Bob Stallings Corvette DP, driven at the time by Memo Gidley, pulled out of line to pass a GT car, not realizing that said GT was trying to dodge the stalled GTLM of Malucelli. As a result, Gidley rear-ended Malucelli at nearly full-speed, shredding both cars to bits and sending the #62 flying across the track. Both drivers were subsequently carted off to Halifax Medical Center and put under observation while the race was stopped for an hour to clean the track. Malucelli amazingly ended up with no major injuries of any type, and later returned to the circuit for Sebring. Gidley was a bit less lucky, as he suffered back and leg fractures and is still not recovered enough to race as of the 2015 Rolex 24.
- Power Creep, Power Seep: To have the LMP2 and Daytona Prototypes compete against each-other in the one class they increased the downforce on the Daytona Prototypes and gave them better brakes while the LMP2 cars were given more weight. So far, it's skewed the Prototype class too far toward the DPs, who easily won the first three races,note causing officials to shrink their air restrictor by about a millimeter to reduce their horsepower starting at Laguna Seca. However, while Laguna Seca was won by a P2 chassisnote only one race out of the next fournote has gone to them, with three more races being taken by DPsnote , indicating that more work needs to be done to balance the Prototype class.
- Special Guest: The Rolex 24 has a long history of attracting NASCAR drivers due to its placement prior to the start of their season. This goes double for Ganassi, which runs full-time entries in both series.
- For 2014, Ganassi placed Jamie McMurray into their full-time car, the #01, alongside its regular co-drivers Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas, as well as fellow part-timer Sage Karam. This car was the defending race winner, having been co-driven by McMurray's former teammate Juan Pablo Montoya in 2013.note Meanwhile, Montoya's replacement, rookie Kyle Larson, was placed in the team's part-time entry, the #02, taking the spot vacated by McMurray from the 2013 Rolex 24. Unfortunately, both cars broke during the course of the race, leading to DNFs for both teams. The third NASCAR driver to run this race in 2014, A.J. Allmendinger, suffered a similar fate as the team he was with, 2012 winner Michael Shank Racing,note spent a lengthy period in the garage.
- Going back to Ganassi's #02, this team also features the team's Indy Car drivers Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan, originally scheduled to run the four NAEC events, although they later withdrew from the Glen and Petit Le Mans. Karam and Marino Franchitti swapped cars in the two races the #02 ran in 2014 (Daytona and Sebring). They had a better result at Sebring, finishing sixth, although the #01 overshadowed them by delivering Chip Ganassi his first win at Sebring in the team's first start at the track.
- For 2015, Ganassi announced that McMurray and Larson would team up with Dixon and Kanaan on the #02 at Daytona, while the team's third Indy Car driver Charlie Kimball would run with Pruett, new full-time co-driver Joey Handnote and a returning Sage Karam in the #01. Allmendinger would also return, once again teaming with Michael Shank Racing, while defending Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Raey and now-retired Formula One veteran Rubens Barrichello teamed up with the Starworks Motorsport squad, and Ganassi's former fourth Indy Car driver Ryan Briscoe popped up on the Corvette GTLM. MSR would suffer more mechanical woes and ultimately dropped out late, while Ganassi's #01 suffered a busted transmission in the final third of the race. The #02, on the other hand, ran a near perfect race, and Larson in particular got notice for a so-called "monster" or "hero" stint (roughly three-and-a-half hours) during the overnight period, as part of an effort that ultimately netted the #02 the overall victory. This put JamieMac in the company of A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti as the only drivers to win both the Daytona 500 and the Rolex 24. It was also Larson and Kanaan's first victory, each in their second start at Daytona, while Dixon, who drove the final stint, snagged his third win (he co-drove on the 2006 and '08 winning squads as well). Briscoe and the Corvette squad, meanwhile, snagged the class win in GTLM.
- Synchronous Episodes: In the inaugural season, there were three rounds (Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Kansas Speedway and Virginia International Raceway) which are run with multiple races on the same day.
- Laguna Seca is split into two two-hour races, with the first being run with the PCs and GTDs, and the second with the Prototypes and GTLMs. Coincidentally or not, the first race was scheduled directly opposite the same day's NASCAR race (the Aaron's 499 at Talladega) while the second started after the conclusion of that race.
- Kansas runs two 45-minute races with the PC teams, with each driver running in a separate race.
- VIR runs three races, with the PCs again running the 2-for-45 format, while the GTD and GTLM cars run a 2 hour 45 minute race afterward.
- For 2015, the Kansas event was canceled and the PC races were removed from VIR, rendering Laguna Seca as the only remaining instance of this trope.