GRAND-AM Road Racing founder Jim France was formally presented Thursday with the French flag he’ll use to start the 90th anniversary running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The moment evoked thoughts and emotions that led him to three places – past, present and future.
“Being here today, it reminds me of coming here in 1962 with my father, Bill France Sr. and NASCAR driver Fireball Roberts, who raced a Ferrari here,” France said. “And it reminds me of 1976 when my brother Bill France Jr. waved the starting flag in the year we had two NASCAR stock cars in Le Mans.
“Regarding the present, it’s just wonderful to be here, but this is about a whole lot more than me. And finally, regarding the future, being here is an example of America’s strong relationship with the ACO, which will be so important to the new United SportsCar Racing (USCR) series that debuts next year.”
The flag presentation was the focal point of a press conference at the 24 Hours of Le Mans museum. Pierre Fillon, president of the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) which stages the event, began the presentation, saying “the competition will be unleashed on Saturday by Jim France,” adding that France’s appearance continues “a long and fruitful association between Le Mans and the United States.”
The presentation itself was handled by Don Panoz, founder of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) presented by Tequila Patrón. Starting next year when the merger of the ALMS and GRAND-AM is complete, the pair will lead the board of directors guiding the new series. France will serve as chairman, Panoz as vice chairman.
“Jim, you will be the leader for our future in America,” Panoz said.
“And you’ll be our standard-bearer this year.”