Pre-Season Q&A With IMSA President John Doonan

Photo: Mike Levitt/IMSA

As IMSA approaches the start of the 2021 WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season, Sportscar365 caught up with series president John Doonan on a wide range of topics from the Rolex 24 grid to COVID-19 and growth in LMP2. 

How pleased are you with the 49-car field for this weekend’s Rolex 24?

“We’re super pleased. Our entire staff has worked extremely hard, so it’s rewarding from that standpoint. It’s something we’re grateful for that so many people have chosen to invest in racing with IMSA and our super bowl kicking off the year.

“The car counts in GTD are extremely solid. The uptick in LMP2… the eternal optimist in me says that’s sort of a hint that there’s a global strategy and global set of regulations in LMP2. We’ve aligned with that.

“It’s pretty slick that three of the four LMP2 constructors are represented. I hadn’t even seen a Dallara LMP2 car in the flesh until the Cetilar team came here. I think that’s pretty neat and what a boost for that class.”

Do you think the increased LMP2 involvement could as a precursor for teams wanting to move into LMDh?

“There is a lot of excitement and momentum around the top category. We’ve had a dozen, and at one point 16 manufacturers around the table in LMDh technical working group meetings. 

“With the level of momentum and excitement around that class, it probably does give LMP2 a boost where people can come in and gain experience.”

How big of a challenge has it been to organize the Rolex 24 amid COVID-19?

“We’ve got a pretty good routine down from July, the WeatherTech 240, as we went on, we found ways to expand a little bit relative to hospitality and consumer displays. 

“We’re very sensitive to what’s going on in the communities around us, both from a local or state side or nationwide side. 

“I think there’s an extra tightening of the belts, if you will, relative to our protocol, making sure that we keep everybody safe and that we’re still able to execute the events at the highest levels.

“It’s been challenging overall from the time it was last March to today but we had a good system in place working very closely with our colleagues at NASCAR who have the Daytona 500 coming up.

“We want to do everything we can to realize that it’s a privilege to go racing right now. With that privilege comes massive responsibility.”

How is IMSA handling the possibility of further date and/or event changes later in the year?

“It is a moving target. We need to be really sensitive to state-to-state of course and what’s going on in certain markets, and obviously crossing the border into the U.S. has been challenging.

“Looking to the summer, we don’t know exactly what it’s going to look like at that time. 

“Our government affairs folks have been doing an awesome job and we’ve fortunately been able to get everybody in here [for Daytona] and we’ll see what the summer brings.”

Do you have backup plans in place for alternative venues like we saw in 2020 with the Charlotte Roval and 2nd races at Daytona and Sebring?

“There’s almost an ongoing options spreadsheet. There’s one reason every schedule we’ve put out has the word ‘provisional’ in it because we want to remain sensitive for the potential for change.”

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