IMSA Aiming for Five-Class Format “Everywhere it Makes Sense”

Photo: Rick Dole/IMSA

IMSA is looking to integrate its full five-class structure “everywhere it makes sense” according to series president John Doonan, who has hinted at potential changes to several events in 2022.

The WeatherTech SportsCar Championship sees a largely fragmented schedule this year, with only five of the 12 total events featuring all five season-long classes, cemented by the four Michelin Endurance Cup races.

The Acura Sports Car Challenge presented by TLX Type S at Mid-Ohio saw only the DPi, LMP3 and GT Daytona classes in action, with GT Le Mans not having been eligible due to the original placement of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June.

Next month’s round at Detroit, meanwhile, will be open to full-season DPi competitors and GTD teams taking part in the WeatherTech Sprint Cup only, as well as being a non-points paying round for GTLM.

The LMP2 class was recently moved off of the Detroit event to prevent a clash with competitors running in the FIA World Endurance Championship’s round in Portimao that same weekend.

Other split up events on tap this year include WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, which will not feature LMP3, as well as Long Beach which will have DPi, GTLM and GTD-only.

With pandemic-affected schedule changes now likely in the rear-view mirror, Doonan said he’s hopeful of solidifying a more consistent class structure at most of its events next year.

“[There’s been] a lot of learnings, certainly for me personally, but for all of us as we re-cast the [2021] schedule… the absolute domino effects that takes place,” he told Sportscar365.

“Not just with Le Mans, but obviously a lot of teams that bridge the gap between multiple series.

“We’ve been super sensitive to people making their living in multiple championships.

“The goal would be to try to get back to some normalcy and try to get back to our five-class structure everywhere that it makes sense.”

When asked if some events could retain its current three or four-class structure in 2022, Doonan said “potentially.”

“We’ve made a commitment to a certain number of events, to corporate partners,” he explained.

“And the teams have built their budgets around a certain number of races on the schedule. So we clearly want to maintain that for them. But there could be some weekends, like at VIR and Lime Rock, [that remain GT-only].

“[We’re] trying to maintain a proper business model for the teams, for our partners and for ourselves.”
 
Doonan said he aims to finalize and release the 2022 WeatherTech Championship calendar at Road America in August, in what has been the pre-pandemic venue for IMSA’s ‘State of the Sport’ address. 

IMSA to Continue With Compressed Weekend Format

After a trial run in several post-pandemic races in 2020, IMSA will continue utilizing a compressed event format this year. 

The weekend schedule, which sees the elimination of one WeatherTech Championship practice session, sees teams unload on Fridays for Sunday races and cuts down on one day’s worth of travel and hotel costs.

“We talk a lot about ‘the market will speak’,” Doonan said. “The feedback started with our Michelin Pilot Challenge teams, the feedback they gave relative to this format.

“They really like it. [For] WeatherTech of course, we learned a lot during the pandemic.

“We’re going to continue this format for the foreseeable future. It’s all about providing value to the teams and partners, with how much track time we give them.

“We want to make sure that we’re doing that for the promoter partners as well. With the number of single-make championships we have, we can probably fill in content over a three-to-four-day period.”

While currently focused on “efficiency” Doonan said they will see if the weekend formats will require any changes for 2022.

“It’s nice to hear several folks say that you guys were able to make 2020 done and it allowed a lot of the teams to stay in business,” he said. “And so I’m proud of that. It’s good to hear.

“We’ll look at 2022 and see if there’s any need to return to the historic schedule of before.”

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