IMSA has launched a “Back to Racing” task force aimed to help safely execute the resumption of racing for its sanctioned championships amid new government mandates and health-related measures due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Revealed in a partner’s videoconference on Wednesday, IMSA President John Doonan said the sanctioning body will be looking at “every possible” scenario that that goes into the organization of an event to ensure a safe return.
The task force, made up of senior-level IMSA management in collaboration with officials from NASCAR, has been meeting three times per week to explore potential travel and event limitations, supply chain complications and economic considerations.
“This task force has allowed us to leverage some of the learnings our partners at NASCAR have already found,” Doonan said.
“We’re looking at every possible scenario given restrictions and mandates by local, state, regional, federal and international authorities.
“Most important, without a doubt, is safety. We will not take any risks on safety.”
Doonan said IMSA and NASCAR are “fortunate” to not only be sanctioning bodies but also track owners and operators that will allow them to look at the viability of going back racing from two different “vantage points.”
While not confirming any new protocols or procedures, Doonan indicated measures such as temperature checks, food delivery services, adjusted fans walk and autograph sessions as well as the potential of a closed paddock are all open topics.
As has been the case with other sanctioning bodies worldwide, IMSA has been evaluating the potential of running races behind closed doors, if necessary, which Doonan admitted would be ‘painful’ for their audience.
“It’s difficult to think that way but certainly we want to deliver value for all of the partners and we may need to go and look at operating events completely differently than we have before,” he said.
“With fans, without fans and potentially in a model which we’ve termed ‘fan light’ where there may be opportunities, because of the expanse of some of these road racing facilities, to have people camping and social distancing scenarios and still allow those types of situations to unfold.
“We’re working on every scenario and have everything on the table in order to try to go back to racing in a normal manner.”
IMSA Monitoring International Travel Restrictions
No additional changes to the current WeatherTech SportsCar Championship schedule have been announced although Doonan said they will continue to meet with stakeholders every “couple of weeks” to communicate any adjustments that are needed.
Currently, the season is slated to resume at Watkins Glen International on June 26-28, followed one week later by Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
It’s understood roughly 40 percent of teams are impacted by current international travel restrictions, with IMSA set to distribute a survey to competitors to gain insight into potential logistical challenges.
“We are in constant contact with our government affairs folks on the IMSA and NASCAR side [and] many outside consultants regarding safety, international border closures and the impact that has on our IMSA community,” Doonan said.
“The potential of re-entry or staff, for race teams and for drivers… So we are also in constant contact with our [track] promoters.”
A testing ban for WeatherTech Championship competitors remains enforced, although Doonan said they will look at the potential of lifting it for “some classes” in the future.
IMSA is also looking at economic considerations, including the potential of shortened race weekends and/or reduced on-track sessions, as well as possible adjustments to the 2021 schedule given the expected late end to the 2020 season.
Doonan confirmed they’ve been in discussions with Daytona International Speedway to look at possible ways of lengthening the gap between the season finale at Sebring on Nov. 14 and the 2021 Roar Before the Rolex 24, which would be typically occur on the first weekend of January.