IMSA President and COO Scott Atherton took the opportunity to further elaborate on the sanctioning body’s upcoming new rules and IMSA’s ongoing relationship with the ACO, as the two entities announced an extension through 2020 during Sebring race week.
The technical regulations are in the process of being finalized, as IMSA adopts full FIA GT3-spec cars into its GT Daytona class for 2016. Once that occurs, the GTE-spec GT Le Mans class cars will need to be sped up to accommodate those.
“Visually, subtle changes. Mechanically, more dramatic changes under the skin,” Atherton told the IMSA Wire service.
“There is a general move to increase the performance of the GTLM cars, which are a mirror image of the ACO’s GTE cars, and the reason is twofold: One, it has been the desire of the manufacturers to give these cars a higher level of performance. And two, with our GT Daytona category evolving to FIA GT3 specifications, it will enable us to properly separate the performance of the four classes to keep the appropriate separation on track.”
“If you look at Sebring’s numbers, we were very happy to see this year that every class was about four seconds per lap apart from the next closest one. No guarantee, but it appears that some of the manufacturers will be evolving to turbocharged configurations, and that’s a byproduct of the 2016 regulations.”
Atherton added that while IMSA will allow a small level of factory involvement in GTD, “it has to be limited.”
The new for 2017 Prototype regulations are also being finalized, beyond what has already been announced. The FIA and ACO are targeting a release of the new 2017 LMP2 proposal next month, and a spec engine has already been confirmed.
“The teams are eagerly awaiting final details, and we’re working toward that as rapidly as possible,” Atherton said.
“It’s safe to assume the Prototype will be a shared platform with some unique elements that the ACO will prescribe for their purposes and for the European Le Mans Series, another ACO-managed championship, and there will be unique aspects that are specific to the TUDOR Championship. But the core of the car – or the spine of the car as I call it – will be common to all the cars.”
Atherton also noted the continued successful relationship between IMSA and the ACO, which he said has evolved over the extent of the time period since the 2012 sports car merger.
“When we first started with the merger, I was concerned our link to the ACO and Le Mans was going to come to an end, because I thought Jim France [GRAND-AM founder and current chairman of IMSA] had his own vision that might not include continuing the relationship,” Atherton said.
“But I was pleasantly surprised that he recognized the value from the start of maintaining that partnership. Under Jim’s leadership as our chairman, and under Pierre Fillon’s leadership as ACO president, I think the business and personal relationships in place today are as good – or better – than they have ever been.
“The fact that we now have a six-year agreement means we can focus on a lot of long-range strategies.”