IMSA President and COO Scott Atherton expects a larger international presence in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship in the future, after capacity issues forced a number of prospective European teams away from this year’s Rolex 24.
The season-opener at Daytona will feature no more than six entries from overseas, including efforts from OAK Racing, Aston Martin Racing and the AF Corse-run Spirit of Race team.
It’s believed that close to a dozen other teams had evaluated programs, primarily in Prototype and GTD, but many had backed out after no guarantee could be made by the series for a confirmed entry or finalized set of technical regulations.
Existing GRAND-AM and ALMS teams that had submitted full-season entries were given priority, which left little room for international teams wanting to contest the NAEC or the Rolex 24.
“We’ve had a significant amount of interest, but no one would want to make a commitment, especially coming from overseas, unless we can guarantee them a starting slot for our events,” Atherton told Sportscar365. “You see who was [at the Roar] and you know who’s coming. We just are simply at capacity with what we’ve got.”
While initially planning to limit the grid at Daytona to 60 entries, IMSA expanded the maximum capacity to 68 for the twice-around-the-clock endurance classic, along with the remaining Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup rounds at Sebring, Watkins Glen and Road Atlanta.
Atherton believes the increased capacity, along with a traditional drop-off in full-season entries later in the year, should give room for additional teams wanting to contest TUDOR Championship rounds on a race-by-race basis.
“If history is our guide, there will be some percentage of programs, for whatever reason, that aren’t able to continue,” he said. “Because of that, I think there will be opportunities for people to come in, not for the full season, but to do selected events.
“We have some venues that are able to take larger capacity versus others. We go to Indianapolis, Road America and Petit Le Mans. Those are venues that can take [more entries]. What limits us is not the FIA restriction on cars per length of track, what limits us is the pit boxes.”
Atherton stressed the importance of retaining the international component, something the ALMS had traditionally thrived on.
“From the beginning, Jim France made it very clear that he wanted, at a minimum, to maintain the international involvement and ideally grow it. It’s a pleasant challenge for us facing the amount of interest we have from our existing North American teams.
“We want to see teams from foreign lands, even if they’re showing up to just do the endurance races. We don’t want to lose that.”