With a larger demand than available places on the grid, IMSA announced Friday that it will be limiting the field sizes in next year’s TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, based off a set of capacity guidelines for each class.
The news came just three weeks after the announcement of the 2014 TUDOR Championship schedule, which according to IMSA President and COO Scott Atherton, helped gauge an expected level of participation for the first year of the unified sports car series.
“It was a bit of an eye-opener, frankly, to get the feedback from the teams, crunch the numbers and realize what we were facing,” Atherton told Sportscar365. “I think we’ve come up with a very good solution. Not everybody will agree with me but no matter what decisions we made, that was going to be the case.”
Atherton said IMSA’s projections forced them to re-think a number of events that had limited capacity due to their pit lane length and/or circuit homologation.
As a result, Prototype Challenge cars will no longer race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park or on the streets of Detroit, while the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca round has been split into two races, one for Prototype/GT Le Mans and another for PC/GT Daytona.
A standalone PC round has been added at Kansas Speedway for June 7, to be run alongside IMSA Prototype Lights cars in an expected dual sprint race format. The VIR round, initially announced as PC race only, will also see the addition of the IMSA Development Series machines.
Entry requests for the TUDOR Championship open on Nov. 1, and Atherton is expecting the majority of the events to be fully subscribed.
The Rolex 24 at Daytona, Six Hours of The Glen and Petit Le Mans , for example, will allow for a maximum of 60 entries, spread between Prototype (19), Prototype Challenge (10), GT Le Mans (12) and GT Daytona (19), while one additional P car and two more GT LM cars will be allowed to contest the Twelve Hours of Sebring and round at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Despite full-season entries taking priority, Atherton is hopeful there will be space for a select number of European or part-time entries, particularly those that are looking to take part in the expected four-round North American Endurance Championship.
“One of the things I’ve heard Jim France say many times is that he doesn’t want to lose the international appeal and flavor, especially of the true endurance races,” Atherton said. “Thankfully those races are being held at venues where we have the largest car capacity.
“Indianapolis is technically the largest but when you look at the grids we can accommodate at Daytona, Sebring, Watkins Glen and Petit Le Mans, the hope and expectation is that there is room to not only have accommodation of all North American interested competitors, but also to invite some international entries as well.”
That, however, won’t be known until the entry request deadline closes on Nov. 30. Atherton said they will only then be able to confirm full season and any available partial season or single event entries.
According to the series boss, there is no published protocol as to how they’ll accept race-by-race or NAEC entrants, space permitting, although he said consideration would be made to previous full-season teams in ALMS or GRAND-AM, as opposed to a new team with no previous experience.
There could be further changes to the class capacity guidelines too, if demand for a particular category does not meet their initial projections.
“If we do find ourselves that situation, I’ll be the first to say that we’re going to leave the option open to come back and correct or to modify again,” Atherton said. “I don’t think we’re going to be there. I believe the information we’re working with is factual. But a lot can happen between now and when this all officially breaks cover in January.
“This is an eyes-wide-open, palms-up process that we’ve gone through. We’re making decisions based on the best information we can glean. If using those parameters doesn’t work out or leads to a different conclusion, then we’re going to keep the option open to adjust accordingly.”