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Atherton: “There Are 53 Really High-Quality Cars”

IMSA’s Scott Atherton addresses year-to-year car count evolution…

Photo: IMSA

Photo: IMSA

IMSA President and COO Scott Atherton is unconcerned with the differential in car count for this year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, which sees a reduction from 67 starters in 2014 to a projected 53 for this year, based on the entry for the Roar Before the Rolex 24.

The car count change thus far has had a two-pronged effect. Drivers have expressed the traffic situation has improved; the downside is that there have also been a bevy of professional drivers pounding the pavement this week seeking a ride.

But as IMSA prepares for the first race of the second season of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, the overall optics are that last year, there were almost too many cars per track guidelines.

According to Atherton, this year’s projected field should fit better for most tracks.

“Typically when you talk about car counts and content in general, more is better,” Atherton told Sportscar365. “But there were many times, if not every time, last year, where we were oversubscribed.

“Thankfully, those venues that are part of the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup, which for obvious reasons attract the highest grids, have the highest level of capacity.”

Atherton didn’t want to dismiss the car count change, but he also noted there was no reason to be apologetic or negative about the 53 cars.

Further to that point, upon release of the entry list this week, the ACO called specifically to congratulate IMSA on its depth of field.

Considering some years in the past have featured some smaller, sub-50 car grids at the marquee endurance events and considering some other doomsday scenarios for 2015 forecast a low to mid-40s car count, Atherton said 53 was nearly a perfect number.

“If you look at the glass-half-empty story, you could say last year was 67 and the year before that was 59,” he said.

“But there are 53, really high-quality cars that includes many never before seen examples in the Prototype and GT category, and frankly with more coming.

“Quite honestly, there was a time not long ago we would have turned cartwheels for a 53-car entry.”

In terms of the full-season entry list, Atherton expects between high-30s and low-40s for the balance of the season after the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, the second round of both the overall season and the Patron Endurance Cup.

Atherton said Turner Motorsport’s announcement to kick off the week that it was returning was a “pleasant surprise,” and also important to have another class champion return to the series to defend its title.

One potential race format change could occur later this year at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in May, although nothing is decided yet, Atherton said.

A year ago, the Prototype and GT Le Mans classes and Prototype Challenge and GT Daytona classes ran separate two-hour races, to generally positive feedback.

The plan is for that to continue; however, if the car count is low enough to fit track and pit lane specifications, the four classes could be combined into one race.

“It’s a great question, and one we’re not prepared to answer one way or another at this point,” Atherton said. “We believe we have an opportunity to combine them and have it make sense, but that decision hasn’t been made.

“We’d have to work directly with the track. The numbers are right at the very limits of their capacity, so we would have to decide we would make in concert with the promoter as to how to best to position it. We have the option now to go one way or another.”

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno) is Sportscar365's North American Editor, focusing on coverage of the IMSA-sanctioned championships as well as Pirelli World Challenge. DiZinno also contributes to and other motorsports outlets. Contact Tony


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