IMSA President John Doonan says he’s excited by the unintended consequences of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring’s postponement that looks set to deliver nearly 60 hours of endurance racing over a five-month span beginning in October.
Announced on Thursday amid coronavirus travel restrictions, next weekend’s scheduled second round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship has been postponed to serve as the new season finale on Nov. 11-14., five weeks after the ten-hour Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.
While the 2020 season is now set to come to a close in Sebring, it will leave an 11-week off-season, not counting pre-season testing, to the 2021 running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona, and then followed up again by Sebring, which has been confirmed for March 17-20, 2021.
Doonan believes the likelihood of providing fans with 58 hours of racing action over the “truncated” period will come as a benefit for IMSA fans.
“I think of one of the cool things about IMSA race fans, and endurance sports car racing fans, [is what’s] in store [for them],” he said.
“Add up the numbers: Ten hours at Motul Petit Le Mans, 12 hours of Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Advance Auto Parts, 24 Hours at the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January 2021, and Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring [in March 2021].
“[It’s] all in a row with a championship on the line and the big prize with a Rolex watch on the line to kick off the next championship [season].
“I’m not particularly good at math, but that sounds like a heck of a lot of hours of entertaining racing for our fans that are all going to come in the span of about [five] months.”
Doonan said IMSA had been in “direct communication” with all of its stakeholders prior to Thursday’s announcement, with everyone having been “super supportive” of the rescheduled date, despite resulting in a reduced off-season for teams.
“They obviously have budgeted for the 2020 season,” he said. “I think that knowing this is out there now, they’ve got many months to start thinking about their 2021 programs and this gives them some time now to plan in that regard with that extra week to plan.
“The fans… are a loyal bunch. We all know that.
“Obviously, everyone [was] looking forward to the race next week, but we’re so thrilled that the spirit and iconic nature of this event will still happen. We can still keep that history alive in 2020 in November. I think we’re going to see that same spirit and excitement among the fans.
“It now sort of truncates things for everybody in preparation for ending the season a little bit later than planned but also in turning the corner into 2021.
“What I’ve seen and what I’ve been a part of relative to running as a team participant is that there are some amazing efforts put in by the teams that compete in IMSA, whether that be in the WeatherTech Championship, Michelin Pilot Challenge, Prototype Challenge, I think they’re up to the task.
“They’ve proven year after year in race after race that they’ve put on amazing shows and this adds a little new flavor and a new touch to the 2020 championship and to the IMSA story.
“We look forward to seeing how they all react.
“On the side of seriousness of making sure we do the right thing given what the directives are from the medical communities, and that aside, I can’t believe that we are going to see what is, I believe, 58 hours of sports car racing in that short time.”
Michelin Encore to Take Hiatus for 2020
Doonan confirmed that the Michelin SportsCar Encore, which was due to take part on the weekend the Twelve Hours of Sebring has been rescheduled to, will not happen this year although IMSA hasn’t ruled it out returning for 2021.
“The Encore, for two years now, has started to grow as an event,” Doonan said. “The beauty of our situation, compared to perhaps other sanctioning bodies, was that we had that on the calendar, which presented us with an opportunity here.
“The days leading up to it were also ones we snatched up quick on the Sebring calendar.
“This event will essentially replace what would’ve been the Michelin Encore [in] 2020.
“We’ll continue to survey the race teams, the drivers who participated in the encore in the past and use this opportunity to look towards building something similar to what we’ve seen in the last two years in 2021.”