John Doonan says he’s hopeful of helping to continue IMSA’s growth in his new executive role in the sanctioning body.
The longtime Mazda motorsports director was announced Tuesday as IMSA’s new president, taking over from Scott Atherton, who will retire at the end of the year following a 32-year career in the industry.
Doonan, who spent Monday and Tuesday closing out his chapter with Mazda, will begin working at IMSA’s Daytona Beach, Fla. headquarters next Monday, allowing for a 65-day plus transition period.
When asked by Sportscar365 on his interaction with Atherton, Doonan said he feels “fortunate” of being able to work alongside the outgoing president through the rest of the year.
“I have obviously followed what Scott and Ed [Bennett, IMSA CEO] and Jim France [IMSA chairman] have envisioned here as a participant, as a corporate partner and back to some of my earlier days working with race promoters, working with other sanctioning bodies like the ACO and the FIA,” Doonan said.
“I think having the experiences that I’ve had over my 17 years at Mazda but even previously prior to in growing up at the racetrack and and growing up in sports car racing.
“Scott understands what it takes and I hopefully will be able to fill those big shoes and continue the the growth pattern that this program has been on.
“I think we are in the golden era, obviously this was the golden anniversary, but I’m going to do my best to maintain it but also grow with so much effort that that’s Scott and the team have put in.”
Doonan explained that the discussions with IMSA dated back to the springtime, noting that he was “honored” to have received the call from France and Bennett to be asked to serve as Atherton’s successor.
“We wanted to be respectful of Scott’s retirement,” Doonan said. “We wanted to be respectful of the season and team milestones and events in the season.
“I’ve committed my life to Mazda for a long time and wanted to see those commitments through.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the way that both IMSA and Mazda handled this news, handled the transition.
“There was an amazing moment where Jim France visited with Masahiro Moro, [Mazda’s] CEO and chairman, literally asking his permission.
“I just really proud of that.
“I think it’s a send a massive message of integrity when when things like this can work out for the best for all involved.
“I was laughing with my wife last night that people are going to wonder what those summer victories were all about at Mazda.
“You couldn’t have scripted at any better that we were finally able to, on the Mazda side, deliver what we had been trying to do, but in the background knowing well that I was going have an opportunity to to be a leadership position once the season ended.
“It made this year magical in so many ways and I just I just can’t wait to get started.”
Doonan “Very Confident” of Mazda’s Motorsports Future
While Mazda has yet to name its new director of motorsports, Doonan said he’s convinced Mazda is in a good position moving forward in IMSA and sports car racing.
The Japanese manufacturer recently confirmed an expansion into TCR for next year.
“I feel very confident that Mazda is going to continue to be a strong participant long-term, as well as hopefully championship winners, which which I think all the effort that’s gone in there would be great,” he said.
“I’m needing to step back a little bit now and wear a different hat and a different shirt but I’m thrilled with where we’re at.
“I’m just thrilled that I had the opportunity to fulfill a boyhood dream by being being part of that program for so long.”