IMSA has not ruled out hosting additional split race events on a selective basis, following a successful trial run last weekend at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
Sunday’s TUDOR United SportsCar Championship doubleheader featured separate Prototype/GT Le Mans and Prototype Challenge/GT Daytona races, each two hours in length, a format that was initiated due to lack of pit lane space.
“It was an experiment going into it. But it was implemented by necessity, simply because with 56 entries and a pit lane that can in no way accommodate that kind of content, we had no choice but to split them,” IMSA President and COO Scott Atherton told Sportscar365.
“There was a little trepidation going into it for obvious reasons. I think coming out of that weekend, it’s the rare exception that you’d find someone that wasn’t very happy with it in general.
“For the most part, when you talk to the competitors, they really enjoyed the configuration and the ability to race in their own race without the interference of the other classes.”
Both races saw close battles and relatively clean racing, with only two safety car periods in the PC/GTD event and the P/GTLM round running caution-free for the second consecutive race under that class format.
While the amount of green flag running time was a stark contrast to the caution-plagued Twelve Hours of Sebring, Atherton said they still prefer to have a single combined race when possible.
“[The split race format is] worthy of further consideration,” Atherton said. “But I want to make sure everybody understands that we are still focused on endurance racing, that’s our niche.
“For the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup, they will remain, as always, with a full, four-class configuration.
“But for some of the other events and at venues that we know we have limitations on pit lane, as that’s usually the deciding factor, [this format would be a consideration].”
Atherton said measures were taken to ensure both races in Monterey were presented equally, and that policy would have to continue for any future doubleheaders.
“We don’t want a decision like that to create an ‘A’ and a ‘B’ show,” he said. “We would always want to consider both of them as one, even though as they did this past weekend at Mazda Raceway, they raced separately.
“But we were very careful to make both races have live television coverage. We had the same type of pre-race build-up. We would be very careful to make sure that if and when we choose to split the categories again that everyone gets equal billing.
“I think we did a good job of balancing that this past weekend. That would be the criteria going forward.”
One area of improvement, however, would come with format of practice, which saw combined sessions for all four classes that resulted in a congested pit road and busy track.
“Fifty six cars around Mazda Raceway is too many,” Atherton added. “It doesn’t allow teams to properly prepare for their races.
“If we were to do that over again, we would have re-configured the schedule to provide the race groups the opportunity to practice as they race. We didn’t have that flexibility and couldn’t alter the schedule after the fact.”
An additional split race is scheduled for Virginia International Raceway in August, which will feature a standalone GTLM/GTD event plus two 45-minute sprint races for PC cars combined with IMSA Prototype Lites.
No changes, however, are expected to be made to this year’s schedule, with consideration being made for 2015, should car counts and pit space be a limiting factor.