As the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship reaches the halfway point, Sportscar365 caught up with IMSA President and COO Scott Atherton (pictured, right, with Watkins Glen President Michael Printup and New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo) to get his thoughts on a wide range of topics, compiled into the below Q&A.
How did the Kansas event go from your perspective?
“I thought the racing was outstanding. I wasn’t there, personally, but I was well-connected to the whole process.
“For many, I believe it was a pleasant surprise in terms of how well things went compared with what some people expected, especially referring to the blending of PC cars and the Prototype Lites racing together.
“I think it’s a great reflection on the IMSA competition department and they really had their homework done. That was a healthy display of racing from two very diverse platforms.
“Spectator-wise, I’m not speaking out of school to say it was disappointing but not completely unexpected. As far as the future goes, no decision have been made.”
Will there be considerations for TV and/or other live media coverage for events like this in the future?
“FansChoice.TV should be, in my opinion, the minimum [for every weekend]. There’s a lot of effort being put forth to make sure we don’t have a repeat of [Kansas and Lime Rock]. I think the technology is available to us now.
“In this first year of the merger, [we’ve used] all of our bandwidth to get these races organized and put forth the way they have.
“There’s no doubt many examples, looking back, we wished we had a do-over. I’d certainly put Kansas, that the fact there wasn’t any live media capability there, as one that I wish we have another crack at. That was a mistake.”
From a technical standpoint, how important is it to grow the global link with the ACO?
“We’re trying to do things very much in concert with each other. It doesn’t mean we’ll follow everything they do and they’ll follow everything we do. But we want to have a high degree of cooperation and recognition of what is each doing.
“Ideally, we are basing our technical rules and regulations around a common set, such that our product here in the TUDOR Championship could easily translate into the ACO model and vice-versa.
“The modern-day relationship we have with the ACO gives us that flexibility and autonomy. So we can stay connected but it doesn’t have to be in lock step.”
It appears the 24 Hours of Le Mans Test Day will again conflict with the Detroit weekend next year. Was there anything that could have prevented this?
“That’s frustrating but it also has to be recognized as something we can’t control. There’s always going to be drivers that are going to want to be in two places at once. This year was no exception.
“There was some cooperation with teams to charter some planes and there actually is a non-stop commercial flight that you could make and get there on time, and as long as the trains aren’t on strike, you can get to Le Mans!”
Is there any consideration to have a “throwaway race” for those teams, such as the potential of Extreme Speed Motorsports, wanting to do Le Mans?
“We’ve thought about it. Back in the early days of the American Le Mans Series when we were trying to kick start the European Le Mans Series, we wrote into the script that American teams can go to Europe and use that as a make-up race and count it towards ALMS points, by taking your worst result and replacing it. That was an incentive.
“It’s not something we’re actively discussing but if ESM were to come to us and say, ‘Hey guys, we really, really want to go to Le Mans next year.’
“If you look back over history of the teams that have tried to both, it’s not uncommon that they figure out a way to have a separate chassis or they have a related team that shares all the learning that came out of the test day weekend.
“ESM would certainly be a priority for us, for obvious reasons. They’re a cornerstone team in the TUDOR Championship and the Tequila Patron linkage. You can’t say enough about that.”
Is there an initiative from IMSA to have more teams participate at Le Mans?
“Not officially, there’s no campaign or incentive programs, but for sure we want to continue to have a strong representation.
“I think this year was a bit of an anomaly, frankly. You would have expected Level 5 to be there, and originally, Muscle Milk Pickett announced they’d be going. Dyson had been talking about it as well.
“Knowing that the Daytona Prototypes, GTD [and PC] entrants are not eligible there, it does narrow the car count. But I’d be surprised if we don’t tick it back up a notch. We as a group want that.”
Were you aware of the clash with the 24 Hours of Dubai before re-scheduling the 2015 Roar Before the Rolex 24 test?
“We were mindful of it. It was a decision made based on what’s best for the TUDOR Championship. There’s a rare example that makes everybody happy. I would guess the percentage [for this case] is 90/10.
“I think there’s a vocal 10 percent that’s upset by that change because that now represents a conflict. I think it isolates it at the driver example.
“That’s important but if you’ve got 90 percent of the paddock saying it’s a big positive for us, the fact that our team members are not having to load the truck on New Year’s Eve and leave on New Year’s Day, is a big positive.”