One of the key off-season moves has been that of Scot Elkins (above, center), who has gone from being IMSA’s technical chief to landing new opportunities in the Mazda Road to Indy paddock and the motorsports industry in general.
His latest appointment was made last month, when the former ALMS executive was announced as the new Chief Operating Officer of the Motorsport Safety Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving safety standards in racing.
Founded by NGT Motorsport driver Henrique Cisneros last year in memory of teammate Sean Edwards, who was killed in a coaching accident in Australia that could arguably be linked to track safety standards, the foundation appeared on Elkins’ radar screen late last year when his duties at IMSA shifted.
“I’ve known Henrique for a really long time,” Elkins told Sportscar365. “We’ve talked about doing something together even before the foundation was started… When my responsibilities with IMSA changed and went part-time back in November, it allowed me to start having the conversation.”
Elkins brings unique skill sets to the foundation, having served as an engineer for Robert Yates Racing in NASCAR, technical director at Champ Car and in charge of operations in the ALMS prior to its merger with GRAND-AM.
With his technical background, along with having worked for sanctioning bodies and having close contacts with international organizations such as the FIA, Elkins feels he can put many of his past experiences to use in his new role.
“I think that’s the most unique thing that I can bring to the foundation,” he said. “I’ve got contacts, experiences, and truthfully, friends in all of those different areas where we can hopefully bring things together and work on a united front.
“The idea is to try to increase awareness of the foundation and one of the missions is to use the foundation as a collective for all of the different groups that exist that talk about safety.
“Whether that’s another foundation or another sanctioning body, the idea is for the Motorsport Safety Foundation to bring people together and allow everyone to work on common goals.”
The foundation pioneered the “Adopt the Corner” initiative last year, which worked with tracks across the nation to allow for sponsorship opportunities to help fund the installation of Tecpro barriers at high-risk corners.
Elkins said their latest push has been to help subsidize the costs of frontal restraint devices. The initiative “Race with Restraint” is aimed for those at the local level or drivers who simply can’t afford mechanisms such as the HANS device.
With a focus on driver, car and track safety, Elkins said they hope to complete between two to three initiatives every year, which will see the foundation reaching out, and not fighting against, sanctioning bodies.
“It’s very, very important, especially from the world I came from and the world I still work in, that there’s not a battle between a safety foundation and organizers and sanctioning bodies,” he said. “I think everyone needs to work together.”
Elkins feels the biggest objective for now is to bring together the various fractured groups involved in motorsports safety today and not burn bridges with any organization.
“Fighting for something is very, very important and when the time is right, I think that’s something the foundation will do, but I also do think it’s important to stay neutral in some areas as well, in order for us to foster this growing relationship between different bodies,” he said.
“Experience and history shows that it’s a lot easier to knock on a door than to try and break it down. I think that’s the unique approach I’ll be able to bring, especially with the relationships that exist, whether it’s the sanctioning bodies, race tracks or what have you.
“The goal is to improve safety and awareness in motorsports. In order for us to do it, I think it’s all about how you approach it.”
It will be a busy year for Elkins, who through his new consulting firm, has taken on a number of jobs within the motorsports industry, including Race Director duties for Pro Mazda and US F2000.
Yet, the future of the Motorsport Safety Foundation is one of the things that excites him the most, knowing that positive change can be made.
“It seems like the right step for my career because it gives me something I’ve always been very, very passionate about to work on,” Elkins said.
“But it also gives me the opportunity to work on from a completely different approach than what I’ve done before, as being more of a friend to the industry rather than being on one side or the other.
“I think that’s a unique position to be in and I think it’s really what’s going to allow the foundation to be successful.”