Former IMSA president Scott Atherton says that reaching a convergence agreement for global top-level prototype racing has been “ultimate level of satisfaction” for sports car racing after a number of previous failed attempts.
Atherton, who retired late last year following a 20-year career at the head of the American Le Mans Series and post-merger, IMSA, was a key player in negotiations with the ACO and planning stages for the announced LMDh platform.
LMDh, featuring elements largely from IMSA’s DPi 2.0 formula, is slated to debut in the 2021-22 FIA World Endurance Championship season and in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2022.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Atherton told Sportscar365.
“I can’t tell you how many times it was ‘dead, not going to happen, let’s stop wasting time’ and keeping the pulse of the opportunity and keeping the right people talking, that was something that I took a lot of interest in myself.
“Having come from an environment in the American Le Mans Series where the technical regulations to race at Sebring and Petit Le Mans and Le Mans were in place… It hasn’t been that long, seven years when that was the way.
“I personally knew, not to say I’m the only one, but I had probably a different perspective than some of the others involved in this process as to what this catalyst will mean to this industry.
“It is the ultimate level of satisfaction from a professional perspective.
“This will pay dividends for years to come and I’m just thrilled it’s come to this successful conclusion.”
Atherton has been retained by IMSA to specifically serve as a consultant to the ACO and is expected to continue to have a presence through the convergence process.
“My consulting role with IMSA very specifically calls out to have my primary focus be on the ACO relationship, just because it goes back more than 20 years with the start of the ALMS,” he said.
“The rapport that we all have, but certainly myself included with Pierre [Fillon, ACO President], Gerard [Neveu, WEC CEO] and Thierry [Bouvet, ACO technical delegate] and the guys.”
When asked where the convergence agreement ranks in his list of professional achievements, Atherton said it’s “certainly” in the top-three.
“In my retirement interviews people said ‘what’s the highlight of the last 20 years?’ and aside from merging Grand-Am and ALMS together which is for sure [number one]… I think it was populating our prototype category with Audi and Acura and Porsche and the whole process it took to make that all happen.
“I would say this news today is probably tied for second, it’s that significant.”