Preliminary discussions have been held between Roger Penske and FIA World Endurance Championship management regarding the feasibility of a race being held at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the future.
Both IMS owner Penske and WEC CEO Frederic Lequien were at Spa last weekend and acknowledged that early talks have taken place, although a race is far from being confirmed.
The WEC is taking a conservative approach to its 2023 calendar amid global logistical challenges influenced by the coronavirus pandemic and is cautious to make drastic adjustments to its schedule.
But both parties have expressed interest in exploring the possibility of an event to be created at Indianapolis in the coming years.
Speaking to reporters, Penske reiterated a long-held position that he wants to establish a multi-class endurance race at Indianapolis, stating that it “sits up at the top of my list”.
Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli has held an eight-hour race for GT cars on the Indy road course the last two years, but Penske is keen to have either IMSA or the WEC on his territory, bringing the new generation of LMDh and LMH prototypes along.
“If we could have this group that’s going to be together next year come to Indy… we have two different courses that we could use. It would be terrific,” Penske said.
“And we’re having discussions about it right now, nothing to announce. It would be terrific.
“I’ve talked to Frederic and said that we might have an interest. We’re further down the road with IMSA. Either one would hopefully give the same benefit for the sport.
“We have such a great place and it’s a great spot. The racing going on there: in less than 30 days we’re going to have four Superbowls’ worth of people there on one day.”
The subject of an IMSA race at Indianapolis has come up before, but this marks the first time that the WEC has been included.
IMSA President John Doonan said last month that the WeatherTech Championship is not planning to add another Michelin Endurance Cup round to its 2023 schedule.
Penske, meanwhile, is adamant that any sports car race at Indianapolis must be an enduro.
“Not at the moment because we have to be sensitive to team budgets,” Doonan told Sportscar365 regarding the potential for more long-distance IMSA races.
“We’re looking at all options. As always we’re looking at venues that bring the most value to partners and teams and that type of thing. There’s a select group of venues that are on our radar.
“It’s no secret and Mr. Penske has made it clear that he wants us to come there. We’re constantly talking to not only that circuit but several others about possible races.”
Penske has advertised Indianapolis as “the perfect location” for endurance racing in the U.S. His Penske Corporation group purchased the famous facility near the end of 2019.
“We have to look at what is the economic impact on the teams, what does the schedule look like,” Penske said. “As far as Indianapolis is concerned, our arms are wide open to come and run.
“We’re in the middle of the country: it’s easy to get there from the east or the west. It’s a perfect location. We’ll see.”
Lequien corroborated Penske’s account that they have held preliminary talks but stressed that the WEC is not actively planning for an Indianapolis race at this stage.
“The U.S is a very important market for us,” he said.
“It would be stupid to exclude opportunities. We love Roger: I have a lot of respect for him, and what he said is absolutely true.
“We have had some discussions, but this is not the plan at the moment [to go there].
“It’s very difficult to answer. If I say, yes, this is an idea and serious, everyone will understand it as a plan. It is not a plan. But it would be stupid to not listen.
“OK, if we extend the championship, why not have a second race in the U.S? And then we could have this opportunity. In the close future, I would say this is not something.”
The WEC already has an American round at Sebring International Raceway, where its 1000-mile race shares the weekend bill with the IMSA Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
When asked if he feels there is room for two American WEC races, Penske said: “I don’t know why not.” Posed the same question, Lequien responded: “Why not, in the future.”
John Dagys contributed to this report