IMSA: Series considering Pro-Am subclass

IMSA: Series considering Pro-Am subclass

IMSA

IMSA: Series considering Pro-Am subclass

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With a new era set to debut in IMSA’s top WeatherTech SportsCar championship class in 2017, the series is also considering the reintroduction of Pro-Am rules for a portion of its Prototype field.

In a nod to Grand-Am’s former Trueman-Akin subcategory for non-professional drivers, RACER has learned IMSA could implement a Pro-Am driver structure with the new-for-2017 spec WEC P2s. IMSA’s new Daytona Prototype internationals (DPi), which are built on the same WEC P2 platform but use custom engines and bodywork from auto manufacturers, would be exempt from the Pro-Am construct if the plan is adopted.

“It’s under consideration and it’s one of several examples where we are in the process of having what I would describe as town hall meetings,” IMSA President Scott Atherton told RACER. “It involves team owners, drivers in some examples, and manufacturers and sponsors, corporate partners and others. We’re really extracting a lot of feedback. And I think this is another example of IMSA wanting to make fully informed decisions.”

Atherton sees the benefit of a separate Pro-Am championship in the spirit of Trueman-Akin to entice more drivers to come into Prototype, and develop business opportunity for its teams.

“That’s the thinking behind pursuing one of the two options, in that it really depends on which of the gentlemen drivers you speak to, because some will tell you that the reason they are competing at that level is because they just want to race against the best in the world in – at the highest level of prototype racing that’s accessible to them.

“Others will say, you know, I really can’t get excited about racing for fifth or sixth or seventh, or pick a number, because they recognize that without an all-pro line-up, without a manufacturer-backed program, given the opportunities that they would have, that is what they would be competing for.

“So the question is, can you craft an overall platform that has the right attributes in place to be attractive to the professional teams and the manufacturer involvement that we envision DPi to deliver, but also have a component that makes it equally attractive to an independent team that perhaps comes with a Pro-Am lineup by design?

“There’s a couple of different ways to accomplish that. One would be to have that Trueman-Akin element within a single prototype category. The other would be to potentially define the ACO spec LMP2 car as a designated pro-am class within the prototype class. So that is not two separate classes but a subset of one prototype class. And that’s—there—there’s two schools of thought there and both are under consideration.”

IMSA Prototype team owner Michael Shank has been a steady advocate for the return of a Pro-Am option for the class, and likes the general direction of IMSA’s thinking. But he also has concerns about some of what he’s heard behind the scenes about Pro-Am cars being subject to a lower horsepower figure than DPis.

“It’s a good thing, but here’s my caveat: There’s no one who wants to come into a knife fight with less power in the big show,” Shank told RACER. “If you want to do a Pro-Am in the big show, at least give us the same power. If it isn’t like that, and we’re 30 or 40hp down, there’s no one who’ll want to turn up and lose in a Pro-Am car.”

The Ohio-based entrant is one of a few Prototype owners who’ve mentioned hearing the current LMP2 cars will be held to the same power levels in 2017, which would, in theory, leave them at a deficit to the higher power target for DPis.

“If I take by Ligier [JS P2] or [HPD] ARX-04b, I start wherever we end at the end of 2016. Now if they’re reconsidering that, I’ll change my mind. We’re going to have slim fields, so why wouldn’t they do that? If they’re worried about a 2016 car being faster than a 2017 car, what’s the real concern over the course of a season?

“I know they want the DPis as the top cars, especially with manufacturers involved, but if the grids are going to be short, making it more equal for everyone will get more cars out there and more drivers willing to spend money to race. I support the Pro-Am idea, but like I said, only as long as we have the same power to we’re in the fight. I can’t sell it, otherwise.”

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