Comfortable and confident in his new role as IMSA President, John Doonan watched Friday’s opening Roar Before the Rolex 24 WeatherTech Championship practice session tucked inside his office.
“It’s a little different not having a specific horse in the race,” Doonan admitted. “I sat back in my office for the first time all weekend and watched the first session quietly, because I didn’t want to show any emotion on pit road for anybody in particular.”
That was a far cry from last summer at Watkins Glen International, when Doonan, in his former role of Director of Mazda Motorsports North America, celebrated his team’s first triumph in Prototype competition by pouring chocolate milk in Victory Lane.
That celebration was repeated the following weekend at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, and again the following month at Road America.
Shortly after the season-ending Motul Petit Le Mans, Doonan was announced as the new head of the sanctioning body.
“Several people in the garage told me they couldn’t imagine me wearing a different shirt,” Doonan said. “It’s been an awesome journey. It was a boyhood dream to work for Mazda, and last summer was amazing. Rarely in life do you get to live two dreams. I explained to some folks at church – people who don’t necessarily understand sports car racing – that I used to be responsible for the elephants in the circus. Now, I’m responsible for the whole circus.
“Personally, this is an amazing opportunity for me, and I’m honored to work for the France family. IMSA was founded on a set of values that would allow racers, drivers, manufacturers, to go racing, at a variety of levels. It would be my personal goal to make sure that those original value statements that IMSA was founded on are carried through to today. Without a doubt, the staff of IMSA has done that with a lot of passion and professionalism, and I’m here and fortunate to be the next caretaker.”