Looking into IMSA’s 2021 crystal ball can’t begin without looking in the rearview mirror, as John Doonan and the IMSA team performed a miracle, COVID-19 notwithstanding.
They packed every race on the schedule, save one (Watkins Glen), into a mad rush to the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring, which ended the season in mid-November.
The battle for the DPi championship came down to the last lap at Sebring (Fla.) Int’l Raceway with the No. 7 Penske Acura winning the title by a single point over the Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac. It was Team Penske’s final race, and secured Helio Castroneves, who teamed with Ricky Taylor, his first drivers’ championship.
In GTLM, the CORE Autosport Porsche won at Sebring — its last race as a factory team.
The roar had barely faded before IMSA was looking ahead to the new season, which begins Jan. 30-31 at Florida’s Daytona Int’l Speedway.
Doonan, who is starting his second season as IMSA president, has reason to be optimistic.
“Certainly, one of the most anticipated changes we’re looking forward to next year is the return to what we’re hoping is a normal IMSA season as soon as it is safe to do so,” Doonan said. “We are grateful to our promoter partners for working with us to successfully recast our 2020 WeatherTech Championship schedule, but we’ve enjoyed date equity for several years with many of our events and we can’t wait for that to return next season.
“This will be one of the most active — albeit also one of the shortest — offseasons we’ve ever had, with a number of teams, drivers and manufacturers making changes to their programs. This will truly be a silly season unlike anything we’ve seen before,” Doonan continued.” But while there will be a lot of familiar faces in different places next year, we expect the overall grid to be very strong from the Rolex 24 At Daytona in January all the way through to the Motul Petit Le Mans next October.”
The schedule has some interesting changes. The WeatherTech SportsCar Championship returns to the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, Watkins Glen Int’l, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and Lime Rock Park after a year’s absence.
Teams head west in a single road trip — beginning with Long Beach on April 16-17 and followed by WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca one weekend later on April 23-25. The FIA World Endurance squads will also return to the continent with events at Sebring, Watkins Glen and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.
The class structure is basically unchanged and includes the addition of LMP3, an entry-level, Pro-Am class. The cars have spec chassis from four approved constructors — Ligier, Duqueine Engineering, Ginetta and Adess — using 455-horsepower Nissan VK56 engines.
New LMP3 cars or earlier models that have been updated to the new Evo will be eligible for WeatherTech Championship competition. This gives younger drivers a chance to show their stuff, as they will run at six events.
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