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Interview: IMSA President John Doonan on This Weekend's Race at Laguna Seca

The May 12 race is the fourth of the 2024 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season

IMSA Porsche Rexy.jpg
  • We interview IMSA President John Doonan.
  • He shares preparations and expectations for this weekend's race at Laguna Seca.
  • 2024 Motul Course de Monterey is May 12.

Following the Long Beach Grand Prix last month, we interviewed International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) President John Doonan ahead of this weekend's race, the fourth of the 2024 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season. He shared insights into how his team prepares for a race and what he looks forward to from the May 12 Motul Course de Monterey, which takes place Sunday at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

For background, IMSA is the sanctioning body for several race series, including the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. In this capacity, it regulates and manages the events. It also helps develop rules and guidelines with the purpose of creating a safe and competitive environment for race teams.

Edmunds: How do you prepare for this weekend's race in Monterey?

Doonan: When I was a manufacturer team representative (with Mazda), all the hard work was done by the time we showed up to a race. Since I've been with IMSA I have a new appreciation for this side of things.

(After each race) an IMSA technical committee meets to review the data and demonstrated performance of each car. And we think about the next circuit. Each of the tracks has different sensitivities. There may be more high-speed sectors at Laguna Seca than (our last race at) Long Beach. There may be a higher top speed down Shoreline Drive than up the front straightaway at Laguna Seca. We analyze that. We know some cars are going to act differently (on different courses) so we plan around that (to even the competition).

(Race preparation also includes) pre-event media tours. And our promotional team is already thinking two to three events ahead of where we are now. This opportunity to continue to tell stories is critically important to us as we grow our audience. And it shows when you see the results of record fan attendance, great racing and more audience tuning in than we've ever seen before.

IMSA racing

Photo courtesy of IMSA

Edmunds: What are you looking forward to at Laguna Seca?

Doonan: This place is very similar to what Watkins Glen was and Road America is in terms of racing on the roads. The circuit is a result of the need to bring organization and safety to the Pebble Beach road races they used to have here. Laguna Seca itself has also provided some of the most exciting IMSA events, with things like last-lap passes through the Corkscrew. I also think WeatherTech Raceway is a bit of a spiritual home for our entitlement partner, the MacNeil family, which makes it special.

(David MacNeil is the owner of the WeatherTech company, current sponsor of both the Laguna Seca Raceway and the IMSA SportsCar Championship.)

The event has tremendous opportunity from a market standpoint too, because of where it is located geographically. Up the road, San Jose is all about technology and what is to come. It speaks to what we stand for in terms of technology on the cars, data capture, cutting-edge and sustainability messaging.

IMSA race car driving

Photo courtesy of IMSA

Edmunds: Can you speak to the importance of leveling performance between competitors to make for better racing?

Doonan: One of the cool elements we have now in GTP and GT cars is that we have a really good handle on how the cars make their pace.

There are going to be tracks like Daytona with so much wide open throttle where one car is going to shine over the other. You start to get more technical at a place like Sebring. Then you get to a place like Long Beach where it's a point-and-shoot track. Now you get to this flowing, natural terrain road course at Laguna Seca. You're going to see different cars roll to the top just based on how these cars deliver power. We have new tools with torque sensors and a very comprehensive BoP (balance of performance) process (to keep competition fair).

One of the things that I love about sports car racing, and I've loved it since I was a little kid, is you don't know who is going to win. I think we're at a place now where it is somewhat of a complete unknown because of how well-matched the cars are. So I'm excited to see who comes to the top at Laguna.

Edmunds says

The 2024 Motul Course De Monterey festivities take place all weekend at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, with the finale set for May 12.