John Doonan Speaks at General Membership Meeting
John Doonan, president of IMSA, was the guest speaker at Chicago Region SCCA’s membership meeting on Wednesday, April 20, at K1 Speed in Addison. John, shared with us some of his stories, and experiences growing up at Road America, Blackhawk Farms and in the racing community as a young boy. His grandfather and father were both racers with the club and John was exposed to all the facets of racing. He stated that all of those experiences and lessons learned about racing on track and trackside is what prepared him for current position with IMSA.
Before becoming president of IMSA, John was the face of the Mazda North American motorsports program. For many years He was leading the company’s involvement in IMSA, the American Le Mans Series, Grand Am, MX-5 Cup and the USF2000 championship as well as the Mazda’s driver development program. He told us that when he began at Mazda he believed he had found his dream job.
In 2012 through some negotiation of racing entities NASCAR became involved in road racing. In 2013 a unified series was announced as the Tudor United SportsCar Championship (now known as IMSA). In the fall of 2019 it was announced, that then-director of Mazda motorsports program in North America, John Doonan would be the new President of IMSA.
John shared that knowing how the NASCAR organization is structured and with his knowledge of Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) he proposed to the NASCAR leadership that a partnership with SCCA was vital to the success of IMSA racing. With NASCAR agreement John met with Mike Cobb the president of SCCA and they created a partnership between both organizations. John stressed the importance of this relationship and encouraged all in attendance to do their part in helping to bring in new members to our racing family.
John also told us about the new class structure for the 2022 IMSA Weathertech SportsCar Championship, with the exciting influx of manufacturers to IMSA series. There will be two production classes, GTD PRO, and GTD. The PRO side will see cars from AMG, Aston Martin, BMW, Chevrolet, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Lexus, and Porsche. The GTD class will include some of the previous mentioned manufacturers plus Acura, McLaren. In the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class we will see Acura, Audi, BMW, Cadillac, and Porsche competing one another all using one of four chassis designs.
Earlier in the article we mentioned NASCAR. What does NASCAR have to do with IMSA and road racing? Well John explained, and told us about the new NASCAR Garage 56 initiative. Some 50 years ago NASCAR ventured to Le Mans with a stock car. Next year NASCAR and Hendrick Motorsports are planning to compete at the 24 Hours of Le Mans with a special “Next Gen Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 race car as a Garage 56 entry for the 24 hour classic. John shared that this car may show up at some IMSA races this year, as a shake down preparing for next June in France.
Following the presentation John opened the floor for questions, and made sure every question was addressed. There were also many friends of John’s in the audience, assisting with additional information and stories which added to the enjoyment of the 100 in attendance. Burt Levy was there as well providing everyone with an opportunity to purchase his new book “The 200 MPH Steamroller Book III – Out of the Mist”, or other merchandise. Burt was also handing out free copies of Vintage Motorsports magazine for all that wanted a copy.
For those in attendance we hope you had a good time, and for those that missed this opportunity watch Piston Patter and the Region web-site for the next membership meeting this fall. Until then we’ll see you at the races.