IMSA President John Doonan says the American sportscar sanctioning body is working as hard as it can to get its 2020 season back on track, following the COVID-19 pandemic, by working with the Department of Homeland Security to allow its non-US drivers and personnel to gain entry into the country.
IMSA’s flagship WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is scheduled to restart on July 4 at Daytona following a lengthy hiatus since the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona in January.
Speaking to Motorsport.com in the latest episode of our #ThinkingForward series, Doonan says he’s been hugely encouraged by NASCAR’s smooth transition to restart its series with health screening and social distancing measures, but is well aware that the international flavor of IMSA adds an additional hurdle in terms of getting all of its non-American personnel to Florida next month.
Some of IMSA’s leading drivers, key engineers and mechanics come from Europe, and so cannot travel directly to the USA without special dispensation.
“We’re back as a sport, which is thrilling,” said Doonan of NASCAR’s return. “And I think the other real positive is that we’ve been able to do it with restrictions but in a very controlled and safe manner. Outside of the masks and people being very sensitive to social distancing, and several other protocols, it was business as usual. The mechanics and teams were doing their work, getting the car prepared, pitstops just the same as it would be and we’re trying to do the same get ready to go here on July 4 at Daytona.
“For us at IMSA, we’ve had an additional bump in the road, because the ‘I’ in IMSA is for ‘International’. We have been in touch with Homeland Security, and we’ve had meetings with them in an attempt to allow our overseas drivers and critical personnel, that we need to execute the event, to be able to get into the US. We’re encouraged by initial communications with Homeland Security, in allowing our professional athletes and engineers and mechanics to get back into the country.”
Incoming travel for non-US residents from Europe was banned in mid-March, and Brazil was also recently added to that list. Even US residents travelling from Europe are advised to self-quarantine on arrival for 14 days.
In terms of getting fans back to the circuits in future, Doonan said he is being guided by the authorities. He has tentatively targeted the Road America event in August, but is well aware that it’s a fluid situation.
“Each of the states has different mandates,” said Doonan. “We are hopeful that somewhere around the first of August, there might be an opportunity to compete with fans at our Road America event. Also we are in deep investigations to possibly be able to have fans at some NASCAR events coming up, as well as our first event here on July 4 at Daytona.
“Again, it’ll be under strict guidelines where folks may be able to drive their car in and park and watch from there, or potentially, some seating arrangements in the grandstands that are separated, but there’s a lot to still investigate there. As always, in motorsport the number one goal is safety.”
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