IMSA Executive Helping Shape Future Path of Sports Car Racing
Braselton, GA - As Executive Director of the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA), and one of the most highly-respected officials in motorsports, Doug Robinson is a key element of the sanctioning body of the American Le Mans Series, working closely with race teams, manufacturers and others.
But Robinson's work behind the scenes and away from the race track is equally as important as he works with others from around the world to help shape the future path of professional sports car racing.
Robinson recently returned to IMSA's home offices in Georgia after participating on a technical committee in Paris that is bridging a long-standing gap that has existed in technical regulations affecting GT racing.
Currently a director of ACCUS and the FIA, as well as a director of the International Advisory Board of the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO), Robinson sits on many committees and attends many meetings that determine technical regulations for sports car racing. The American Le Mans Series operates on an agreement with the ACO, organizers of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, for use of the "Le Mans" name as well as technical regulations from the world's most famous endurance race.
"The American Le Mans Series is based on the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and we do receive technical rules from the ACO," said Robinson. "But we also have participation and input in the development of those regulations."
One major ongoing movement has been an effort to achieve common technical regulations for the two classes of competition involving production-based cars in Le Mans-style racing (including the American Le Mans Series, the 24 Hours of Le Mans and Le Mans Endurance Series) and the FIA GT Championship.
Robinson attended the Paris meeting as a member of the GT Technical Workgroup. This group meets four times a year to review the technical regulations for racing Grand Touring (GT) cars and to discuss any necessary modifications, additions, deletions or interpretations necessary for safety and fair competition at the top level of the sport.
The group is composed of technical representatives of manufacturers who are either participating or planning to participate in Le Mans-style events in North America and Europe or the FIA GT Championship. Rules writers from both the ACO and FIA participate, and the leadership of both organizations has jointly agreed to work through the group to attempt to achieve common regulations.
In 2005, the production classes of both organizations will be known as GT1 and GT2, with the technical regulations virtually the same for both. In past years, the ACO regulations called the classes "LM"GTS and "LM"GT, shortened to GTS and GT. In the FIA GT Series, the classes were called GT and N'GT.
The GT1 technical regulations have been completely approved with GT2 regulations scheduled to be presented to the FIA World Council for approval by early December.
American Le Mans Series fans will see little change, other than the class names, in the two production classes that are such an integral part of ALMS race weekends. The Corvettes, Saleens, Ferraris, Vipers, etc., of the former GTS class will continue to race each other in what is now known as GT1, and the Porsches, Ferraris, Panoz, etc., of what had been known as the GT class will battle under the new class name of GT2.
"The FIA GT Championship had to make some fairly significant changes in the process of reaching agreement with the ACO," said Robinson. "This happened reasonably quickly, through the consistent urging of the majority of the car manufacturers either currently racing or planning to begin in 2005 or 2006."
Robinson said that the GT Technical Workgroup meetings are also attended by National Sporting Authority (ASN) representatives from England, France, Japan and the United States to provide input and feedback concerning the national racing series that utilize the regulations as the basis for their competition.
"The biggest significance of this cooperative effort is that manufacturers can develop a single version of their race cars for participation in all three of the world's major automotive markets," said Robinson. The manufacturers are utilizing the construction and safety recommendations developed with input from the technical resources of the world's largest car and component manufacturers and incorporating the international governing body's safety, testing and homologation recommendations.
"This is especially important due to the requirement that each GT racing car is based upon a fully homologated road car that is suitable for regular highway use on public roads," Robinson said.
Robinson has made four trips to Europe so far this year to attend meetings and will attend another in mid-December. "It's very important that IMSA and the American Le Mans Series continue to be part of this process in order to keep sports car racing moving forward," he said. "I'm happy and honored to be part of the process."