John Doonan Leaves Mazda Racing for IMSA Presidency

AutoInformed on Mazda Team Joest RT-24P in the 2019 IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship

Good for IMSA and sports car racing. Mazda?

The International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) announced yesterday that John Doonan has been named the next president of the sanctioning body effective 1 January 2020. Since his first day on the job is next Monday, the quick driver change in an undercut pit stop likely caught Mazda unaware, since it remained on the trailer with no simultaneous release or web site acknowledgement.

Doonan was previously the director of motorsports for Mazda North America Operations where he developed the strategy and managed Mazda’s high-profile motorsports programs in North America.

“John is a fantastic choice to become our next president, to build upon the momentum of our just-completed 50th anniversary season,” said Ed Bennett, IMSA chief executive officer. “He is respected, well known in our paddock, and brings a strong passion for motorsport that will greatly benefit everyone involved.”

Doonan, who joined Mazda in 2003 as the regional advertising manager in the Midwest region and was promoted to the director of motorsports position in 2011, succeeds Scott Atherton, who last month announced his retirement as IMSA president at the end of the year.

While at Mazda, Doonan led Mazda Team Joest, which competes in the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) class of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. This IMSA program is the top of the Mazda Road to 24, a platform that provides drivers a step system from grassroots racing to the top levels of sports car racing in North America. The Road to 24 program uses the Global Mazda MX-5 Cup, a professional single make series with the latest generation Mazda MX.

The last ten hours of racing for Mazda Team Joest in the 2019 IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship season,  produced good, but not great results with 5th and 6th place finishes overall in the championship.

After a leisurely start, the team entered the last race of the championship with  “pace” – three wins in the previous four races. The first of the three consecutive victories for Mazda Team Joest came at the previous round of the Michelin Endurance Cup at the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen when the No. 55 Mazda RT24-P of Jonathan Bomarito, Olivier Pla and Harry Tincknell took the victory with the No. 77 Mazda RT24-P of Timo Bernhard, Oliver Jarvis and Tristan Nunez finishing in second place.

Mazda Team Joest scored a double podium at Petit Le Mans in 2018 by finishing second and third. Mazda also scored the LMP2 class victory in 2009 at Petit Le Mans with Dyson Racing.  In recent weeks, Mazda also announced a new Mazda3 TCR car which will allow customer teams and drivers to compete in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge among TCR’s many global championships.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime and dream opportunity after attending IMSA races since I was young boy,” Doonan said. “I’m really looking forward to making a positive impact for our sport, our partners and our industry.”

IMSA will kick off its 51st season with the 2020 Roar Before the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway on January 3-5. The 58th running of the season-opening Rolex 24 will take place Saturday and Sunday, January 26-27.

One wonders what will happen to Mazda racing?

John Doonan on John Noonan IMSA President October 2019Doonan earned a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Business Administration from Augustana College and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree from Western Illinois University.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime and dream opportunity after attending IMSA races since I was young boy,” Doonan said.

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