IMSA bows to team pressure

...and United decides to boycott Daytona 24 Hours

The 2018 Daytona 24 Hours gave a glimpse of what diehard sports car fans think the race should be — an event at which top teams from around the world slug it out for victory. But dreams of the Florida enduro becoming much more than just the opening round of the IMSA SportsCar Championship are no more. 

Fernando Alonso probably wasn’t going to return to Daytona next January, but the United Autosports team that ran him during 2018 had promised to put together a top driver line-up in a pair of Ligier LMP2s. Now the Le Mans 24 Hours regular has shelved those plans, because it will no longer have the chance to win.

That’s because IMSA has decided that, from next season, the LMP2s will race in a class of their own rather than competing with the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) machinery for overall victory. P2 will be a pro-am category and the cars will be slower than the DPis. It will become a B-class by any other name. 

It seems IMSA has yielded to pressure from its teams. DPi manufacturers want to be unleashed from the restrictions that allowed P2s to compete. And the full-season P2 entrants want their own podium ceremony. 

The US organiser has done what it needed to do to protect its series. But the absence of the likes of United, with its roster of big-name drivers, can only be to the detriment of Daytona’s international standing.