IMSA makes further changes to competition department

IMSA President and COO Scott Atherton, center, explains the changes to the management department. 

John Dagys

IMSA announced Friday a significant shakeup in its management, which has seen the addition of Simon Hodgson and Beaux Barfield to the competition department with former VP of competition, Scot Elkins, being refocused to technical regulations only.

The sweeping changes, with two races remaining in the inaugural season of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, comes at a positive, according to IMSA President and COO Scott Atherton, who has explained the reasoning behind the reshuffle.

“The reason we are bringing in Simon Hodgson is to provide a level of leadership and a [single] team management model focused on the Daytona headquarters,” Atherton told Sportscar365.

“When Scot’s decision was made for his reasons to return to Georgia, it would have been possible to continue the technical management role but it would not have been feasible for him to be in the people management role in the leadership position that’s required within any corporate headquarters setting.

“We’re looking forward to reaping the benefits of both, having Scot focused on the things he does best and having a new incremental addition to our team in the form of Simon in all that he can bring to what we’re doing.”

Atherton said the primary reason for the change, which sees the former Wayne Taylor Racing team manager take over duties as Managing Director of Racing Operations, is for Elkins to focus on his expertise in the technical regulations and international relations with the ACO and FIA.

“If you talk to Scot about this, he would say that there were simply not enough hours in a day, and as a result, there were things that were not getting the appropriate amount of attention that he would have otherwise would have liked to give it,” Atherton said.

“The scope and scale of the merged entity here with all that we have going on, all of the different racing platforms that are under the IMSA umbrella, the inherent complications that come with merging two organizations like this together… I don’t think there’s anyone that would argue that [it’s a job big enough] for two people.”

The other significant change comes with Beaux Barfield replacing Paul Walter as race director, a move that sees Barfield return to the sports car racing paddock full-time following a three-year stint as IndyCar’s race director.

While IMSA’s race control staff had been come under fire this year with multiple controversial calls, notably at Daytona and Sebring, Atherton said the reshuffle is also to better suit Walter’s abilities in what he calls the “back of the house” division of the company.

“We’ve been able to focus Paul on those areas and enable Beaux to come in to do what he does best, which is the ‘front of the house’ activities as race director,” Atherton said.

“What we’ve effectively done is put the race control staff in place in what, I believe, was the peak of our efficiency and effectiveness back in the ALMS era when Beaux was in the left seat, Paul was in the right seat and Scot Elkins was standing behind both of them, both figuratively and literally, in that capacity.

IndyCar race director moves over to IMSA

“I won’t say it’s identical but I’d say it’s very similar to that configuration.”

Atherton, meanwhile, doesn’t expect any immediate changes to the race procedures with Barfield now in command, especially with championships on the line heading into the final two races.

“I think over time every race director brings their own style and mojo to that role,” he said. “But we have a paddock that’s grown accustomed to the way these races are administrated.

“I think having Paul being an active part of our race control staff, that his influence, albeit it with Beaux’s responsibility and accountability for the race, should be a relatively seamless transition.

“But over time… Beaux will have the autonomy to bring his style along. But I don’t want there to be any radical changes any time soon.”

Despite being in the late stages of the season, Atherton feels the timing was right for the changes, as manufacturers and teams plan for 2015.

“We understand the gravity of making such changes with two races to go but we feel that it sends a loud and clear message to our stakeholders, some of whom were looking to us for change or at least looking to us for direction for the future,” he said.

“There’s a lot of plans being made for next year. Our goal was not just say, ‘Watch this space, I promise we’re going to make the right decisions. Just be patient.’

“I see the timing of [the changes] as being a positive, not a negative.”