IMSA releases its 2017 calendars

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – At its quickly becoming annual state of the series event at Road America, IMSA has revealed the 2017 calendars for its IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama, and newly rebranded IMSA Prototype Challenge presented by Mazda.

Starting with the WeatherTech Championship first, the big changes are twofold – the Circuit of The Americas and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca dates change.

Circuit of The Americas is now a May standalone date, separate from the FIA World Endurance Championship, which brings to an end the Lone Star Le Mans weekend at the end of this year.

Meanwhile the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca date moves to September.

Here’s your reasoning on both of these adjustments, per IMSA President Scott Atherton:

“We’ll take COTA first. We have been there from the start after the American Le Mans Series went by itself. Since we’ve merged we’ve been there with the World Endurance Championship,” Atherton said. “It’s been a spectacular weekend, but it’s come with a lot of compromise by all involved.

“It also has had issues with its proximity on the calendar to college football which is enormous in that part of the world and also in proximity to the Formula 1 race that takes place. So it definitely has a distraction from their staff, their marketing efforts. Let’s be honest: a Formula 1 weekend is their biggest so that’s where their focus is.

“So we had a desire to go to a springtime date. Grand-Am raced there in the spring, had a very successful weekend and that’s been our desire. We made that known to COTA as well as to our partners at WEC. We were able to confirm a date. I don’t have knowledge of what the WEC plans are and candidly it’s not for us to speculate. Right now, we’re pleased with that decision, looking forward to an IMSA weekend at COTA in the spring.

“The second example, simply the opportunity to open up that weekend by virtue moving our weekend at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Again, fall on the Monterey peninsula is a spectacular time of year. It’s a traditional time of year for road racing, big events. They’re big historic car weekend in August followed by what will now be the WeatherTech Championship, got an entire weekend there in September. So same venues, slight modifications on the weekends and some other alterations on the class structure at each event. But all in all, couldn’t be more pleased with the calendar.”

Here’s the WeatherTech Championship schedule:

2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Schedule
Date Event (Duration) / Venue Classes / Duration
Jan. 26-29 Rolex 24 At Daytona P/PC/GTLM/GTD
Daytona International Speedway – Daytona Beach, Florida 24 Hours
March 15-18 Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida P/PC/GTLM/GTD
Sebring International Raceway – Sebring, Florida 12 Hours
April 7-8 BUBBA burger SportsCar Grand Prix at Long Beach P/GTLM/GTD
Long Beach, California 100 Minutes
May 5-7 Circuit of The Americas P/PC/GTLM/GTD
Austin, Texas 2 Hours, 40 Minutes
June 2-3 Chevrolet Belle Isle Detroit Grand Prix P/PC/GTD
Belle Isle Park – Detroit, Michigan 100 Minutes
June 30-July 2 Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen P/PC/GTLM/GTD
Watkins Glen International – Watkins Glen, New York 6 Hours
July 7-9 Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix P/PC/GTLM/GTD
Canadian Tire Motorsport Park – Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada 2 Hours, 40 Minutes
July 21-22 IMSA WeatherTech Northeast Grand Prix GTLM/GTD
Lime Rock Park – Lakeville, Connecticut 2 Hours, 40 Minutes
Aug. 4-6 Continental Tire Road Race Showcase P/PC/GTLM/GTD
Road America – Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin 2 Hours, 40 Minutes
Aug. 25-27 Michelin GT Challenge GTLM/GTD
VIRginia International Raceway – Danville, Virginia 2 Hours, 40 Minutes
Sept. 22-24 Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix powered by Mazda P/GTLM/GTD
Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca – Monterey, California 2 Hours, 40 Minutes
Oct. 5-7 Petit Le Mans P/PC/GTLM/GTD
Road Atlanta – Braselton, Georgia 10 Hours
IMSA WeatherTech Championship Sanctioned Test Sessions
Date Venue Classes
Nov. 15-16, 2016 Daytona International Speedway P/PC/GTLM/GTD
Daytona Beach, Florida
Dec. 13-14, 2016 Daytona International Speedway P/GTLM/GTD
Daytona Beach, Florida
Jan. 6-8, 2017 Roar Before The Rolex 24 At Daytona P/PC/GTLM/GTD
Daytona Beach, Florida
Feb. 23-24, 2017 Sebring International Raceway P/PC/GTLM/GTD
Sebring, Florida

Shifting to the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge next, changes come with a reduction in standard races to a two-hour format, from two hours and 30 minutes. Meanwhile two four-hour races are added at Daytona and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, to differentiate.

Class structure stays the same with GT4 becoming the GS platform in 2018. Discussions are possible for TCR to enter into this series by 2018.

Here’s the Continental Tire schedule:

2017 IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge Schedule
Date Venue / Location Duration
Jan. 27 Daytona International Speedway – Daytona Beach, Florida 4 Hours
March 17 Sebring International Raceway – Sebring, Florida 2 Hours
May 6 Circuit of The Americas – Austin, Texas 2 Hours
July 1 Watkins Glen International – Watkins Glen, New York 2 Hours
July 8 Canadian Tire Motorsport Park – Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada 2 Hours
July 22 Lime Rock Park – Lakeville, Connecticut 2 Hours
Aug. 4-6 Road America – Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin 2 Hours
Aug. 26 VIRginia International Raceway – Danville, Virginia 2 Hours
Sept. 23 Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca – Monterey, California 4 Hours*
Oct. 6 Road Atlanta – Braselton, Georgia 2 Hours
* – Subject to final confirmation

The Prototype Challenge presented by Mazda series is the rebranded Mazda Prototype Lites presented by Cooper Tires, which in 2015 was the Cooper Tires Prototype Lites presented by Mazda.

It adds LMP3 race cars, and the new championship will race a 13-round schedule at seven premier North American circuits.

Prototype Challenge action will be divided into two classes, blending new and existing IMSA machinery. The PC1 class will feature LM P3 chassis from as many as six different constructors powered by identical V8 engines.

The PC2 class will use the existing Élan DP02 chassis powered by Mazda engines currently used in the Lites 1 class of the Mazda Prototype Lites Presented by Cooper Tires, the foundation for the new IMSA Prototype Challenge series.

Here’s that schedule:

2017 IMSA Prototype Challenge presented by Mazda Schedule
Date Venue
March 17-18 Sebring International Raceway, Sebring, Florida*
April 21-23 Barber Motorsports Park, Birmingham, Alabama
June 30-July 2 Watkins Glen International, Watkins Glen, New York*
July 7-9 Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, Bowmanville, Ontario*
July 21-22 Lime Rock Park, Lakeville, Connecticut* **
Aug. 11-13 Grand Prix of Trois-Rivières, Trois-Rivières, Quebec
Oct. 5-7 Road Atlanta, Braselton, Georgia*

* — In conjunction with IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship events
** — Will feature a single, 45-minute race

The only note of note from the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama was the inclusion of a couple Verizon IndyCar Series dates. See that schedule below:

2017 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama Schedule
Date Venue
March 17-18 Sebring International Raceway, Sebring, Florida*
April 21-23 Barber Motorsports Park, Birmingham, Alabama
May/June To Be Confirmed
June 30-July 2 Watkins Glen International, Watkins Glen, New York*
Aug. 4-6 Road America, Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin*
Aug. 25-27 VIRginia International Raceway, Danville, Virginia*
Sept. 15-17 Sonoma Raceway, Sonoma, California
Oct. 5-7 Road Atlanta, Braselton, Georgia*

* — In conjunction with IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship events

SuperMotocross: Ken Roczen urgently needed change

Roczen change
Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media
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Change can be frightening, but it is often exhilarating and Ken Roczen, a rider in his ninth season on a 450 bike, it was urgently needed.

Roczen ended the 2022 Supercross season with his worst performance in five years. After finishing outside of the top five in seven of his last eight rounds in the stadium series, well down the points’ standings in ninth, he decided to put that season on hold.

How it ended was in stark contrast to how it began. Roczen’s 2022 season got off to the best possible start. He won the Supercross opener at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California by more than seven seconds over the 2021 champion Cooper Webb.

That would be his last podium and he scored only one more top-five in the Glendale, Arizona Triple Crown.

MORE: Ken Roczen sweeps top five in Anaheim 2 Triple Crown

Before 2022, Roczen was a regular challenger for the championship despite being plagued by major accidents that required surgery in 2017 and 2018. On his return, he was diagnosed with the Epstein-Barr virus, which presents with symptoms of heavy fatigue, muscle weakness and loss of appetite and last year he tested positive for COVID-19.

Against those odds, he finished second in the outdoor season in 2019 and third in 2020. In the Supercross series, he finished third in 2020 and second in 2021.

But the abbreviated season of 2022 signaled a need for change for Roczen.

“I needed the change urgently,” Roczen said in last week’s post-race press conference at Angel Stadium. “I did a pretty big change in general.”

Those comments came three races into the 2023 with him sitting among the top three finishers for the first time in 10 Supercross rounds. It was the 57th podium of his career, only six behind 10th-place Ryan Villopoto. It was also the first for Suzuki since 2019 when Chad Reed gave them one in Detroit 63 rounds ago.

Taking time off at the end of the Supercross season had the needed effect. He rejoined SuperMotocross in the outdoor season and immediately stood on the podium at Fox Raceway in Pala, California. Two rounds later, he won at Thunder Valley in Lakewood, Colorado. The relief was short lived and he would not stand on the podium again until this year.

Roczen Motocross Round 3
Ken Roczen won Round 3 of the outdoor season in 2022 at Thunder Valley after finished second in Moto 1 and first in Moto 2. Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

Winds of Change

Roczen’s offseason was dramatic. Citing differences over his announcement to compete in the World Supercross Championship, he split with Honda HRC and declared himself a free agent. It wasn’t a difficult decision; Roczen was signed only for the Supercross season.

That change had the desired effect. Roczen won the WSX championship in their two-race, pilot season. More importantly, he proved to himself that he could compete for wins.

Late in the offseason, Roczen announced he would also change manufacturers with a move to HEP Progressive Ecstar Suzuki. He won the 2016 Pro Motocross title for Suzuki with nine wins in 12 Nationals and finished no worse than second. He easily outran the competition with an advantage of 86 points over second-place Eli Tomac.

“I just think change overall made it happen – and these overseas races – it’s really just a snowball,” Roczen said. “You start somewhere and you feel like something works out and I got better and had more fun doing it. Working with the team as well and working on the motorcycle to get better and actually see it paying off. It’s just, it’s just a big boost in general.”

The return to Suzuki at this stage of his career, after nearly a decade of competing on 450 motorcycles, recharged Roczen. He is one of three riders, (along with Cooper Webb and his former Honda teammate Chase Sexton), with a sweep of the top five in the first three rounds of the 2023 Supercross season.

But last week’s podium really drove home how strong he’s been.

“I think we’re all trying to take it all in,” Roczen said. “I wouldn’t say it came out of nowhere really, but before the season starts you think about – or I thought of how my whole last season went – and it’s been a long time since I’ve been on the podium.”

Roczen’s most recent podium prior to Anaheim 2 came at Budds Creek Motocross Park in Mechanicsville, Maryland last August in Round 10 of the outdoor season. His last podium in Supercross was the 2022 season opener that raised expectations so high.

Supercross Round 1 results
Ken Roczen raised expectations with his season opening win at Anaheim but did not stand on the box again in the Supercross series. Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

The change Roczen needed was not just a different team and bike. More importantly, he needed the freedom to set his own schedule and control his training schedule.

“It’s long days, but I’m really into it at the moment,” Roczen said. “Overall, I felt [that] throughout this off season and now my health has been really well, really good, so that helps. It’s needed to get to the top. I’m pretty confident that we’re, we’re doing the right thing – that I’m doing the right thing.

“I’m doing all my training on my own and I’m planning out my entire week. And I feel like I have a really good system going right now with recovery and putting in some hard days. Right now, I don’t really have anybody telling me what to do. I’m the best judge of that.

“It’s really hard to talk about how much work we’ve put in, but we’ve been doing some big changes and riding a lot throughout the week, some really, really late days. And they’re paying off right now; we’re heading in the right direction. We’re all pulling on the same string, and that helps me out big time.”