Diffey Reflects on Return to IMSA Commentary as First WeatherTech Championship NBC Telecast Beckons
Monday, September 9, 2019

For most of a decade in the 2000s and early 2010s, the unmistakable Aussie voice of Leigh Diffey represented sports car racing on television in the United States.

Whether it was a GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series or an American Le Mans Series (ALMS) race, Diffey was usually delivering the play-by-play in his inimitable style to television viewers across the country. He even hosted the historic press conference at Daytona International Speedway on Sept. 5, 2012, when it was announced that GRAND-AM and the ALMS would be merging.

But then Diffey moved from the then-home of sports car racing to NBC Sports, becoming the voice of IndyCar, Formula 1 and other sports on the peacock’s family of networks.

“That, to me, has been one of the most fascinating elements,” said Diffey. “Having been one of the few people on the broadcast side – having lived both sides of the sports car equation for many years being in both the GRAND-AM Rolex Series paddock and also being in the ALMS paddock – and emceeing the merger announcement. But then stepping away and having to witness what the new collaboration looked like from afar and not seeing it up close.”

Diffey’s chance to see it up close finally came this year, as NBC Sports became the new U.S. television home of IMSA before the 2019 season.

“This is big-time,” Diffey said. “To see the manufacturers – not only the involvement but the activation with all of the hospitality areas and the displays from the manufacturers and sponsors – it just really stepped up a notch.

“I think it’s more than just a commentary line. It’s more than just a sales line or an interest line. IMSA genuinely is the best sports car racing in the world. When you have the caliber of the teams that the series boasts, the caliber of the drivers the series boasts and the caliber of the manufacturers the series boasts, I think there’s a lot to be proud of and there’s a lot to be excited about. That gets us to look forward to it week-in, week-out.”

This week, Diffey and IMSA fans throughout the U.S. get to look forward to two hours and 40 minutes of WeatherTech Championship action on the iconic, 2.238-mile, 11-turn WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca circuit in Monterey, California.

And while Diffey has been the primary play-by-play voice on NBC Sports’ WeatherTech Championship coverage on NBCSN and CNBC throughout 2019, this Sunday’s race telecast is special. It’ll be the first NBC network telecast, airing at 3 p.m. ET Sunday. Diffey will handle the play-by-play, being joined by a pair of veteran sports car racers in analysts Calvin Fish and AJ Allmendinger.

As the penultimate round of the 2019 WeatherTech Championship season, this Sunday’s race will be pivotal, making it that much more important to tune in. All four classes – Daytona Prototype international (DPi), LMP2, GT Le Mans (GTLM) and GT Daytona (GTD) – are competing together for the first time since last month’s race at Road America.

“Obviously, across all classes, the championships are yet to be decided, so that’s going to be an ongoing story,” Diffey said. “In DPi, can Penske hang on? What’s going to happen there? This year, it’s certainly been a terrific year for them, but Mazda has come on so strong. I think right across the classes, there’s some terrific storylines.  

“If you look at the GT cars, obviously Porsche has had quite the stranglehold on GTLM, so I’m looking forward to seeing how that shakes out. In GTD, the Shank car of Trent Hindman and Mario Farnbacher have quite a commanding lead. I’m not sure if anybody is going to be able to get close, but just as far as the performance on track, who’s next and ready to step it up in GTD?

“I’m looking forward to finishing what we could call the ‘regular season,’ if you wish, for Laguna being what it is before we go into the final endurance race of the year at (Motul) Petit Le Mans. So, yeah, there are a lot of different things to look forward to.”

Sunday’s race is the first of two consecutive races that will have NBC network coverage to close out the WeatherTech Championship season. NBC also will televise the first three hours of Motul Petit Le Mans from Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta on Saturday, Oct. 12 beginning at 12 p.m. ET, with continuing coverage on NBCSN, the NBC Sports App, and NBCSports.com.

IMSA’s television coverage on NBC Sports this year already has seen significant audience growth compared to previous seasons, and with six hours of NBC network coverage still to come this year, that audience figures to grow even larger by year’s end. Diffey offers advice for any newcomers to NBC’s programming.

“For somebody coming into it new, I would say, give it more than five minutes,” he said. “Don’t channel surf. Stay with it and give it a solid half an hour to see if it takes your fancy. A lot of people have a willingness to stay on that’s not very long. They want to be entertained immediately, and I think you will be.

“Certainly, just the nature of the cars is attractive enough, and then you’ll see some good racing. Give it a little bit so you can get into the groove of when we move the coverage around from class to class. You have to give it a little time, but I would encourage any first-time viewers and newcomers to sports car racing to give it a chance. Because once you do get into the groove and the nuances of it and moving around and understanding that there’s four races going on at one time on the track, it’s well worth the watch.”

In addition to NBC network coverage, IMSA Radio will cover all the action throughout the race weekend on IMSA.com and RadioLeMans.com, as well as race coverage airing on SiriusXM Radio.

Tickets are available now on WeatherTechRaceway.com.

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