Fans of the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship have quite a bit to look forward to in the future. They were given a glimpse of the changes taking place in the series in the GT classes this year; changes which resulted in 10 cars competing in the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class and 20 cars competing in the GT Daytona (GTD) class in last Sunday’s 12 Hours of Sebring.
The GTLM cars are now consistent with the ACO (Automobile Club of the West) and their GT rules, while the GTD class follows FIA (International Automobile Federation) GT3 specifications.
“For us to join that party has been a real positive all the way around; new manufacturers, new teams, new content, both in GTLM and GTD,” said International Motor Sports Association president and Chief Operating Officer Scott Atherton. “This is our year of GT, next year will be our year of Prototype.”
While the GT changes went into effect this year, it’s next year that has everybody talking, as the Daytona Prototype (DP) is going away.
“It’s time,” Atherton said. “The DP has served its purpose beyond expectations I think of the highest level. The latest evolution of the Daytona Prototype is a good-looking, incredibly strong and obviously very fast and very reliable. It does everything you hope and want a racecar to do.
The drivers love racing them, their safe and I think they’re going to have a long, long life in different applications; vintage racing, collectors and all that.”
All Prototype teams will essentially be using Le Mans Prototype 2s, although there will be minor differences between the LMP2 cars being used in Europe and what will be known as Daytona Prototype International, or Dpi, in the WeatherTech series. But just a few modifications to the Dpi cars will have them completely eligible for ant World Endurance Championship event they may want to enter.
Atherton said he foresees many of the dynamics now taking place in the GT classes to transfer over to the Prototype class next year.
“You see how closely contested our GT classes are right now,” he said. “There’s absolutely no way to predict who is going to win races right now. We have 13 auto manufacturers involved and the good news is there are more coming. We saw the announcing of Lexus coming and that’s yet another mainstream major manufacturer that’s coming to the GT Daytona class.”
COMPETITION CROSSING OVER
While the changes will make it easier for teams to compete in both World Endurance Racing Events and WeatherTech events, Atherton said it was more likely for teams from WeatherTech to compete at Le Mans, while some WEC teams may want to attempt Daytona and possibly Sebring, although scheduling makes Sebring a tough task.
What is more likely is that teams will crossover to a different series and use cars already located where they are racing, which is what Michael Shank Racing will do when they compete in Le Mans this year.
Atherton said Simon Hodgson, vice president of competition, and David Petit, vice president of marketing, have done a great job and those are key positions that affect what IMSA does.
The future looks bright for the series, with WeatherTech taking over as the new title partner and FOX as the television partner, not to mention a schedule that includes the most historic venues in North America. The series also has the vast resources of NASCAR behind it.
“I’ve been doing this for 16 years, starting in the early, early days of the American Le Mans Series and I’m not exaggerating, but we’ve never been in a position like we are right now,” Atherton said. “It’s a great time to be a fan of sportscar racing in North America.”
Atherton said he’s already noticed a much more positive mood all throughout the series and he was excited to see what the future has in store.
There’s a much different mood in our paddock than there was a year ago, certainly two years ago,” he said. “It’s much more positive, it’s much more productive. I think you’re seeing sportscar racing coming into a golden era. I think we’re on the leading edge of what will be described years from now as a golden era of professional sportscar racing in North America.”