By John Oreovicz
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Mark Stielow is a General Motors lifer and a longtime racer. So, it’s appropriate that he’s become GM’s overall motorsports boss.
Stielow was appointed Director of Motorsport Competition Engineering for GM Racing in September 2020, taking overall responsibility for GM’s racing programs in IMSA, IndyCar and NHRA drag racing. His IMSA role oversees the Cadillac effort in the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) category and Corvette Racing in GT Le Mans (GTLM) in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, as well as Chevrolet’s customer Camaro GT4 program in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge.
Stielow said he has devoted much of his time during his first seven months on the job toward determining GM’s future in sports car racing.
IMSA is eliminating the GTLM class in 2022, creating a new category called GTD PRO that complies with international GT3 sports car regulations. The recently introduced Corvette C8.R that won the 2020 GTLM championship does not currently comply to those rules, though Stielow confirmed GM is working on a GT3 version of the C8-generation Corvette.
In addition, the DPi category will be replaced in 2023 by a new class called LMDh. These prototype cars will feature a hybrid element to the powertrain and will be eligible to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in addition to the WeatherTech Championship.
Porsche, Audi and Acura have already revealed their intent to compete in IMSA’s LMDh class beginning in 2023. Stielow expects to make an announcement regarding GM’s future participation in LMDh and GTD PRO “in the next 45 days.”
“The GTLM class is going to converge into GT Daytona PRO, so we’ve been working a lot on a conversion package for that,” Stielow said on a media conference call. “There has been a lot of investigation, a lot of work has been done on our end studying the LMDh proposal. LMDh is very interesting to us and there’s going to be a lot of manufacturers in that space, so we’ve been heavily looking at that.
“There’s going to be some exciting stuff going on in motorsports in the next few years.”
With NASCAR and IndyCar also adopting a hybrid element to their future technical specifications, Stielow is hoping there is eventually a way to share technology between different forms of racing. That could increase participation and reduce development costs.
“In a utopian world, it would be awesome if those guys all worked together and we could come up with a common solution,” he said. “But for a lot of reasons, everybody wants their own special mousetrap. So, what I’ve seen so far is everybody is heading down a slightly different path. In everything we’ve seen, there is very little sharing between the sanctioning bodies. But that stuff seems to be changing all the time. These meetings are constantly evolving.”
The COVID-19 pandemic made Stielow’s first seven months more challenging than expected, full of cancellations, delays and rescheduled events.
A recent adjustment to the WeatherTech Championship schedule to accommodate the date change for the 24 Hours of Le Mans created a small silver lining in the clouds for GM: Corvette Racing will now be able to demonstrate the mid-engine C8.R for hometown fans at the Detroit Grand Prix for the first time, June 11-12.
“It’s always good to play on a home field, racing in the shadow of the Ren Cen (the Renaissance Center, the skyscraper in downtown Detroit that serves as General Motors headquarters),” Stielow said. “In my previous jobs at GM, I’ve actually driven some of the parade cars down there. So, it’s nice to run that event and for us to do well. Unfortunately, there are some prior commitments that Porsche can’t get out of, so we’ll be running the Corvette as an exhibition.
“But the Cadillacs will be there strong, and IndyCar also,” he added. “It’s always a fun event.”
The WeatherTech Championship event at Detroit’s Belle Isle Park will feature a 100-minute race involving the DPi and GT Daytona (GTD) classes along with Corvette Racing. The DPi results will count toward the season-long class championship, while GTD will race for IMSA WeatherTech Sprint Cup points.