Manufacturers Approve of Move to GT3 Spec Cars for Both GT Classes in 2022
By Mark Robinson
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – As another intense, competitive season winds down for the Grand Touring (GT) classes of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, anticipation is soaring for the new direction the classes will take in 2022.
Starting next season, the Grand Touring Daytona Pro (GTD PRO) class succeeds GT Le Mans (GTLM) as the top level of WeatherTech Championship GT racing, featuring primarily factory-supported efforts. The GT Daytona (GTD) class will remain in its current form, using customer teams and requiring a driver rated at the Bronze or Silver level to be paired with a higher-rated professional.
The biggest change is that GTD PRO and GTD cars will share a common FIA GT3 specification that allows the cars to compete globally, including at the 24 Hours of Le Mans starting in 2024. In IMSA, the classes will use the same, data-driven Balance of Performance (BoP) process, though the BoP for each class will be independently managed.
Manufacturers currently competing in IMSA’s GT classes are overwhelmingly excited for what the future holds.
“It could be one of the big milestones in motorsport history that IMSA and ACO (Automobile Club de l’Ouest) are working together and sharing the same cars and specs and platforms,” said Volker Holzmeyer, who assumes the CEO role at Porsche Motorsport North America in January 2022. “In addition to that, it was presented during Le Mans that the GT3 cars are going to be eligible in ’24 at Le Mans somehow.
“I think that’s all the direction to bring more standardization to motorsport in general. The (manufacturers and teams) who have the cars can join multiple series and events throughout the whole world, so this is a great new era I’m stepping into. I’m looking forward to it.”
Giorgio Sanna, Head of Lamborghini Motorsport which, like Porsche, is part of the Volkswagen Group, echoed Holzmeyer’s sentiments.
“We are satisfied about the introduction of this new category … mainly to the fact that we have a single GT class instead to have two classes like the GTD and GTLM as we have seen in the last, say, 10 years,” Sanna said. “We have seen the homologation from the ACO regarding the introduction of the GT3 category in Le Mans in 2024, so we are happy to explore this new opportunity to have a single class directly in America starting from next year. I strongly believe this is the future in the GT category.”
The ability to enter the same GT3-spec car in both WeatherTech Championship classes is enticing to manufacturers. Holzmeyer said he expects to see Porsches in GTD PRO and GTD, as has been the case with GTLM and GTD. Mike Krack, Head of BMW M Motorsport, believes there will be a BMW factory team in GTD PRO – BMW Team RLL is the frontrunner since the two have partnered since 2009 – as well as continuing customer efforts in GTD.
Corvette Racing, a pillar of IMSA GT racing for more than two decades, has yet to commit to a 2022 program publicly, though Mark Stielow, Director of Motorsport Competition Engineering for GM Racing, confirmed earlier this year that “we’ve been working on a conversion package” for the Corvette C8.R that’s on the verge of capturing its second straight GTLM championship.
Acura currently competes in GTD, but Lee Niffenegger, GT3 Program Manager for Honda Performance Development, said the group is receptive to adding a GTD PRO customer program in ’22 when it unveils the next generation of its GT3 car.
“While HPD is not actively pursuing a GTD PRO effort for the Acura NSX GT3 EVO22,” Niffenegger said, “HPD will provide any teams in the category with the same high-level support we always have to the rest of our GTD teams.”
Only one team has formally confirmed thus far to GTD PRO for 2022. Vasser Sullivan Racing, which has fielded a pair of Lexus RC F GT3 entries in GTD since 2019, will split the cars next year – one each in GTD PRO and GTD.
“We have a car that wasn’t designed from the ground up as a GT3,” Jeff Bal, Lexus Motorsports Manager, said. “The team has been able to find ways to make it competitive at the GTD level, (but) GTD PRO was a question for us. Once IMSA provided what the rules would look like and the regulation with BoP, then we realized we have a shot to compete because the car can compete at the GTD level and we think probably with GTD PRO. … We’re excited about it.
“It aligns closely with the rest of the global series,” Bal added, “and I think with the upward trajectory of where IMSA and sports car racing is going here in America, there’s nothing but upward potential for that. We hate to see the GTLM class go away, but we’re more excited to see even more entrants coming in the GTD PRO class next year. It all points toward win-win.”