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Get Ready for the Wow! Factor of GTP Racing

IMSA President John Doonan Says Fans Should Be Excited for What They Will See from What Is Now Five Manufacturers Confirmed to Compete

By Jeff Olson

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – IMSA President John Doonan had an aha moment during, of all things, a video conference in the fall of 2020.

That’s when the first set of technical regulations for a proposed new top class in IMSA – one based on a hybrid platform and aligned with regulations in the FIA World Endurance Championship – was met with enthusiasm by manufacturers.

“The reaction when we first unveiled the concept more in detail in terms of regulations, the OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) came on board,” Doonan said. “We finally had manufacturers come back after that presentation and say, ‘This is looking good. This is where our board believes we can best demonstrate the story lines of our brand.’ That’s really what sticks in my mind as the turning point.”

It’s been nine days since Lamborghini announced it would field an LMDh entry in 2024 in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class, which will debut in January 2023 at the Rolex 24 At Daytona. That brought the number of manufacturers committed to the new class to five, following earlier announcements by Acura, BMW, Cadillac and Porsche that they will field GTD entries starting in 2023.

The announcement also was the unofficial stamp of importance on the new format. This is a significant – and well-received – step forward in endurance sports car racing.

“We’re really proud of what’s come out of it thus far,” Doonan said. “It tells me that it’s only going to get better.”

The LMDh engine, based on a hybrid platform. will generate more than 670 horsepower (500 kilowatts) from the combined output of an internal combustion engine and a hybrid powertrain.

Through the historic convergence agreement created jointly by IMSA, the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) and the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), LMDh cars and cars built to Le Mans Hypercar (LMH) technical regulations will be able to compete head-to-head for overall victories in the IMSA GTP and WEC Hypercar classes beginning next season. GTP will replace the current Daytona Prototype international (DPi) as the top-level prototype class in the WeatherTech Championship.

“Think about your favorite brand of sports car and the ultimate expression of that brand,” Doonan said. “That, to me, is what GTP is going to represent. When I say ‘ultimate expression,’ I mean the ultimate expression of the way the car looks and the way the car performs. When you add in the hybrid system, it will be the ultimate expression of looks, performance and sustainability of that brand.”

Fans will be impressed, Doonan said.

“The first words out of their mouths will be ‘Wow!’ – whether they’re a car enthusiast or not,” he said. “The cars will be beautiful. From a car enthusiast’s standpoint, they will have all the elements of performance and design. There will be a ‘Wow!’ for them from a standpoint of styling and performance and ultimately sustainability.”

The path to the debut of the new car and class is far from complete, Doonan noted. In fact, it’s just beginning. Some manufacturers have begun preliminary testing. Full-on testing and homologation will commence in the fall, and the timeline will be short.

“Going into the fall and winter, we’ll be holding sanctioned tests to get all of these works of art on track together to get a read on different performance levels,” Doonan said. “Independent testing will take place, but for me, it’s the time when we have all of the cars together that will be the next aha moment.

“That’s when we’ll have all of these historic examples of endurance sports car racing all together at one time. It will be in the confines of a somewhat private setting of a sanctioned test, but we’re finally going to have all of them together in one place.”