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What to Watch for: Michelin GT Challenge at VIR

The GT Classes and Marques Get Their Chance to Shine

By David Phillips

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The embarrassment of riches that is the 2022 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship continues with this Sunday’s Michelin GT Challenge at VIR. Coming on the heels of the weekend at America’s National Park of Speed – a/k/a Road America – the event completes a back-to-back sequence of races at two of the longest and, inarguably, most scenic racetracks in the country.

Here are a few things to watch for this weekend:

Traffic? Not so Much

Where the GT Daytona (GTD) and GTD PRO competitors shared four-mile Road America with IMSA’s three prototype classes, they’ll have the 3.27-mile, 17-turn VIRginia International Raceway all to themselves. With a baker’s dozen worth of GTD entries, coupled with five GTD PRO competitors, traffic should not be much of an issue for drivers – both from the perspective of threading their way through battling knots of slower cars or constantly being on the lookout for fast-approaching prototypes, some of whom are not overly shy about using the “chrome horn” in their effort to barge through slower traffic.

GTD PRO Showdown

Although this will be the first visit to VIR for the new GTD PRO class, history – both past and recent – suggests the weekend may feature a showdown between a couple of heavyweights. After all, Corvette Racing will be gunning for its third consecutive win at VIR this weekend, having captured the “old” GT Le Mans (GTLM) class wins in 2020 and 2021, not to mention back-to-back GTLM wins in 2016 and 2017. On the other hand, Pfaff Motorsports was GTD class winner at VIR last year, and Matt Campbell and Mathieu Jaminet have steered the No. 9 Porsche 911 GT3 R to such a commanding lead in the standings that a win this weekend could virtually secure them the inaugural GTD PRO team, driver and manufacturer titles.

Their own championship aspirations may have nearly disappeared, but Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor would like nothing more than to put the No. 3 Corvette C8.R GTD into victory lane for the first time since the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts in March. Given Corvette Racing’s stellar record at VIR, that’s a distinct possibility.

GTD Free-For-All

While the GTD PRO championships may be next to a foregone conclusion, the GTD team, driver and manufacturer titles are still up for grabs, which pretty much mirrors the free-for-all on any given race weekend in a season that has seen six different marques and seven different teams stand atop the podium.

Given the depth of competition, it’s perhaps no surprise that Team Korthoff Motorsports and Stevan McAleer, leaders in the team and driver standings, respectively, are still seeking for their first win in a campaign that has netted the No. 32 Mercedes-AMG GT3 a pair of podium finishes and five more top-sixes.

That the Merc is capable of winning was confirmed when Philip Ellis and Russell Ward took GTD honors at Road America in the No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG, but Team Korthoff, McAleer and co-driver Mike Skeen will want to return to the podium this weekend if they are to hold off a horde of competitors vying for the team and driver championships including Wright Motorsports’ Ryan Hardwick and Jan Heylen (No. 16 Porsche 911 GT3R), Heart of Racing’s Roman De Angelis (No. 27 Aston Martin Vantage GT3), CarBahn with Peregrine Racing’s Robert Megennis and Jeff Westphal (No. 39 Lamborghini Huracán GT3) and Turner Motorsport’s Robby Foley and Bill Auberlen (BMW M4 GT3).

Meanwhile, the GTD manufacturer crown is still there for the taking with BMW, Aston Martin and Mercedes-AMG separated by less than 100 points.

Be sure to catch all the weekend action from the Michelin GT Challenge at VIR on CNBC, Peacock, IMSA.com/TVLive and IMSA Radio.