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Love Is in the Air when It Comes to GTP

Drivers and Team Execs Alike Share What They Love About the WeatherTech Championship’s New Top Prototype Class


By John Oreovicz


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Heading into the 2023 Rolex 24 At Daytona, hype for the 21st century revival of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s GTP class was massive. But the eagerly anticipated new LMDh prototypes lived up to or exceeded expectations, and sports car racing fans responded in kind with record on-site attendance at Daytona International Speedway and increased television ratings.


There’s a lot to love about the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) formula – whether it’s the way the cars look, the way they sound or the incorporation of hybrid technology that prioritizes efficient use of energy and promotes relevance to the increasing electrification of production cars. And let’s not forget the spirit of cooperation with the FIA World Endurance Championship that went into creating GTP, creating the potential for IMSA LMDh and WEC LMH prototypes to compete on level terms for overall race wins in both series in the future.


We canvassed a wide range of personalities in the IMSA paddock to learn what they love the most about GTP and the new LMDh cars. Most had a hard time distilling it down to just one thing.


Here’s what they’re saying:


Pipo Derani (No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac V-LMDh, 2021 Daytona Prototype international (DPi) champion): “The sound of the Cadillac is absolutely amazing. But in general, the look and the ability the manufacturers have to show their brand, I think that’s fantastic.”


Helio Castroneves (No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Acura ARX-06; three-time consecutive Rolex 24 winner; 2020 DPi champion; four-time Indianapolis 500 winner): “The design is amazing. I thought the DPi car was amazing, but this is spectacular. Not just the Acura – all of them! Cadillac, Porsche, BMW, they all look 1,000-mph fast. They’re very innovative and we’re going to an era where sports car racing is incredible. It’s going to explode. The potential is huge, and that’s what I like.”


Bobby Rahal (Nos. 24 and 25 BMW M Hybrid V8; Rolex 24 and Sebring Twelve Hours winner; co-owner, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing): “These GTP or LMDh cars are sophisticated race cars. The fans are going to respond to these cars – they’re fast, they look good, they sound good, they’re all a little bit different. And these are the works efforts, the factory teams. Having that connection and relationship between the series and the manufacturers is going to be fantastic for IMSA in terms of promotion and marketing. I think this is going to usher in a new era for IMSA, and to think that you can take that car to run at Le Mans is even more of an attraction for me as a team owner, and I think for our fans too.”

Filipe Albuquerque (No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura ARX-06, three-time Rolex 24 winner): “I think it’s innovation. It’s a completely new car, and I was lucky enough to be involved in the development from the very beginning of it. We have green mobility, so we have the best of two worlds.”


Mathieu Jaminet (No. 6 Porsche Penske Motorsport Porsche 963; 2022 GTD PRO champion): “For me, it’s a big change coming from the GT car, so the first thing which impressed me was the power. The GTD cars are already fast, but the first time I went on the power in the prototype, I thought, ‘Whoa! This thing has way more power than I ever experienced in my life!’ As a driver you’re always excited by speed, and these cars go much faster.”

Chip Ganassi (No. 01 Cadillac Racing Cadillac V-LMDh; seven-time IMSA champion team owner): “I personally like the sound of our car (the Cadillac). I think the V-8 says a lot. If we’re out with all the other cars, it’s nice because you know when it’s coming by. I like that. I think everybody on both sides of the Atlantic are very, very, excited about this formula, about what’s about to happen. So I think we’re on the precipice of a new renaissance here, thanks to the people in charge.”


Simon Pagenaud (No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Acura ARX-06; 2022-23 Rolex 24 winner; 2010 IMSA LMP1 champion; Indy 500 winner and IndyCar champion): “For me, it’s how technical it is and the relationship you have to have with the engineers in calibrating all the systems together. I think it’s a breath of fresh air compared to IndyCar, where we can’t do any of that. For somebody technical like me, it’s fascinating.”


Felipe Nasr (No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsport Porsche 963; 2018 and ’21 DPi champion): “What I love the most is the look of the car – wider, longer, it just looks pretty aggressive to me, and I like that. Having driven sports cars for quite a few years now, this is one of the most advanced cars I’ve driven in sports car racing – not only because of the hybrid components and everything that comes together with that. There’s a lot on our table now, a lot of tools on the steering wheel and information that we didn’t use to have in the DPi days.”


Mike Hull (No. 01 Cadillac Racing Cadillac V-LMDh; Managing Director, Chip Ganassi Racing): “What I like about this category of GTP car is the technology it represents going forward. We need to embrace alternate technologies if we want to keep racing cars and have manufacturers help us do it. That’s a big deal. The cars are complex, but the reality is the complexity is secondary to the message.”