Will the Two-Day IMSA Test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway Provide an Accurate Barometer for the Race?
By David Phillips
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – It’s not quite time to break out “Back Home Again in Indiana” for a sports car racing series with its roots in Florida and Georgia. But this weekend sees a welcome return to the fabled Indianapolis Motor Speedway by the stars and cars of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship after a nine-year absence to contest the TireRack.com Battle on the Bricks. Although future plans call for an endurance race, this year’s sprint race on Sunday is slated to go for two hours, 40 minutes on the Brickyard’s 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course.
While it’s been nearly a decade since the Action Express Racing Corvette DP took the checkered flag in the most recent IMSA race at the Brickyard, many competitors got a taste of the IMS circuit during an IMSA-sanctioned two-day test in July. The Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class was well represented with seven of the eight teams (and nine of the 10 cars) expected to compete in the race in attendance. If test times are any barometer, the quickest cars of the affair – the Nos. 25 and 24 BMW M Team RLL BMW M Hybrid V8s – shape up as the ones to beat; by the slimmest of margins.
How slim? The nine GTPs were covered by six-tenths of a second in the final test session, with the No. 01 Cadillac Racing Cadillac V-Series.R just 0.154 seconds off the lead Bimmer’s pace and the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Acura ARX-06 and No. 7 Porsche Penske Porsche Motorsport Porsche 963 within another two-tenths of the Caddy. Proton Competition’s No. 59 Porsche was the only GTP team to miss the test, and it remains to be seen how or if that limits their performance when it counts this weekend.
The GT Daytona (GTD) class was also well represented with the No. 78 Forte Racing Powered by US RaceTronics Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo 2 topping the charts, though less than a tenth clear of the No. 12 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 on the combined sessions speed chart.
Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) attracted a trio of cars, with the No. 11 TDS Racing, No. 04 Crowdstrike Racing by APR and No. 18 Era Motorsport ORECA LMP2 07s all closely bunched within 0.05 seconds on the combined session list. AWA’s two Le Mans Prototype 3 (LMP3) entries were the only cars in the class at the test, which could provide an advantage for race weekend. The No. 14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus was the lone GT Daytona Pro (GTD PRO) car at the test.
With two races remaining in the 2023 season, two class championships (GTP and LMP2) are very much up for grabs while a third (GTD PRO) is far from settled after the No. 3 Corvette Racing C8.R GTD of Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor captured the win at VIRginia International Raceway ahead of the points-leading No. 14 Lexus of Jack Hawksworth and Ben Barnicoat. Not so in GTD, where the No. 1 Paul Miller Racing BMW M4 GT3 of Madison Snow and Bryan Sellers is 375 points clear of the Heart of Racing’s No. 27 Aston Martin Vantage GT3, and in LMP3 where Riley Motorsports’ Gar Robinson leads AWA’s Orey Fidani and Matthew Bell by 251 points.
A win at IMS would effectively mean the Paul Miller BMW need only start the season finale in the Motul Petit Le Mans to clinch the GTD team title for PMR, the manufacturer crown for BMW and the drivers’ championship for Snow and Sellers. Similarly, a win by Robinson in the No. 74 Riley Ligier JS P320 would all but secure the LMP3 title. What’s more it would put Robinson in position to run the LMP3 table for points-paying races should he score another win in October at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.
Speaking of LMP3, as revealed in May, the class will exclusively run in the IMSA VP Racing SportsCar Challenge next year and through the current 2026 homologation period. Thus, the one and only opportunity for LMP3 drivers and teams to win a WeatherTech Championship race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway comes this weekend.
Finally, seven races into the inaugural season of the GTP class, nearly every team that has contested a full slate of races to date can count at least one victory. Curiously, Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Autosport’s No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura ARX-06 has yet to be the first to a checkered flag. Curious not only because WTRAndretti has long been a powerhouse in the top prototype class but also because the squad leads the driver and team standings (Cadillac leads Acura in the manufacturer battle by a slim 35 points). While WTRAndretti co-drivers Ricky Taylor and Filipe Albuquerque would be delighted to claim the first title of the reborn GTP class no matter what, suffice to say the championship champagne would taste all the sweeter with at least one win on their résumé.
With the Motul Petit Le Mans the lone event remaining on the calendar after this weekend, the TireRack.com Battle on the Bricks presents one of two remaining opportunities for Taylor and Albuquerque to steer the No. 10 Acura into victory lane in 2023.