New GT class structure to bring “all new dynamics” to racing – Sportscar365

Photo: Jake Galstad/IMSA

According to Nick Tandy and other drivers in the field, the creation of the GTD Pro category will bring a “whole new dynamic” to racing in the production-based ranks of the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

GTD Pro has replaced GT Le Mans as the top GT class in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, removing GTE machines from the grid and all cars under the prototype classes now run to the same GT3 specification.

While many other GT racing series around the world use a multi-class structure, including the FIA ​​World Endurance Championship and the Fanatec GT World Challenge powered by AWS, this year is the first to have such an arrangement implemented by IMSA.

Corvette Racing driver Tandy told Sportscar365 that achieving technological equality between the IMSA GT classes is “exciting” because it brings an element of the unknown to drivers and teams who previously competed in the faster GTLM division.

The Pratt & Miller-run factory GM team uses its ex-GTLM Chevrolet Corvette C8.R in GTD specification to comply with the new class rules. Both cars are registered in GTD Pro.

“From a GTD and GTD Pro point of view, there is a whole new dynamic that will manifest in racing,” said Tandy.

“Nobody knows how it will work. It’s kind of like coming back to Daytona, not knowing how things will turn out and who will benefit from certain situations and not.

“It feels strange to come here not knowing what we’re getting into.

“Since the [2014] fusion, Corvette Racing and I came here knowing we’re in GTLM, against these cars, working to figure out when you’re going to put the particular tire compound and set it up around different compounds.

“That’s all gone and we’re kind of new guys.

“People have driven BMWs in GTD before. Even though the BMW is a new car [now]no Corvette has ever been driven in GTD on these tires and specifications.

“It’s exciting because we don’t really know what’s going to happen.”

Fellow GTD Pro driver Maro Engel, who is in one of two WeatherTech Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evos and won the GTD class at Daytona last year, doesn’t feel the new structure is changing the teams’ approaches, but thinks the racing could become a bit more. a new look.

“There is much more GT[3] cars in the field,” Engel told Sportscar365.

“You get the impression of lap 1. There are many more cars with the same pace. That is certainly something very different from before.

“Obviously we need to look at our class; That’s what it’s all about and there’s a prize to be won with that.

“Right now the race preparation is no different. The traffic is a little different. Whereas earlier in GTD you let the GLTM cars go by three seconds per lap faster, the LMP3s a little faster and so on.

“Now you have more than half the grid at the same or a similar pace, actually.

“I’m definitely curious how that will play out in a race situation because it will definitely have an impact.”

Tandy suggested the mixed class structure could have a “huge” impact on the strategy options for the Pro runners compared to what was possible in GTLM, which used faster cars and confidential, rather than commercial, Michelin tires. .

Unlike before, the Rolex 24 grid will not be sorted into class order as standard GTD cars finish ahead of GTD Pros in today’s qualifying race. Full course caution procedures will treat both GT classes as one.

“For example, there could be a GTD Pro battle for the class lead, which could be a lap ahead of the GTD field,” said Tandy.

“But suppose it’s the penultimate stop and you try to get a tank of fuel under yellow, and you end up with 12 GTD cars chasing someone who’s under-fueled. It can be huge.

“At that point the cars could all be at a similar pace, and it will have a huge effect on strategy. If there is a yellow late in the race, I see that pit strategy and track position are quite important.

“In GTLM you knew it would take time to get through some GTD cars, but you could pass them because the car was faster. But now you might not overtake them because they are all equally fast.”

‘I’m less likely to pass a professional car’

Competitors in the GTD class are also anticipating a new dynamic in mixed-class racing as a customer-team-focused category now becomes more closely blended with the factory- and factory-backed operations of the Pro tier.

Turner Motorsport BMW driver Bill Auberlen noted that most lineups in GTD have drivers strong enough to beat those in GTD Pro on an equal technological footing.

“I’m in Pro-Am, but I don’t mind showing that I belong,” Auberlen told Sportscar365.

“I want to beat them. It’s a perk for the Pro-Ams to show that they belong there too.

“To win a championship, a race, you have to be smart and know who you are racing with. But if you spin your head and start racing the wrong people for the wrong reasons, it won’t do anything for you.

“My teammate Robby Foley, who is an Am, wants to be in a Pro car someday. He has a lot to prove against the people he should be racing.

“There are many different goals and motivations that will make their way into the race.”

Auberlen also suggested that GTD drivers are less likely to make provisions for drivers in the Pro category to get past under certain racing scenarios.

“Conversely, if I race my man in front of me, and a Pro is behind me, I’m not going to stop and let him come in front of me and then block me,” he said.

“But if I let a Pro come between me and the guy I’m racing with, I can’t race that guy anymore. So I’m less likely to let him pass. This is something really weird.

“On the other hand, I think it will create madness that is good for fans.

“When suddenly cars get in that don’t belong together and that causes controversy and weird things. Maybe that’s good.”

John Dagys contributed to this report

Daniel Lloyd

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA ​​World Endurance Championship, GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among others.

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