•Team owners of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship expressed their excitement for the debut of LMDh prototypes in the IMSA GTP class at this year’s Rolex 24 At Daytona.
• Four manufacturers – Acura, BMW, Cadillac and Porsche – are entered with nine cars in total; Lamborghini will join next year and other manufacturers may follow suit.
• The convergence of rules between IMSA, ACO and FIA has allowed hybrid-powered LMDh prototypes to compete across both series – same class as Le Mans Hybrid (LMH) cars but no LMH entries this year.
• Team owners discussed how they feel that sports car racing is on a precipice for a new renaissance thanks to those running it while also expressing anxiety over surviving such a long race with an untested car under rigorous conditions.
IMSA GTP Class Anticipation
The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship has been abuzz with anticipation for the 2023 Rolex 24 At Daytona, where fans will witness the debut of LMDh prototypes racing in the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class. This excitement is felt not only throughout motorsports, but also amongst its highest levels of team ownership.
This morning, before the start of the 24-hour race at Daytona International Speedway, several legendary team owners talked about how excited they are for the official start of a new era of motorsports. Bobby Rahal, who co-owns BMW M Team RLL that is fielding two GTP entries, spoke with a lot of excitement and said “Today we are making history!” His voice was full of enthusiasm and his words echoed throughout the area.
“I think we’re on the precipice of a new renaissance here,” added Chip Ganassi, owner of his namesake team with a pair of Cadillac V-LMDh cars for the race.
“This is really a sendoff to really exciting times in motor racing and certainly in sports cars,” offered Roger Penske, owner of the two-car Porsche Penske Motorsport operation.
“The future’s really bright for sports car racing, and I think our timing is perfect to be involved,” remarked Michael Andretti, whose Andretti Autosport has joined forces with Wayne Taylor Racing for a single-car GTP effort.
Nine GTP cars from four manufacturers – Acura, BMW, Cadillac and Porsche – are entered for the 61st running of the Rolex 24 (live coverage begins at 1:30 p.m. ET on NBC). Lamborghini will enter the fray in 2024, with other manufacturers possible to join.
At the prerace press conference, the team owners highlighted how essential it was for LMDh prototypes to have hybrid power and compete in both IMSA and FIA World Endurance Championship. The same class of cars -LMDh- will be competing with LMH (Le Mans Hybrid) cars in these series; however, there are no entries from any LMH car this year present at Rolex 24.
Sports Cars Next Level
“This seems to be a real platform for us to take sports car racing to the next level here in the United States,” said Penske, who has two Porsche 963s entered in each series, “and then to be able to compete on the international platform at Le Mans for our teams and our brands will be special. I look at competing with these folks as going to be terrific.”
Ganassi is running one Cadillac V-LMDh in each series for the full season, but both will get their first test in the Rolex 24.
“To be on the doorstep of the first race of this formula, the excitement is obvious – with the manufacturers here, with the fans here,” he said. “Everybody on both sides of the Atlantic are very, very excited about this formula, about what’s about to happen. I think we’re on the precipice of a new renaissance here thanks to the people in charge.”
Michael Shank returns as the co-owner of the overall winning team. Meyer Shank Racing will go for back-to-back wins with the new Acura ARX-06 hybrid. He feels the excitement pulsating throughout the paddock, with teams, manufacturers, fans, media and curious onlookers.
“I think it’s a credit to IMSA of putting this global package together,” Shank said. “It’s made it extremely attractive for our partners.”
Andretti may have just joined the GTP ranks, as Andretti Autosport continues its expansion into multiple racing disciplines, but he’s as optimistic as his fellow team owners.
“We’re really excited about the future of what we’re going to do with this sport,” he said. “There’s a lot of cool plans for the future. I think IMSA has done a great job with the rules, it’s exciting to see all the manufacturers, the excitement of being involved. I think the future’s really bright for sports car racing and I think our timing is perfect to be involved.”
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