Stability and sustainability were among the key messages delivered Friday night in IMSA’s annual State of the Sport presentation to stakeholders and media in Road America’s Tufte Center.
IMSA President John Doonan revealed 2023 season schedules and shared details on a wide range of topics with IMSA Radio host John Hindhaugh ahead of what is expected to be a watershed season in 2023 for the flagship IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and all IMSA-sanctioned series.
“IMSA has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to re-energize our existing base of sports car racing fans and reach new audiences in 2023 and beyond,” Doonan said. “With the introduction of our new GTP prototypes, a robust and stable platform for GT racing, a renewed focus on sustainability and a calendar filled with legendary road racing venues, all of the ingredients are in place for continued success.”
2023 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Reveals 11-Race Schedule
The 2023 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will feature a total of 11 races, with six events to feature all five WeatherTech Championship classes: GTP, LMP2, LMP3, GTD PRO and GTD.
The IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup will include all classes for the four traditional endurance events: the Rolex 24 At Daytona (Jan. 26-29), Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts (March 15-18), Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen (June 22-25) and the 10-hour Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta (Oct. 11-14). Five-class races also will be held at Road America (Aug. 4-6) and Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Sept. 15-17).
The new GTP class will have a total of nine events in 2023, adding Long Beach (April 14-15), WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca (May 12-14) and Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (July 7-9). The GTD PRO and GTD classes will compete in all 11 WeatherTech Championship races, including GT-only events at Lime Rock Park (July 21-22) and VIRginia International Raceway (Aug. 25-27). The WeatherTech Sprint Cup for GTD has been discontinued.
The LMP2 class also will compete at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca and LMP3 will return to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. The Rolex 24 At Daytona will not count toward full-season WeatherTech Championship points for the LMP2 or LMP3 classes.
In addition to the race events, the annual Roar Before the Rolex 24 At Daytona returns on the weekend of Jan. 20-22. In preparation for the 2023 season, IMSA-sanctioned testing for GTP cars will be held at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta on Oct. 3-5 and at Daytona International Speedway on Dec. 6-7.
A sanctioned test for all WeatherTech Championship competitors also is planned for Sebring International Raceway in February 2023.
Sustainability Alliance Reinforced with New Opportunities
A key element of the State of the Sport presentation centered on IMSA’s continued sustainability alliance. For more than a decade, IMSA has enjoyed a partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) International.
The introduction of the new GTP class presents new sustainability opportunities. Each GTP car will use a single-source hybrid powertrain, which will allow for a reduction of fuel consumption by more than 10 percent. For each car’s internal combustion engine, IMSA’s Official Fuel Supplier, VP Racing Fuels, will supply renewable VP R80 fuel.
Michelin, the Official Tire Supplier of IMSA, has developed a unique new tire for GTP, which will have the ability to double stint. This could lead to a reduction in tire usage of up to 25 percent. Current WeatherTech Championship Michelin race tires have nearly 30 percent sustainable raw materials.
Michelin also displayed a new racing tire that contains 53 percent sustainable raw materials. IMSA and Michelin are working together to explore bringing this tire into IMSA competition.
Competition Enhancements Including Bob Akin Bronze Cup Championship Highlighted
On the competition front, IMSA confirmed the continuation of a five-class format for the WeatherTech Championship in 2023 with the same driver combination requirements as in previous years.
While Bronze- and Silver-rated drivers remain eligible in GTD driver lineups, IMSA reinforced its commitment to Bronze-rated drivers via the Bob Akin Bronze Cup championship. Top Bronze drivers in GTD will be recognized on the postrace podium at each race and the Bob Akin Bronze Cup season champion will receive an entry to the following year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.
IMSA is evaluating additional incentives for Bronze drivers regarding qualifying format and drive-time. Updates will be provided as they become available.
The GTP class is set through at least 2027, while LMP2 and LMP3 have been confirmed through 2023. The GTD PRO and GTD classes will continue to use GT3-spec race cars through at least 2026.
Events at Detroit, Indianapolis Highlight 2023 IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge Schedule
The 2023 IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge season will feature a total of 11 events, with each of the series’ two classes, Grand Sport (GS) and Touring Car (TCR) competing in 10 races.
Nine GS-class races will run as companion events to the WeatherTech Championship, with a new standalone event in downtown Detroit on June 2-3 as part of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix. The TCR class will accompany the WeatherTech Championship for all 10 of its events, with a single-class race slated for Lime Rock Park on July 21-22.
The Michelin Pilot Challenge season will open with the traditional four-hour race at Daytona International Speedway on the weekend of Jan. 26-29. Indianapolis Motor Speedway returns to the Michelin Pilot Challenge schedule for the first time since 2014 with a four-hour race planned for the weekend of Sept. 15-17.
The Michelin Pilot Challenge also will be eligible to participate in February’s IMSA-sanctioned test at Sebring.
Six-Event Schedule Planned for Inaugural IMSA VP Racing SportsCar Challenge Season
The new IMSA VP Racing SportsCar Challenge will debut with a six-event calendar for the new sprint series comprising currently homologated LMP3 and GT4 race cars.
Each event will include two classes – LMP3 and GSX (GT4) – with 45-minute sprint races and no pit stops. To be eligible, drivers must be either Bronze- or Silver-rated and all cars will ride on Michelin tires.
The season will open at Sebring International Raceway on the weekend of March 11-12 as part of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) Prologue test. Four events will run as a companion to the WeatherTech Championship at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca (May 12-14), Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (July 7-9), VIRginia International Raceway (Aug. 25-27) and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta (Oct. 11-14).
The sixth event will be announced at a later date.