Sports car racing worldwide is in a state of flux. For IMSA, the International Motor Sports Association, 2023 will be the dawn of a new era, one in which worldwide competition is normal, not extraordinary. As IMSA’s WeatherTech SportsCar Championship prepares to introduce its newest array of manufacturer-propelled prototypes for use in races within and outside its domain, it’s also planning to amend its schedule to suit the alignment with the FIA’s World Endurance Championship and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
IMSA’s president, John Doonan has continued an approach begun by his predecessor, Scott Atherton, who gave an annual “state of the sport” address to the IMSA community. His talk, this year at the recent Road America contest, attested to the strength of the WeatherTech and Michelin Pilot Challenge lead categories that IMSA manages. It also sanctions the Ferrari Challenge, Super Trofeo North America Challenge, Mazda MX-5 Cup, Porsche Carrera Cup North America.
“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 declared. “With the introduction of our new GTP (LMDh) 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.”
There will be a total of 11 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship races, with six of them featuring all five classes: GTP, LMP2, LMP3, GTD PRO and GTD. IMSA’s Michelin Endurance Cup includes all classes for the four traditional endurance contests: Rolex 24 at Daytona, Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen and the 10-hour Motul Petit Le Mans. Five-class races will also be held at Road America and Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The new GTP class (born as LMDh and appropriately renamed GTP by Doonan) will have a total of nine events in 2023, including Long Beach, WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca and Canadian Tire Motorsports Park. GTD PRO and GTD will compete in all 11 WeatherTech races, including the popular GT-only events at Lime Rock Park and VIRginia International Raceway. The WeatherTech Sprint Cup for IMSA’s GTD class has been discontinued.
IMSA’s LMP2 class competes next year at Laguna Seca and LMP3 returns to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. For these two classes, the Rolex 24 at Daytona is not part of their championship and will not issue points for LMP2 and LMP3.
In addition to its 11 WeatherTech SportsCar Championship races in 2023, IMSA will, as customary, conduct the annual Roar Before the Rolex 24 at Daytona the weekend prior to the 24-hour classic (Jan 20-22). In preparation for the 2023 season, IMSA will have a sanctioned GTP test at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta on Oct. 3-5 and at Daytona International Speedway Dec. 6-7. A sanctioned test for all WeatherTech competitors is also planned for Sebring International Raceway. The date for that February test will be announced at a later date.
One track notable by its absence on the IMSA WeatherTech schedule is Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The track, which hasn’t seen much updating since the late 1970s is off the schedule for now. Both the track and surrounding buildings are in need of updates, but fans will miss the ability to camp at will around that circuit. To appease that, Indianapolis Motor Speedway announced that, for the first time in its history, at next year’s IMSA WeatherTech race weekend, it is adding camping in the infield of the 2.5-mile oval/2.439-mile road course.
IMSA’s new GTP class, which uses a single-source hybrid powertrain, accentuates the sanctioning group’s commitment to sustainability of the globe, with an expected fuel consumption reduction of at least 10 percent from current usage; its sole fuel supplier, VP Racing, has produced a renewable VP R80 fuel for the new GTP class. Michelin has a new racing tire that consists of 53 percent sustainable raw materials that both IMSA and Michelin are jointly exploring to bring into IMSA competition.
IMSA’s exciting Michelin Pilot Challenge series also features a total of 11 races, with each of the series’ two classes, Grand Sport (GS) and Touring Car (TCR) completing 10 events. There are nine GS-class races that run as companion events to the WeatherTech championship. A new standalone race in downtown Detroit is scheduled for the first weekend of June with the GS class competing, while Indianapolis Motor Speedway returns to the Michelin Pilot Challenge schedule for the first time since 2014. Both GS and TCR will compete at Indy Sept. 15-17.