There are numerous methods to gauge the continued enhance in stage of curiosity within the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. An apparent instance is the expansion of the sector for the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona, which exceeded 60 automobiles in 2022 for the primary time in eight years.
Entries for the 61st operating of America’s traditional 24-hour endurance race — set for January 28-29, 2023 — have been open since October 11, and early returns have IMSA officers optimistic that Daytona Worldwide Speedway’s pit lane, paddock and garages will likely be bursting on the seams with a full area of opponents once more in January. The truth is, primarily based on early conversations, there’s a robust chance that demand from groups will exceed the finite provide of house obtainable.
With that in thoughts, sequence and monitor officers are working extra time to find out the utmost variety of entries that may be safely accommodated for the race.
“It’s a pleasant drawback to have, frankly,” IMSA President John Doonan mentioned in assessing the boosted buzz surrounding the WeatherTech Championship, particularly the brand new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class that can debut at Daytona.
“We’ve seen an amazing quantity of momentum for the game — for IMSA and all of the followers of IMSA – and I feel 2023 shouldn’t be going to be any totally different,” Doonan famous. “Even in comparison with a yr in the past right now, we’ve had one other raise in curiosity from opponents desirous to run the Rolex 24 and the WeatherTech Championship season as a complete. New automobiles apart, it’s a very particular time for the game.”
Make no mistake, the brand new class of automobiles Doonan refers to is the catalyst for the extra consideration IMSA is drawing. The GTP area at Daytona is forecast to incorporate no less than eight – and probably extra – of the brand new hybrid-powered prototypes.
Acura, BMW, Cadillac and Porsche are anticipated to area two factory-backed automobiles every in GTP at Daytona, with the potential of a further entry from a type of producers.
As well as, model new GT3-specification automobiles from Porsche and Ferrari, in addition to a 2023 EVO2 replace for the Lamborghini Huracán, are eligible to affix the GTD and GTD PRO classes. That very same trio of European marques fielded a mixed whole of 15 automobiles within the courses this yr on the Rolex 24, and every has hinted at the potential of growing their numbers for January.
Doonan anticipates a strong entry throughout all 5 competing courses at Daytona.
“The excellent news shouldn’t be one class could be singled out when it comes to the momentum and the expansion we’re seeing,” he mentioned. “LMP2 has seen plenty of curiosity within the final couple seasons, particularly some groups which have historically competed in Europe are inquisitive about coming to the North American marketplace for company partnership causes. LMP3, in an analogous method, has attracted an entry quantity that’s in kind of a candy spot. You add up all of these, and that’s most likely half of your Rolex grid, with the opposite 50 p.c GT automobiles.
“The momentum across the GT courses is important, and across the nook in 2024 comes a Ford Mustang program and the supply of a buyer Corvette,” Doonan added. “We’re actual happy with how GTD PRO got here off as a class in its first season, and I feel you’ll see constant numbers much like what you noticed in 2022 for that section of the grid. So, we’re in a really lucky place of getting this a lot curiosity.”
All of it means there may be prone to be minimal room to stretch out at Daytona, even though the speedway is without doubt one of the most expansive and fashionable racing amenities on the planet.
If the scale of the sector must be capped, IMSA’s full-time groups and producers from earlier years will likely be given greater consideration for his or her entries, adopted by new groups aspiring to area full-season efforts within the WeatherTech Championship. Amongst part-time entries, consideration will likely be given to those that have competed beforehand on a part-time foundation — such because the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup or WeatherTech Dash Cup — adopted by new part-time entrants and historic IMSA occasion individuals.
The unstated message to all potential opponents is obvious: Get your Rolex 24 entries in as quickly as attainable.
“You’ll be able to’t create extra sq. footage at plenty of our tracks, and one of many issues we have to take a look at within the case of Daytona entries is the variety of garages, the paddock house and, in fact, pit lane,” Doonan mentioned. “There are solely so many containers you may match safely on pit lane. Final yr, we had 61 automobiles, which was tight. With the brand new GTP automobiles, clearly there are some objects that encompass these automobiles and the hybrid expertise which will require us to provide them only a bit extra space.
“Once more, it’s drawback to have.”
The 2023 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship opens with the Roar Earlier than the Rolex 24, the three-day check session at Daytona from January 20-22. Rolex 24 at Daytona race week runs January 26-29.