A New IMSA Season Begins

New Porsche Penske 963 in the garage. [Photo by Eddie LePine]

New Porsche Penske 963 in the garage. [Photo by Eddie LePine]

By Eddie LePine & Jack Webster

The recent December IMSA test session at Daytona International Speedway marked the official beginning of the 2024 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season. Most of the teams we expect to see at the Rolex 24 at Daytona at the end of January were present, testing new cars, new drivers and providing IMSA with data for the calculation of BOP in 2024.

Of note, the new Lamborghini SC63, which will be campaigned by Iron Lynx Racing in the 2024 season (beginning with the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring in March), was on hand for BOP testing and was quite impressive, topping the time charts. Pilots Andrea Caldarelli, Matteo Cairoli and Romain Grojean make up the driving team which will be competing in the IMSA Michelin Endurance Championship races in 2024. Unfortunately, the new GTP Lamborghini will not be at the Rolex 24, but will be on hand for Sebring, Watkins Glen, Indianapolis and Petit Le Mans. It is a beautiful car and the US program is headed by our old friend and Audi veteran Brad Kettler (we see him as Lamborghini’s secret weapon and key to success). Look for a lot from this team and this car, right out of the box.

Of course, the other GTP teams were not resting on their laurels from last season. WTRAndretti (the new official name for the Wayne Taylor led 2 car Honda/Acura factory effort) was on hand and preparing for a full season with two all new Acura ARX-06 cars with drivers Filipe Albuquerque, Ricky Taylor, Louis Deletraz, Jordan Taylor with Colton Herta and Brendon Hartley added for the endurance championship, while Jensen Button and Marcus Ericsson have been added for the Rolex 24. Taking over the Acura program from Michael Shank for 2024, WTRAndretti has big shoes to fill. After just missing out on the overall victory in 2023 at the Rolex, you can be sure that the WTRAndretti squad will be doing everything they can to get to the top step of the podium in 2024.

Other GTP news of note: The Whelen Engineering Cadillac team has added hot shoe Tom Blomqvist to their roster for the endurance races, partnering with the very rapid duo of Pipo Derani and Jack Aitken. That’s a championship winning combo if we have ever seen one.

Ganassi Cadillac features Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande for the season, with Scott Dixon added for the endurance races in the #01 Cadillac.

In Porsche 963 GTP news, JDC-Miller teams Tijmen van der Helm and Richard Westbrook for the season, adding Phil Hanson for the endurance races and our favorite, Ironman Ben Keating, for the Rolex 24 (where Ben will also be driving the #2 United Autosports ORECA LMP2 car). Wow!

Also, in Porsche 963 GTP news, Mustang Sampling has been signed as full season sponsor for the Proton Competition Porsche 963, with championship contending drivers Gianmaria “Gimmi” Bruni and Neel Jani announced (additional pilots TBA). The Porsche looks fantastic in its black and gold paint scheme.

At Porsche Penske, they are putting forward new and updated Porsche 963s, to be piloted by Mathieu Jaminet, Nick Tandy, Dane Cameron, Felipe Nasr all season long, to be joined by Kevin Estre and Josef Newgarden for the endurance races and Matt Campbell and Laurens Vanthoor for the Rolex 24. A very strong line up in a very strong team, indeed.

At BMW, the Bobby Rahal led Team RRL group features Augusto Farfus, Jesse Krohn, Dries Vanthoor, Connor De Phillippi, Nick Yelloly and Maxime Martin as drivers. Full season vs. endurance driver assignments have yet to be determined, with the announcement of 4th drivers for the Rolex 24 to be announced as well.

Other big news, looking forward to 2024, is the head-to-head Chevrolet vs. Ford battles we will see when Corvette Z06 GT3R takes on the Ford Mustang GT3. The Ford Multimatic Mustangs and the Pratt Miller Corvettes looked outstanding at the Daytona test and we can’t wait to see them fight it out at the Rolex 24. Not only will they be battling for the GTD-PRO title, at least 2 additional Corvette Z06 GT3.R entries and at least one additional Mustang GT3 are entered in the GTD class. I think we are going to see a lot of rubbing and bumping this year in GTD-PRO and GTD competition.

As Ford factory driver Joey Hand said about the Ford vs. Corvette battles to come: “The two iconic American sports cars, head-to-head. There’s nothing better than that. What I’m most excited for is the fans. There are going to be a lot more people coming to races. They’re going to come cheer for their car, whatever car that is.”

Also on hand at Daytona for the test was the Risi Competizione Ferrari 296 GT3 of Alessandro Pier Guidi, Davide Rigon and Daniel Serra – fan favorites that will be cheered on at the Rolex 24 by legions of tifosi from around the world. Also on hand was FIA-WEC Ferrari 499P Hypercar driver Nicholas Nielsen, taking some laps in the GT3 Ferrari. He is not currently on the entry list for the Rolex 24 in either the GTD-PRO or GTD Risi Ferraris, but it didn’t look like he was at Daytona as a tourist!

Not present yet, but waiting for new or updated cars, were the entries of Heart of Racing, which will be campaigning Aston Martin Vantage GT3 cars in both GTD and GTD-PRO and Pfaff Motorsports, which have switched from Porsche to McLaren for 2024. Can’t wait to see if they keep the plaid livery on the McLaren!

The 2024 full season grid of cars in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is outstanding and historic. Here is the grid as of the middle of December, and includes the cars that will only contest the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup races. There are 11 GTP entries – 2 from Cadillac, 2 from BMW, 2 from Acura, 4 from Porsche and 1 from Lamborghini.

In LMP2, there are 12 confirmed entries, while in GT Daytona Pro there are 12 cars and in GTD there are a staggering 26 cars. That’s a total of 61 cars! (including Endurance Cup). There is no doubt about it – we are living in the modern “golden” era of sports car racing, and have IMSA to thank for it.

World class drivers – including legends from Formula One and IndyCar, world class manufacturers and teams, world class circuits. What more could you ask for?

The 2024 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is shaping up to be the best ever – and that includes the incredible 1980’s GTP era that we participated in and reported on. It would be safe to say that IMSA racing in 2024 will rank right up there with the best and most well-known racing series in the world – including Formula One. For sure it will feature a wider variety of winners!

It’s going to be one hell of a ride. Be sure and join us in 2024 and take in some of the best racing on the planet. Go see some of it in person – it will be well worth the trip.

See you at the races.

Share Button