IMSA WEATHERTECH SPORTSCAR CHAMPIONSHIP
IMSA’s GT Daytona class is nine-deep
in auto manufacturers. From A
(Acura, Aston Martin, and Audi) to
P (Porsche), GTD’s GT3 roster is a
high-octane alphabet soup, but
there are still a few notable names
missing from the grid.
B (BMW) would be bolstered by
the addition of Bentley and its
Continental GT3, M (Mercedes-Benz)
persists without McLaren’s 650S
GT3, and N is wholly unrepresented
without Nissan’s GT-R GT3 NISMO.
McLaren made its IMSA entrance
in January with the GT4-spec 570S
in the Continental Tire Series, which
suggests the door could be open to
GTD. But the cost to participate as
an official IMSA manufacturer is why
some brands have yet to appear. For
others, finding a team with a
full-season budget is the limitation.
“Nissan would be very interested
in a properly-funded, customer-
based team competing within the
GTD class,” says Nissan’s Rick
Kulach. “We’re confident that the
series and Nissan would welcome a
top contending team to challenge
the competition with an amazing
Nissan product like the GT-R.”
Bentley’s Brian Gush says paying
for its customers to race in IMSA
“The USA is Bentley’s number one
market, and racing in its most
successful championships is hugely
important to us,” he affirms. “We’d
certainly support any customer team
that came to us wanting to race in
IMSA. But the OEM entry fee makes
negotiations difficult – it’s a large
sum of money for us to provide.”
McLaren’s GT3 customer program has
a global presence in GT racing – with a
notable exception in IMSA’s GTD class.
WAITING IN THE WINGS?
essential when Shank chose his full-time
roster (see sidebar, page 53) and Legge is
enthusiastic about how it’s worked so far.
“I wouldn’t want to be paired with
anyone other than the drivers we have,”
she says. “I think Michael Shank and HPD
have done an amazing job of putting the
right drivers with the right personalities
together. Everyone is fast, we all get
along, we all have lunch together, yet
we’re different and bring different things
to the program. It’s honestly the best
team I’ve ever been a part of in that way.”
The expanded family, both crew and
drivers, delivered for Acura and HPD in its
first outing. The Rolex 24 at Daytona – a
punishing start to the Weather Tech
Championship season for MSR’s
brand-new NSXs – could have humbled
the GT newcomers, but the Japanese
manufacturer’s bold decision to hire a
prototype team was duly rewarded.
MSR’s Acuras led 171 of 634 laps
completed in GTD, eventually taking fifth
in class with the No. 86. The sister No. 93
bore the brunt of the new-car issues, yet
still managed to claim 11th in a class
packed with 27 cars. It wasn’t a dream
win on MSR’s GTD debut, but it felt like
something major was achieved.
“The depth of the GTD field is very
strong, and that’s exciting,” says Shank.
“The top 10 cars can win any given race.
The pit lane is also fun, as it’s very
competitive to be the first out of the pits.
We knew that we’d have our hands full to
be competitive out of the box. Our
biggest challenge is that our NSX is a
brand new car from the ground up, so
trying to make it competitive and reliable
was and is a huge challenge.”
If Shank wanted to take things slowly
and build toward a GTD crescendo with
Acura, he ruined it by leading more than
a quarter of the biggest race on IMSA’s
calendar. Thanks to what they achieved
right out of the box in Round 1, the bar
has been raised much higher for round
two, the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring,
and the rest of the stops on the calendar.
Driven by MSR’s past accomplishments
in prototypes, Shank’s band of sports car
diehards and new recruits will only
welcome the pressure.
“The depth of GTD is very
strong – that’s exciting.
We knew that we’d have our
hands full out of the box”
(ABOVE) Add this to
the knowledge bank...
Twice around the clock
at Daytona is a far
more potent learning
experience than any
number of test days.
(LEFT) That goes for
honing the crew, too.