Today’s close to the 2015 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship season also marks the end of the line for many of the popular car models that fill the grid.
BMW: Most of the changes are taking place in the GT categories, starting with BMW and its outgoing Z4 platform. The compact, V8-powered chassis propelled Turner Motorsport to the 2014 GT Daytona championship, and in the hands of the factory BMW Team RLL GT Le Mans effort, the twin No. 24 and No. 25 Z4s have been regular winners since they were introduced in the American Le Mans Series in 2013. 20 podiums for the factory team, including five wins through the last round at COTA, will hopefully be followed by similar success with the incoming twin-turbo V8 BMW M6.
“A new car, a very competitive field and the 100th anniversary of BMW means 2016 will be an exciting year,” said RLL co-owner Bobby Rahal, whose team will campaign two M6s in GTLM. And with Turner Motorsport also trading their Z4 for M6s in GTD, the Bavarian marque will be ably represented.
DeltaWing: As DeltaWing communications director Gary Fong recently told RACER, no decisions have been made regarding which chassis the Braselton, Ga.-based team will race after Petit. Could today mark the final outing for the DeltaWing DWC13 prototype? Could it be replaced by the new DeltaWing GT? We’ll know as the Rolex 24 at Daytona comes into view.
Ferrari F458: We aren’t expecting Ferrari’s flagship GT racer to disappear from the IMSA landscape, but we do know a transition plan is in place that will see the naturally-aspirated F458 phased out soon after the 2016 WeatherTech Championship begins. The Prancing Horse’s turbocharged 488 is expected to appear in GTLM and GTD, and according to the works-affiliated Scuderia Corsa team, they’ll miss the 458 when it’s retired.
“It has been an incredible car for us; we started our team with the 458,” said Scuderia Corsa team owner Giacomo Mattioli. “It has been a great success on the sales side, and on the racing side; it’s won many championships for Ferrari, and there are mixed feelings to see it go. The plans for us are the 458 for Daytona – one or two cars, then we will see. Then the 488 comes. It’s not goodbye, but it’s getting close.”
Ford: The Rolex 24- and Sebring 12 Hour-winning Ford EcoBoost Daytona Prototype could be running its last race. The Chip Ganassi Racing team is readying itself to debut Ford’s new GT chassis next year in GTLM, and that could be the end of the line for its Riley-built Prototype chassis. Ganassi managing director Mike Hull has said there’s a possibility the EcoBoost DP could make one more run in January in an effort to capture another overall victory, but those plans are unconfirmed at the moment.
Mazda: If you’re a fan of the diesel engines in Mazda’s P2 cars, be sure to follow Petit Le Mans because they’ll be replaced by the gas-powered turbocharged 4-cylinder engines the SpeedSource team has been testing this year. Built in partnership with AER, the new engine was a rocket in testing earlier in the year, outpacing Corvette DPs with ease. It appears Mazda will have a welcome problem in 2016: IMSA will need to keep its P2s under control instead of looking for ways to make them faster.
Porsche: The IMSA-specific 911 GT America can be credited for helping the TUDOR Championship to stock its GT Daytona class during its first two seasons, and with Porsche’s new GT3 model ready to take the baton, Jens Walther, president and CEO of Porsche Motorsport North America, shared his thoughts on the iconic brand’s continued support of the series and its customers.
“The GT America was developed in Weissach specifically for the new GT Daytona class,” he said. “Our loyal customer teams purchased 20 GT America Cup cars for the TUDOR United Sports Car Championship and we saw great racing over the past two seasons. We are looking forward to continuing our relationships with them as we roll out the new 911 GT3 R.
“Customer racing is the backbone for Porsche Motorsports, and with just 20 racecars produced, the GT America is among the most exclusive 911 based racecars ever. I am looking forward to seeing these cars in the hands of club racers and collections soon.”
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Others: The Falken Tire program is hours away from concluding, leaving the Walker Racing team to find a new sponsor or customer to continue without the Japanese rubber manufacturer. After two years of title sponsorship, TUDOR watches will be replaced by WeatherTech as the name atop IMSA’s premier series. Audi’s current R8 LMS will be replaced by a revised version of the V10-powered platform. And, finally, a few drivers are expected to change teams soon after the season finale – we’ll save that news for a later date.