IMSA’s Michelin Encore race weekend will be unlike anything the sanctioning body has offered since its return in 2014.
Set for an off-season date of November 9-11 at Sebring International Raceway, the sports car mixer will open the doors to IMSA for any entrants with LMP3, GT3, GT4, and TCR cars. It will also give regular IMSA competitors with those cars a first look at running on the new Michelin tires that will be used exclusively throughout the paddock in 2019.
New details of the four-hour race have also been confirmed, with Friday Nov. 9 scheduled as an open test day, three one-hour practice sessions put in place for Saturday, a pair of 20-minute qualifying sessions on Sunday split into LMP3/GT3 and GT4/TCR, and the race itself.
With GT3, GT4, and TCR cars proving to be quite popular in the Pirelli World Challenge series and in various championships found throughout the globe, IMSA is hoping to use the Michelin Encore as an open house with an eye to recruiting new participants for its WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the soon-to-be-renamed Continental Tire Series (pictured).
“The Michelin Encore event is intended not only to give existing IMSA competitors a unique incremental event, but to also provide an attractive opportunity for non-IMSA teams and drivers to sample what it’s like to participate in an IMSA-sanctioned event,” IMSA president Scott Atherton told RACER.
“We believe the combination of a fall event at Sebring International Raceway, featuring the first-ever opportunity to compete with Michelin tires — surrounded by the professionalism of IMSA — will deliver a compelling and rewarding experience for all involved.”
A limit of 60 entries has been set, and with four Pro-Am classes defined for the event, driver ratings will be used to ensure only those with Bronze, Silver and Gold status will be permitted. A maximum of one Gold driver and three drivers total per entry will be allowed, and pit stops with three crew members going over the wall to fuel and change tires have also been stipulated.
The awarding of prize money and tire credit is another development that has been confirmed. The four winning entries will receive $10,000 from IMSA and $5000 to apply toward Michelin tires at next year’s IMSA events, and for second and third in each class, credits of $3000 and $2000, respectively, will be handed out.
Looking beyond the racing in November at Sebring, IMSA’s senior director of technical regulations and compliance wants to showcase the organization’s competition department to a new audience.
“Besides having the opportunity to race at Sebring, this event gives these new teams the chance to experience an IMSA-sanctioned weekend, see how we operate and get to know our technical staff,” Geoff Carter said. “We have made it easy for teams to enter and make it part of their schedule. We are looking forward to a competitive weekend and have the chance to get to show them our operation.”