- CORE: One of IMSA’s most successful teams has finally made it to the top category as CORE autosport takes over ESM’s Nissan Onroak DPis. After purchasing the entire ESM inventory, including two Nissan DPis, the team owned by Jon Bennett will field a single car as it embraces the role of a spoiler among the big Acura, Cadillac, and Mazda factory teams.
- RMMR: To celebrate IMSA’s 50th anniversary, the series has been named the marque of honor for August’s Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion vintage racing event. More than 500 cars, across all manner of classes, receive invitations; seeing 50 years of incredible cars and drivers will be worth the trip.
- JACKIE HEINRICHER: She’s IMSA’s only female co-owner in the WeatherTech Championship, and has big plans to grow her all-female GTD entry with Meyer Shank Racing and Acura, along with sponsor Caterpillar.
- THE PINEAPPLE: Alex Zanardi is here for a one-week engagement at Daytona. The warmth and joy emanating from the Italian should serve as a wake-up call for some of his rivals, who, for reasons unknown, spend less time connecting with fans and making lifelong memories for those who have paid to see the Rolex 24.
- IMSA RADIO: IMSA’s excellent radio service has been bolstered by the signing of Jamie Howe, one of the best pit lane reporters in sports cars, and Brian Till, whose versatility in the booth and the pits has made him a staple across numerous series. A great product, made even better.
- PMR: Defending GT Daytona champs Paul Miller Racing are generally averse to change, which makes the driver ratings-related uncoupling of its title-winning duo in Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow, Snow’s subsequent ‘retirement,’ and the addition of Ryan Hardwick to partner with Sellers a proper shakeup that will test PMR’s ability to adapt and overcome significant change.
- M ON M: Look for improved braking, cornering, and acceleration this year due to the entire WeatherTech Championship running on Michelin tires. With Michelin’s rubber — and its rubber alone — being worn into the track, we’ll a hand-in-glove scenario where added grip and performance is the result.
- SEE SEVEN R: Corvette Racing isn’t ready to announce when its ultra-successful front-engine C7.R will be retired in favor of the mid-engine C8.R, but we know the majestic yellow beasts are headed for the museum in the near future. If you love the C7.R’s exhaust note, don’t wait until 2020 to hear it again.
- McLAREN’S COMING: Compass Racing will break new WeatherTech Championship ground with the entry of its McLaren 720S GT3, due in May for the shortened WeatherTech Sprint Cup championship. The British supercar manufacturer has been part of the CTSCC series, but until now, its products have been absent from IMSA’s GT Daytona class.
- VARIABLE COMMITMENT: IMSA’s plans for a vibrant new class, LMP2, had great promise when it was announced in August. Since then, changing plans for a few teams has left LMP2 with only one entrant prepared to contest the full season, and the other is contemplating a move to the European Le Mans Series. Unless two or three full-timers turn up, the expansion from three classes to four could face an uncertain future.
- RISI: Amid the influx of new teams, Giuseppe Risi’s delightful Ferrari GTLM team enters another season with insufficient funding to take a season-long fight to the BMW, Corvette, Ford, and Porsche factories. IMSA’s headed in the right direction, but when one of its heart-and-soul teams is stuck in a highly limited role, we’re reminded there’s still work to do.
- TPESM: Tequila Patron Extreme Speed Motorsports is no more. Fun, splashy, and routinely dressed in vibrant green and black liveries, the team’s loss is among the handful of setbacks IMSA will look to overcome in 2019 and beyond.
- GLAD TO MEET YOU: Along with Juncos, Heinricher, AIM Vasser Sullivan and Pfaff, IMSA welcomes the returning Starworks Motorsport team, Moorespeed, and Precision Performance Motorsports to its GTD category.
- NISSAN: The Japanese brand’s American arm maintained varying levels of engagement with IMSA, and with its recent worldwide exit from motor racing, barring a new Formula E project, it won’t be spending in IMSA. It’s racing division, NISMO, is a paid service provider by the CORE team, which delivers engines and name/usage rights in DPi.
- IMSA/WEC CROSSOVER: Sports car fans win in March when the globetrotting FIA World Endurance Championship joins the undercard on IMSA’s annual visit to Sebring for its 12-hour event. With 1000 miles of WEC racing on Friday and the WeatherTech Championship headlining on Saturday, IMSA has its first proper doubleheader event to offer.
- BRANDS NEW: It could be new cars from a current manufacturer, a new manufacturer to IMSA, or both in the coming years as Ford’s long-rumored exit from GT Le Mans to move up to DPi gets confirmed, and other high-profile brands cast their lot with the WeatherTech Championship. More than a dozen are currently involved, and with the aforementioned momentum in mind, IMSA’s making it easy for auto companies to sign on and race without breaking the bank.
- PIPO: IMSA has struggled to make new-era stars since the series relaunched in 2014, but Brazil’s Luis Felipe ‘Pipo’ Derani is one of the great exceptions. The pint-size phenom, whose knack for winning IMSA’s biggest races for the defunct Extreme Speed Motorsports team was downright lethal, was signed to partner with the defending DPi champions Action Express Racing. Teamed with fellow Brazilian rocket Felipe Nasr, Derani’s new opportunity in the No. 31 AXR Cadillac DPi-V.R with reigning co-champ Eric Curran included for the MEC rounds is simply ridiculous.
- RECORDS: Drivers love their new Michelin tires, and a big part of it comes from the big spike in speed and performance. Lap records in qualifying and the races should fall everywhere IMSA goes in 2019.
- AIM VASSER SULLIVAN: Take the 1996 CART IndyCar Series champion in Jimmy Vasser, add in his partner, sponsorship guru James ‘Sulli’ Sullivan, and the superb AIM Autosport from Canada, and you have a big win for IMSA as the trio make their debut in partnership with Lexus Racing. Colors and personality are the foundation here, and in the occasionally too-serious world of sports car racing, AVS is the readymade antidote.
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