IMSA is making steady progress with the formation of its new-for-2022 GTD Pro class, which is set to replace the current GT Le Mans category for manufacturer-based competition.
“Prior to and since the announcement IMSA made in Daytona regarding GTD Pro becoming a category starting in 2022, we had a lot of conversations with our OEM partners, and the confidence (from) those conversations give all of us at IMSA a really strong sense that it will be a success,” IMSA President John Doonan told RACER.
“We wouldn’t have made those announcements regarding GTD Pro without solid feedback from the current participants in GTD and GTLM; they agreed this was the right direction for the sport. And since Daytona, we’ve had the opportunity to gather with the manufacturers, individually and as a group, which has allowed us to further drill down into the details of what everyone’s expectations are as participants. And also, what we all believe will put on the best performances for our audience. There’s a lot of energy behind where GTD Pro is headed.”
IMSA is known to have recently held high-level meetings with a number of manufacturers involved in GTD that aren’t currently represented in GTLM, which could lead to new brands being involved in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s new and upcoming top GT class.
“We’re working on the regulations and trying to keep it as simple as possible for GTD and GTD Pro, which our OEMs tell us is important to them,” Doonan said. “I can reinforce now that a common GT3 specification for both GTD Pro and GTD is the target, with the same fuel type for both categories. Ultimately, the same Michelin tire for both categories to start the 2022 season. And the whole mindset there is to contain and hopefully reduce development costs for the OEMs as well as any of their customer teams. And that’s the real highlight of the process heading into 2022.”
Doonan is hopeful that some of the manufacturers IMSA has met with will confirm GTD Pro entries and give the class a proper launch in January at the Rolex 24 At Daytona.
“There are GTD Pro announcements to make, and those will come from the manufacturers,” he continued. “But we’ve got a lot of interest from existing GTD manufacturers to at least have one or more entries in GTD Pro starting in 2022. It gives you a lot of confidence, seeing as there’s 10 manufacturers competing in GTD over the last couple of seasons.
“We’d be happy with eight to maybe 10 entries to start with in GTD Pro, and hopefully about the same, if not more, in GTD. The interest has been high. The manufacturers and independent teams really like the idea of consistency with having GT3 as the single platform for GT racing. And they also like the idea that IMSA has taken a leadership role in defining this as our GT strategy in the short term and potentially in the long term.”
One task Doonan and his competition team are actively managing is trying to populate GTD Pro without taking entries from the Pro-Am GTD category. Some migration from GTD team to GTD Pro seems inevitable, but it’s not the series’ goal, according to its president.
“I think the feedback from the OEMs has been critical here,” he said. “The manufacturers are very sensitive to support their customer racing programs, and at the same time, showcasing their factory efforts. That message has been driven home very strongly by the OEMs. They’ve said, ‘We’d love to try to have a factory program in GTD Pro, but we also are very sensitive to not race against our customers if they’re going to be in GTD Pro’, which I obviously commend them for.
“And so based on the conversations we’ve had, there’s not a lot of fear of stealing from one class to grow another. I think it’s an opportunity for the factories to showcase their brands in GTD Pro as they do today in GTLM. So, we’re hopeful for a smooth transition there, and then a continued dedication to supporting their customer teams in GTD.”