Questions come in on a weekly basis from diehard sports car fans who want to know if IMSA’s gamble on replacing the factory-rich GT Le Mans formula with less exotic GT3 cars will pay off. The questions are certainly valid, owing to the limited number of manufacturers who’ve committed to the new GTD Pro class, but the momentum is finally starting to build.
Calls throughout IMSA’s WeatherTech Sportscar Championship have returned many happy responses ahead of the GTD Pro category going live next month at the Rolex 24 At Daytona. And while a few teams and manufacturers aren’t quite ready to confirm their plans, an encouraging picture is starting to develop with IMSA’s new home for all-pro GT racing for both Daytona, and the entire season.
Barring any last-minute surprises, I don’t expect to see Acura’s NSX GT3, Audi’s R8 LMS GT3, or McLaren’s 720S GT3 on the grid for GTD Pro’s debut, but based on everything else I’ve heard, we should have eight manufacturers ushering in a new era of GT3-based action from January 27-29.
Be on the lookout for Aston Martin, BMW, Corvette, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Lexus, Mercedes AMG and Porsche to open GTD Pro’s account at the big 24-hour WeatherTech Championship show. BMW has confirmed a pair of its new M4 GT3 will be in motion with BMW Team RLL. Corvette just confirmed two C8.Rs will be in attendance. And Lexus is in with one RC F GT3.
I’m also expecting one Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT3, a Ferrari 488 GT3, at least two Lamborghini Huracan GT3s, a pair of Mercedes AMG GT3s, and two Porsche 911 GT3 Rs. That makes for 12-13 GTD Pro entries for the Rolex 24, which compares favorably to the six GTLM cars that appeared for the 2021 race.
Looking to the full season, GTLM presented fans with three entries for most of its farewell season. Outside of Daytona and the other long races on the calendar that tend to attract larger fields, GTD Pro is on target to deliver a steady 8-9 cars for its 10-race championship run.
An Aston Martin, two BMWs, a Corvette, a Lamborghini, a Lexus, a Mercedes AMG and two Porsches are on my current list, and if we’re fortunate, the number will hold.
Circling back to Acura, Audi, and McLaren, I wouldn’t be surprised if one or more of the brands and their GT3 customers take a wait-and-see approach to GTD Pro. Sometimes it takes seeing something new in action and looking robust before commitments are made, and with that in mind, an NSX GT3, R8 LMS GT3, or 720S GT3 just might be on a few GTD Pro entry lists before the inaugural season’s over in October at Petit Le Mans.
We’ll hold off on hailing the creation of GTD Pro as a big success until the Daytona grid size is confirmed, but for now, plan on seeing a robust start to IMSA’s long-term vision for GT racing. And with Ford expected to be inbound with a new GT3 Mustang in the next year or two, plus Corvette starting work on a new GT3 version of its title-winning GTLM C8.R, all signs point to a bright future for IMSA and GTD Pro.