IMSA is taking a page from its history by changing the name of its new 2023 hybrid prototype class and cars from LMDh to GTP.
IMSA’s Grand Touring Prototype formula, which debuted in 1981 and ran through 1993 (main image), at times challenged the CART IndyCar Series – tops among all forms of North American racing during the period – for speed records and fan popularity.
The vehicular diversity was another significant point of attraction for the GTP cars as small turbocharged four-cylinder engines, turbocharged V6s, naturally-aspirated V6s, V8s, and V12, and ear-piercing rotary motors made for an exciting battle between technological choices. Free to style their cars with creative bodywork, it was easy to identify one GTP model from the others.
With a rich history of iconic GTP machinery to draw from that featured great investments and variety from manufacturers like BMW, Chevy, Ford, Jaguar, Mazda, Nissan, Porsche and Toyota, the parallels to the upcoming prototype formula where Acura, BMW, Cadillac, Porsche, and other brands are expected to play, led IMSA to draw from its golden era with a new name for the cars that pays tribute to its past and future.
“In an ongoing attempt to make sure that what we’re doing on the racetrack is understandable to our most loyal audience members as well as the new audience that we continue to attract, we took a step back and looked over the years to find a name that stood out the most for IMSA,” series president John Doonan told RACER.
“The top category has gone through so many different iterations of names like World Sports Cars and LMP900, LMP1, then Daytona Prototypes and now our Daytona Prototype internationals. And if look at what has been done with DPi, and the ability for manufacturers to take their own styling and branding and integrate it into a prototype racecar, we felt that it aligned best with GTP, and that something simpler like GTP was needed.
“Taking a look back was also an opportunity to launch us into the future. And with the ability that the new regulations have provided in the way of styling and a variety of engine choices like we had back in the day, we felt that going to a familiar name like GTP was the best way to explain it.”
Pitched the idea of changing LMDh to GTP in a July 2021 interview with RACER, Doonan was open to the suggestion, citing a need for the name to offer a “crystal clear” understanding for fans as to what the class represents. With the now-former LMDh – Le Mans Daytona ‘h’ – clarity was an issue from the outset.
Although the new GTP logo is different than its predecessor with an italicized font, the acronym which came to symbolize the entire series for more than a decade has been met with approval from the manufacturers who’ve committed to the new prototype formula.
“It’s a Grand Touring Prototype that a manufacturer can stand behind as a symbol of their brand,” Doonan said. “It’s just easier to explain to a fan or a new perspective fan. And frankly, it was relatively easy to bring up our heyday of IMSA racing from many years ago and go back to our roots. And as we did that, we wanted to make sure we had buy-in from the manufacturers that committed to the top category, and wanted to make sure that we had an understanding of our philosophy with our partners at the ACO. And in the end, I think the comfort level and the marketability of this move to GTP caused us to make the commitment.
“I also think it’s pretty special that so far, the committed manufacturers who’ve publicly announced that they’re going to be competing in the top category, whether that’s starting in 2023, or some we’re hoping to have beginning in 2024, had some form of history in IMSA GTP racing, back to the early ’80s. BMW was there. In the GTP Lights class, Acura was there. General Motors was there, with the Corvette GTP and then the Chevy Intrepid GTP, which fits today’s use of Cadillac for its prototype racing. And certainly Porsche, with its 962 GTPs. It was an incredible era, and I think we’re at the dawn of another one with the new GTP cars.
IMSA’s partners at the ACO and FIA World Endurance Championship have their own new prototype class and formula, LMH – Le Mans Hypercar – and will compete against LMDh/GTP models when they arrive in 2023. The ACO/FIA also use the Hypercar name for its top class.
At ACO/WEC events, the LMDh name is expected to carry on; when IMSA GTP teams head to race at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, for example, ‘GTP’ would likely be dropped in favor of LMDh. On a similar note with ACO/WEC LMDh entries coming to race at the Rolex 24 At Daytona or other IMSA rounds, their LMDhs would be referred to as GTPs at WeatherTech Championship events.
Doonan says it won’t be the first time the French and American sanctioning bodies have gone down different paths for class/car naming conventions.
“If you look at what we had with our GT Le Mans cars, the GTLMs, the ACO/FIA call their version of those same cars ‘GTE,’ so there’s already a precedent of the same thing being called by two different names that suit each organization,” he explained. “And here in IMSA, we’re proud to be harkening back to our history of using GTP.”