IMSA modifies GTD rules, boosts recognition of Bronze drivers

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IMSA modifies GTD rules, boosts recognition of Bronze drivers

IMSA

IMSA modifies GTD rules, boosts recognition of Bronze drivers

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IMSA has announced several changes for the GTD category for 2023, including firming up its plans for special recognition of Bronze drivers, new qualifying rules and the return of the Sprint Cup.

Beginning at the Roar Before the 24 at Daytona International Speedway in January, IMSA will allow a single driver of any categorization — Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum as shown on the FIA Driver Categorization List — to qualify the car to earn starting position and qualifying points. Currently, an “Am” driver — Silver or Bronze rated — must qualify the car and start the race. To offer incentive for having a Bronze driver qualify, a Bronze driver will be able to start the race on any set of tires from the car’s allocation without penalty. Any non-Bronze driver will be required to start on their qualifying tires.

After IMSA President John Doonan announced enhancements to its recognition of Bronze drivers during his the State of the Sport presentation at Road America last month, those plans are coming into focus. The new-for-2023 Bob Akin Bronze Cup championship will honor the top Bronze-rated drivers in GTD at each race, along with end-of-season recognition as part of the annual WeatherTech Night of Champions celebration and entry into the 2024 24 Hours of Le Mans. This year’s Bob Aiken Award has already been clinched by Wright Motorsports driver Ryan Hardwick.

In addition to the overall Bob Akin Bronze Cup championship, IMSA will recognize the top three Bronze-rated finishers in the season standings during WeatherTech Night of Champions.

“Bronze-rated drivers literally make it possible for their teams to go racing — not only in the WeatherTech Championship GTD class, but it many other IMSA classes and series,” Doonan said. “These drivers provide vital funding for their teams and have provided the backbone of sports car racing throughout its history. These enhancements will provide more benefits for Bronze-rated drivers in the GTD class and focus more well-deserved attention on their success in the WeatherTech Championship.”

Paddock rumors swirling prior to the State of the Sport presentation had many expecting IMSA to institute a requirement to have a Bronze driver in each GTD lineup, but that idea didn’t come to fruition.

After initially dropping the Sprint Cup for 2023, IMSA has announced that the WeatherTech Sprint Cup will again be part of the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship for the GTD class. This year’s Sprint Cup was won by Paul Miller Racing and the drivers of the No. 1 BMW M4 GT3, Madison Snow and Bryan Sellers.

The Sprint Cup includes all seven races that are 2h40m or shorter — all but the four endurance races on the 2023 calendar. Sprint Cup driver, team and manufacturer champions will be honored at season’s end. Unlike in previous years, there will be no Sprint Cup-only weekends that don’t count for the overall championship.

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