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IMSA Targeting “Material Change” to GTD in Cost Reduction Efforts

Scott Atherton expecting “material change” to GT Daytona in 2019 in wake of cost control…

Photo: IMSA

IMSA President Scott Atherton says to expect “material change” to the GT Daytona class next year, in a concerted effort to reduce costs for competitors.

The GT3-based category, which has seen an influx of manufacturer support in recent years, has been hit with skyrocketing budgets, largely triggered by the increased professionalism in the Pro-Am-enforced platform.

It’s resulted in a reduced field of full-time GTD entries in this year’s WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, with only ten cars currently committed for the remainder of the year, compared to the 15 season-long teams from 2017.

Additionally, the class has seen a dwindling number of funded gentlemen drivers, who have been forced out either due to the rising costs or the influx of manufacturer-supported drivers.

Among the cost-cutting ideas floated by competitors during last weekend’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring is the separation of the Rolex 24 at Daytona from the full WeatherTech Championship GTD season, which Atherton acknowledged as just one of many possibilities.

“We’re considering a lot of options right now and that’s one of them,” Atherton told Sportscar365. “It really depends on who you talk to.

“It’s amazing the diversity of opinion in that, especially that one.

“There are champions of that proposal. There are also, I would say, an equal number who are adamantly opposed.”

In addition to a potential reduced GTD schedule, which has been cut from 12 to 11 rounds this year, Atherton said a number of other ideas have been put forth by stakeholders.

It includes proposed changes in the category’s driver rating requirements, such as the potential ban of Platinum-rated drivers, enforcement of a Bronze-rated driver for each lineup or revision of the entire system, has also been discussed.

“We’ve been approached by some to say, ‘In this particular example you should not follow the FIA driver ranking protocol. Instead you should establish your own [system] and simply identify funded, gentleman driver versus paid driver of any description,'” Atherton said.

“We’re getting a lot of very creative feedback from all of our constituents in that category. It’s not an easy challenge to find effective solutions for.”

Atherton stressed that no changes will be made to the category this year, with the focus on implementing potential changes for 2019.

“For a sanctioning body, our job is to vet as many options as possible and garner as much feedback from all of our stakeholders across all disciplines: team owners, drivers, funded drivers, manufacturers, promoters, and then make some really tough decisions,” he said.

“We’re in that process right now.

“The one thing everybody agrees on is we need to make our GTD class more sustainable, more affordable, in a material way. Not just window dressing, but substance.”

Atherton Downplays Possible LMP3, GT3 Integration

Despite rumors of GT3 machinery being considered for what’s now known as the IMSA Prototype Challenge presented by Mazda series, Atherton downplayed its potential future integration alongside LMP3 cars.

IPC currently features a two-class format of LMP3 and the Elan-built MPC cars, which are due to be phased out at the end of the season.

It’s understood that IMSA had been approached by teams wishing to run GT3 cars in a more cost-effective format, similar to the ACO’s Michelin Le Mans Cup in Europe, which also features LMP3 and GT3 machinery.

Any potential integration, however, would be in addition to the existing GTD class in the WeatherTech Championship.

“If you look at the growth that’s occurring in LMP3, in IMSA Prototype Challenge, the car counts, it wouldn’t be our first choice,” Atherton said.

“I think that becomes an alternative if we weren’t able to grow that class of car, that platform.”

Atherton expects the LMP3 formula to continue to grow, following a record 17-car entry in last weekend’s round at Sebring.

“All indications are, talking to the team owners that are acquiring these cars and putting drivers on the track, there seems to be a pretty steady growth model in play there,” he said.

“Time will tell. It’s an option. [But LMP3-only in 2019 is] what was originally announced and the direction we are going in.”

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365 as well as the recently launched e-racing365 Web site for electric racing. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for FOXSports.com/SPEED Channel, and contributes to other publications worldwide. Contact John

40 Comments

40 Comments

  1. Chips O'Toole

    March 19, 2018 at 11:22 am

    Hmm, wondering how many GTD teams would forgo Daytona if it wasn’t part of the championship.

    • Rus'L

      March 19, 2018 at 12:34 pm

      I think that’s the point.

      Teams that cannot afford to do Daytona, would be able to skip it without any championship ramifications. Those who want to do it, mainly because they have gentleman drivers willing to pay for that event, can still go ahead with it.

      I think it’s the best of both worlds in order to lower the budget of GTD for those teams that need their budgets lowered.

      And with the prototype car counts Daytona has been getting lately coupled with the usual GTLM entries and whoever from GTD wants to join the race, it won’t really hurt the event.

      • Chips O'Toole

        March 19, 2018 at 2:38 pm

        Yes, I get the concept. Are we talking 5 teams or 10? With the current Dpi/LMP2 BOP I wouldn’t count on a large prototype field next year.

        • JeffB

          March 19, 2018 at 8:46 pm

          Why dismiss the prototype car count for a race 11 months away based on what the BOP is today? They’ve shown the BOP can be changed at any time to react to changing circumstances. By the time we get to Watkins Glen, the LMP2 cars could be given a noticeable increase in power not unlike the change to the GTLM BMW’s from Daytona to Sebring.

          • Chips O'Toole

            March 20, 2018 at 8:15 am

            FYI the LMP2’s can’t be BOP’d, they are the baseline. IMSA can only slow down the DPi’s.

  2. jason

    March 19, 2018 at 11:30 am

    So the idea is not to strip GTD from Daytona, just make it a non points paying race? For both the full season and the NAEC. Or just the full season?

    Ok that is confusing. Strip out of races or don’t. I think the Petit Le Mans could be a race you can strip GTD out of entirely, considering the size of the track. There is your cost savings in some part there.

    I think some adjustment of the driver rankings is a good idea for that category too. Just not sure how. Hopefully IMSA will get that one right.

  3. Old Trombone

    March 19, 2018 at 11:45 am

    1. Reduce the dependence on the ACO for global P2 and GTLM
    2. New class structure – DPi, GlobP2, GTLM made from GT3, GTD made from GT4. Challenge series can also have GT4 and TCR, this way as Challenge GT4 teams grow powerful, they can transition up to Weathertech with literally zero car upgrade costs.
    3. Scrap driver ratings completely. If a team can afford to pay drivers, why should the series force that money towards OEMs instead? If an OEM wants to pay for elite drivers, then FANTASTIC, that’s what I want to see. And then watch Madison Snow and Trent Hindman and Aurora Straus drive past them anyway.

    • Rus'L

      March 19, 2018 at 12:36 pm

      The manufacturers involved in GTLM want it the way it is. Until that changes, GTLM stays the way it is. Otherwise, I don’t have any issues with your proposals. Except maybe I’m okay with a class designated as an AM or PRO-AM class and the resulting rules necessary for that.

    • Bird

      March 19, 2018 at 12:38 pm

      Recipe to kill the series.

    • Nips

      March 19, 2018 at 1:37 pm

      GTE cars that race in GTLM are not GT3 spec. GTE has it’s own set of rules and regulations.
      And it can’t be called GTLM (Le Mans) since GT3 don’t race in the 24h Le Mans event.

    • jason

      March 19, 2018 at 1:56 pm

      I don’t think a crazy change like that is needed. The driver ranking system for GTD does need a complete overhaul though. And IMSA does need to put less miles on the GTD class during the year.

      A couple possibilities:
      1. Take GTD out of Laguna Seca. Eliminate them from going to any west races which reduces travel and lodging costs.
      2. Take GTD out of Watkins Glen. Maybe run DPI/GTLM on the track with no boot. Race can be 4 or 6 hours.
      3. Take GTD out of Petit Le Mans. Road Atlanta is a small track for an endurance race like that. Now that would save miles on the cars for sure.

      • Matt

        March 19, 2018 at 5:02 pm

        LOL the 6 Hours of the Glen is one of the staple races of the series. You’re proposal makes absolutely no sense. Removing The Boot would do nothing from the race would do nothing but decrease overtaking and piss off every fan. You’ve obviously never been to The Glen or you’d know that The Boot is the best part of the track. Same goes for Petit Le Mans. You can’t simply ruin 2 of the best races of the calendar just to cut costs for a class. There aren’t enough prototypes and GTLM cars to run by themselves and give these races any substance and Road Atlanta is plenty large enough for the amount of cars that currently run.

        The GT3 issue needs to be solved with cost caps and banning manufacturer support/funding. IMSA should not be allowing any manufacturer personnel to provide assistance at the track. GTD teams should be limited to a certain amount of team members. IMSA will only destroy the rest of its classes by gutting the races and tracks of the series. Your idea would be a much more destructive change for the overall health than Old Trombone’s.

        • Kaiyu

          March 20, 2018 at 12:32 pm

          Ban Manufacturer support? Funding sure. There is no cost to the teams for the support from the manufacturer at the track. It’s expected in customer racing.. that’s the point. The teams didn’t build the cars, the manufacturer did.the customer expect support which is provided at no cost to the teams. Hell a couple of the manufacturers even subsidize the cost of their cars to the teams. Just look at Manufacturer car counts to figure out who. But sure banning an availability of spare parts at the track and engineering and technical support for the teams will benefit the race teams somehow..

          • Matt

            March 20, 2018 at 3:44 pm

            The cost of manufacturer support is passed on through the increasing prices of the cars, spares, other running costs, etc. Banning support will help to decrease the complicity of the future cars and bring down the running costs. The idea for these cars is that they shouldn’t need more than basic support to run effectively. The cars increasingly require more and more manufacturer support to be competitive and that’s what’s driving up the cost to running GT3 cars. Nobody said anything about spares lol now you’re making stuff up.
            The point is, manufacturer support needs to be ended. Ratel needs to be heavy handed with this and do it quickly (so far he’s done nothing). The class should be cost capped at $300k for a car, or whatever number teams prefer. Teams should be able to buy the cars only have to make minor adjustments to be competitive.

      • Andy

        March 19, 2018 at 5:12 pm

        Possibilities are like a$$holes and most stink as well.

        1. Doubt teams view the trip as not worth it for those who are actually GTD target teams. Funded drivers want to drive the best tracks and dropping Laguna is shooting yourself in the foot, maybe a toe.

        2. Watkins Glen without the boot is just a travesty, the worst idea ever. It’s already a bit of a Mickey Mouse but without the boot it’s pointless.

        3. Same as Laguna but more so. Never hear a driver complain about Road Atlanta and well dropping Petit is truly shooting yourself in the foot. Might as well drop all the enduros.

        Non-factory GT3 has run its course, shut the door it is over, O-V-E-R. And if GT4 continues as it is it is done within 5 years itself. Listening to the ‘fans’ and the objections over banning Platinum from CTSC would be a bad move, Platinum drivers should be in the main show and tough shit if you can’t get a drive. I don’t want to see factory drivers in the minor leagues, the whole point of the lower series is to learn and it seems we’ve forgotten that lately.

        • Gaucherie

          March 20, 2018 at 2:01 am

          Read that post until the drivel about Watkins Glen. Removing GTD and the Boot. LAWL.

        • Keith

          March 27, 2018 at 9:51 pm

          Wow. The GLEN is Mickey mouse. I was under the impression that it was a world renowned track loved by grand prix and sports car drivers alike. Who knew!

    • Willis

      March 19, 2018 at 5:12 pm

      LMP2 speed difference to GT4 is so vast, it would be dangerous to have them on the same track.

    • tromboneisclueless

      March 19, 2018 at 11:17 pm

      Jeez, Trombone, what have you been smoking?

      Or drinking?

      This has to be one of the most stupid posts on this board.

      • Andy Flinn

        March 20, 2018 at 12:27 pm

        Tromboneisclueless, yours is the worst post on this board.

        Whether or not we even agree with Old Trombone, you just attack this person without bothering to mention anything about WHY you think his ideas are “stupid.”

        Just another troll….

        • Old Trombone

          March 21, 2018 at 10:00 am

          Thanks Andy, much appreciated. My ideas are only that – ideas. S’funny how words make some people feel punched in the mouth…

  4. N8

    March 19, 2018 at 12:54 pm

    Replacing MPC with GT3 is an interesting idea.

  5. NaBUru38

    March 19, 2018 at 2:12 pm

    Requiring one Bronze driver per GTD entry would help to reduce factory involvement, and theerfore reduce costs. But it would also reduce interest in the class.

  6. speedy

    March 19, 2018 at 3:24 pm

    Look at PWC if you wanted to know what these series will look like in these future.

  7. Jenner

    March 19, 2018 at 3:52 pm

    Move GTD to Conti Series, Sprint races only. Endurance races are costly for these smaller teams.

    • Matt

      March 19, 2018 at 5:06 pm

      GT3 needs to be cost contained. Gutting the headlining races will accomplish nothing.

    • Andy Flinn

      March 20, 2018 at 4:41 pm

      So you would have been cool with just 25 starters (16 prototype and 9 GTLM) at Sebring?

      That would have set a new record low water mark for entries at Sebring this year.

      The previous low mark was 26 starters in 2009.

  8. Harry Manback

    March 19, 2018 at 5:38 pm

    There are a lot of substances being abused by the folk who have left comments on this article.

  9. gtgianlu

    March 19, 2018 at 6:12 pm

    Something like the Blancpain endurance,could be the way,Gtd allowed only in the Naec and in a time stretched Gt only Vir (4h long,may be).Gold-silver-bronze or silver-silver-bronze could be the line up.Road America too,could be in the schedule

  10. aaa

    March 19, 2018 at 7:45 pm

    a time machine would fix things

    • Andy Flinn

      March 20, 2018 at 4:44 pm

      Yes aaa, back to a time long ago when IMSA had a much deeper bench (Camel GTO and GTU) so not every team had to show up for every race to fill the grid.

      Sadly, I think those days are gone.

  11. Passenger

    March 20, 2018 at 4:13 am

    Cancel GTD is a very bad ideal. GTE-AM isn’t a solution to replace GTD, as WEC suffers lacking AM teams. ACO always makes GT cataory as side show and not allow GT3 cars. IMSA has done good job for GT fans.

  12. Slicks in the wet

    March 20, 2018 at 4:30 am

    Um. Look. Guys. I get that costs are going up. But this isn’t an SCCA regional event or series.

    It’s literally a world class endurance championship. It might actually BE the best in the world currently.

    It is not club racing and isn’t gonna be.

    If teams drop so be it. North American endurance series will flail and die and be reborn again. I mean current IMSA is half way through a decade..pretty much on schedule to start dying. The next five years will slowly decline. And we’ll start over.

    Hopefully next time no “prototypes” because, even though I love the concept, these are not prototypes of anything. Just fast-ish cars. I’d be fine going all GT cars which could mean more classes of various performance/cost. We can’t bring in slower cheaper cars now because of the LMP pace (this could also be a problem in future if new GT1 happens and are as fast as current LMP2).

    • Andy Flinn

      March 20, 2018 at 4:52 pm

      “Um. Look. Guys. I get that costs are going up. But this isn’t an SCCA regional event or series. It’s literally a world class endurance championship. It might actually BE the best in the world currently. It is not club racing and isn’t gonna be.”
      — Slicks in the wet

      Slicks, so if a team struggles to find 3 million dollars in sponsorship (that’s approximately what an IMSA season costs now for one GTD entry) they’re to be disparaged and belittled as “SCCA regional club racers.”

      Are you serious?

      Why not just call them “hobbyists” while you’re at it.

      Of course, it’s always easier to criticize and much less painful when you’re talking about spending other people’s money.

      • Slicks in the wet

        March 21, 2018 at 3:53 am

        I do recognize that GTD going away hurts the main series. But short of IMSA subsidizing teams like Grand Am, this isn’t anything they can fix. Acura being semi factory had less to do with this than rising running costs. Outside factors can’t be fixed by the series, can they?

        True, easy to spend others money. If I truly were spending it, it’d be on a GT4 Cayman and a full season in CTSCC where I can go to all the same tracks as the main series AND get as much coverage for my sponsor as GTD gets (..none) for a lot less money still.

  13. juneracer

    March 20, 2018 at 8:01 am

    just make Daytona not part of the points for everyone. Le Mans doesn’t have issues filling the field. without Daytona the season starts in March. thats where teams will save money on top of 30 less hours of running by taking out Daytona.

  14. EBR

    March 20, 2018 at 6:31 pm

    What are the 10 confirmed full season? Man I thought a lot more were teed up

  15. Daniel Tripp

    March 20, 2018 at 7:05 pm

    How about taking a page from the Blancpain play book and split the GTD field? Pro, Pro-Am & Am.

    Before you roll your eyes, think about it… That combined with a slightly reduced schedule (but including the NAEC since it is “endurance racing) makes much more sense than the PWC SprintX format.

  16. The Brad

    March 20, 2018 at 7:55 pm

    So how did the Grand Am Rolex GT class do so well over the years? Good car counts, Pro/Am teams winning races and championships. 2010 and 2011 Emil / Segal won the championship. 2012 Paul Dalla Lana finished 3rd in points.

    What did Grand Am do right with GT that IMSA is doing wrong with GT3 ?

    • Dickface

      March 20, 2018 at 10:31 pm

      One had daytona and Watkins while the other had sebring and petite. The cost was lower.

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