Despite not currently being eligible to compete in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, a pair of Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 cars from DragonSpeed will be present during next week’s IMSA-sanctioned test at Daytona, in hopes that an agreement can be made for the 2016 season.
The Florida-based team, which won this year’s Pirelli World Challenge GTA Championship, could have both of the gull-winged GT3 cars on the grid for the entire Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup, should they become eligible to be run in the new-look GT Daytona class.
Currently, IMSA is set to only allow its official Automotive Partners to compete in the category next year, with Mercedes still reportedly on the fence to committing to the sizable manufacturer and marketing spend.
“It’s undefined whether the car will be allowed to race or not,” DragonSpeed team owner Elton Julian told Sportscar365. “Mercedes has to write a check [to IMSA] so I don’t know what’s going to happen there.
“We’re going to the test so we can get experience on the tire. If a deal does come through, it could be a week before the Roar and would not be able to make the Roar, but at least we would have tested.
“I have a lot of people that want to race with us at Daytona but we’re all just waiting.”
Newly crowned World Challenge GTA champion Frankie Montecalvo will be joined by Nick Mancuso and Victor Gomez at the wheel of the Mercs in the two-day test, which will be joined by a separate works-entered Mercedes-AMG GT3 car.
With a return to World Challenge not yet confirmed for the team and the uncertainties in IMSA, Julian admitted he may have to take his successful GT3 program abroad next year.
“I’m just sitting on the fence, waiting for IMSA and Mercedes to work out a solution. If they don’t come to terms in the next month, then we’ll have to shift our focus,” he said.
The leading option, Julian said, would be to take part in the new four-round SRO-sanctioned intercontinental GT challenge, which includes the Bathurst 12 Hour, 24 Hours of Spa, 12 Hours of Sepang, as well as the newly announced six-hour GT3 enduro at Circuit of The Americas in March.
Julian said he already has the majority of the budget secured for a return to Mount Panorama in February, although they wouldn’t do both Daytona and Bathurst for logistical reasons.
The team took part in the 2013 race at Bathurst with an Audi R8 LMS ultra.
“If someone walks up to me next week and says, ‘Elton, no, we’re not going to do Daytona’ I’ll start hammering on Bathurst immediately,” he said. “If we do Bathurst and COTA, we’d be part of the intercontinental GT Cup that SRO has created. That’s a lovely championship.”
Julian confirmed that Gomez, who took part in the World Challenge GT Cup class last year, will move to the IMSA-sanctioned GT3 Cup by Yokohama Series next year, and remains hopeful of adding a two-car Mercedes NAEC effort program to that as well.