With low car counts and only a single manufacturer actively supporting the category, GRAND-AM’s GX class will not be a part of next year’s United SportsCar Racing, as initially suggested.
The experimental class is set to be folded into the new GT Daytona category for 2014, which will see the clean diesel-powered Mazda6 entries compete alongside GRAND-AM Rolex Series GT cars as well as current GTC entries from the American Le Mans Series.
When asked, ALMS President and CEO Scott Atherton, who will become USCR’s President and COO next year, denied any decision having already been made but admitted their preference would be to have only four classes for 2014.
“We cannot officially confirm the 2014 status of GX right now, but we think the GX cars are close enough in performance that a merger of GX into the GT Daytona category is not that much of a reach,” Atherton told SPEED.com. “We think it would add an interesting element in terms of the cars and the technology competing in GTD. For that reason, we would support it.”
Mazda’s pair of Prep 2-built machines have dominated the new-for-2013 category with four consecutive class wins but only while facing a single Porsche Cayman from BGB Motorsports. While the class saw six entries at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, only three have competed in each race since.
John Doonan, director of Mazda Motorsports North America, supports the apparent decision, which will see the Japanese manufacturer’s long-term commitment to its SKYACTIV-D platform continue, but in the now pro-am driver-enforced GTD class.
“I think that’s probably the best thing for the series,” Doonan told SPEED.com. “It allows the platform to continue to compete. It allows us to sell customer cars as we’ve had more interest recently. It will allow us to continue to pursue our model and that type of thing.”
With the GX class designed for lower horsepower machinery, to slot in behind the current Rolex Series GT cars, Doonan anticipates the only major development needed to the Prep 2 Mazda6 cars will be a boost in horsepower.
“We’ve been maintaining within the box of what the GX rules are, which is a 400 hp target,” he said. “Obviously to compete in GT, we’ll have to turn the wick up. I’d like to do more testing at that higher output level, which is probably in the 420-450 hp range. We have our work cut out for us to get to that level but I’m confident we can do it.”
In addition to one already confirmed Mazda6 for the entire USCR season, Doonan is hopeful of having a second factory entry on the grid next year, along with the possibility of customer cars, which would solidify Mazda’s multi-year commitment and strategy towards developing clean diesel technology.
“We have received a few more calls about the platform in recent weeks,” Doonan said. “As with all of our programs, we have tried to be customer focused. I’d love to see some of our teams in Continental [Tire Sports Car Challenge] come up to the top series if they can make it work. ”
It’s believed that only the Mazda6 will be allowed to compete in GTD next year, with the future of the Porsche Cayman, originally derived from the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge, unclear at this point.