The marquee status of the new United SportsCar Racing series will be undeniable in 2014, as will the importance of another component in the ongoing merger of GRAND-AM Road Racing and the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA): the lineup of two development series and four single-make series.
The development/single-make lineup:
· Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge
· Cooper Tires Prototype Lites powered by Mazda
· Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama
· Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Michelin
· Ferrari Challenge
· Lamborghini Super Trofeo
“Our development and single-make series have provided a solid foundation for a number of drivers – such as Tristan Nunez, Sean Johnston and Kyle Marcelli – and enabled them to be selected for professional teams or factory-supported opportunities,” said Scot Elkins, IMSA vice president of competition and technical regulations. “These series also allow for top professionals to work side-by-side with aspiring amateur racers to develop their driving skills, and have become a highly competitive destination for some drivers and teams.”
Each series has created its own identity, either under GRAND-AM Road Racing sanction or as an IMSA Development Series, and that identity will carry through under the “new” IMSA beginning in 2014. However, most series will also see several positive changes starting next year.
The Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge (CTSCC) will continue to run two classes, Grand Sport (GS) and Street Tuner (ST). This is where, in GS, American muscle cars like the Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang battle machinery from international manufacturers such as Porsche, BMW, Nissan and Aston Martin, while the ST class features compacts from Honda, Mazda, BMW, Volkswagen, Nissan and Porsche. All CTSCC cars race with modifications focused on safety and performance, but retain their original production “street car” configuration.
In 2014, performance levels in the CTSCC will be adjusted, to assist with an across-the-board cost-cutting initiative. In addition, the IMSA driver rating system announced last month will be established for CTSCC and the “Pro-Am” co-driving approach will be introduced, requiring at least one silver or bronze driver in every lineup. The series also will have a dedicated technical staff and technical manager.
The Cooper Tires Prototype Lites powered by Mazda Series, which is enjoying its largest grid of Lites 1 class entries for Élan DP02 prototype cars in recent years, will maintain the same technical regulations as this year. The series will introduce paddle shifters before the end of the 2013 season, with full implementation slated for 2014. This technical update adds further relevance to the category as a gateway for career-minded racers seeking opportunities in the international prototype racing industry.
Earlier this season, the Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Michelin streamlined its competition classifications to be consistent with the current structure for the U.S.-based Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama. That structure will remain intact for 2014.
In addition, both series introduced a Masters Championship within each class in recognition of the growing driver diversity and competition. Next year will see the introduction of Porsche’s all new 911 GT3 Cup type 991 race car to headline the Platinum class for both series, while the Gold class will utilize the 2010-2013 version of the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup.
Ferrari Challenge will celebrate its 21st consecutive season of competition in North America next year. It is part of Ferrari’s worldwide Corse Clienti program for Ferrari 458 Challenge race cars, which compete together in 7-8 races per year in North and South America in conjunction with high-profile events like the Rolex 24 At Daytona, and Formula 1 events in the United States and Canada. A number of Ferrari Challenge participants have moved into higher levels of racing as both drivers and team owners over the years.
The Lamborghini Super Trofeo series, which made its North American debut last month at Lime Rock Park to positive reviews, is poised for growth in 2014 with 14 to 18 entries expected. A multi-driver format allows for a relatively low cost of entry and allows the opportunity for rookie drivers to work side-by-side with more veteran competitors during each event weekend’s two-race format.
“Ultimately, race fans love to watch race cars they can truly relate to, either as a car they can own – or aspire to own,” said Scot Elkins, the vice president of competition and technical regulations for IMSA. “That’s one outstanding aspect of our development and single-make series. Another is the competition itself which is door-to-door, lap after lap.”
Each series will provide event promoters with diverse and compelling content for complete IMSA-sanctioned event weekends with United SportsCar Racing as the headliner. Each series could also bring additional excitement to another major road course or street circuit event weekend in North America on occasion.