A new era of GT racing will begin in January’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona, with the arrival of full FIA GT3-spec machinery to the GT Daytona class.
With a new wave of cars and manufacturers set to enter IMSA competition, anticipation has continued to build for what could be the class to watch next year, with up to a dozen automakers potentially being in the running for spaces on the grid next year.
It’s understood that due to the large amount of interest, GTD entries could be capped by manufacturer, or potentially limited to IMSA Automotive Partners only. IMSA has yet to reveal its selection process for the class.
Sportscar365 breaks down the list of expected players in the new-look GTD class, as well as potential car counts for the 2016 season.
Porsche — The German manufacturer will debut its new Porsche 911 GT3-R at Daytona, in what is likely to be the 991-based car’s first-ever race. Alex Job Racing and Black Swan Racing have already confirmed orders, with at least two other teams expected to soon commit for the season. Expect a heavy works presence, but no full factory team for its debut race. (4-6 cars)
Audi — The new Audi R8 LMS is also expected to have a significant presence next year, with five of the second-generation mid-engined sports cars set to be delivered to U.S. customers between now and November. While some may be headed to teams in PWC, look for at least two full-season entries in IMSA, including a likely returning effort from Paul Miller Racing. (2-4 cars)
BMW — Another new GT3 car, the BMW M6 GT3 is set to debut alongside its IMSA GTLM-homologated cousin at Daytona. Turner Motorsport has already confirmed the order of two M6 GT3s, with both poised to contest the Rolex 24 at Daytona. At least one full-season entry is expected at this stage, with the manufacturer in discussions with other potential customers. (1-3 cars)
Ferrari — Few details of the new GT3-spec Ferrari 488 GTB have surfaced, including whether it will be ready for the start of the season to debut alongside the nearly identical GTE-spec machine. Either way, expect Scuderia Corsa to return with at least one 458/488 car for next year, with additional Prancing Horses possible. (1-3 cars)
Lamborghini — While yet to officially announce its entry into IMSA competition, all fingers are pointing towards multiple customer Huracán GT3s in 2016. As many as five entries could be on the grid next year, set to be fielded by a mixture of front-running teams from the Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo North America series, as well potentially one existing TUDOR Championship squad. Look for a ramped up effort around the car’s U.S. debut at Daytona. (4-5 cars)
Lexus — The new Lexus RC F GT3 will make its debut next year as part of a two-car factory team. The yet-to-be-announced effort will likely see support from TRD, with the final details being put into place this month, including the team that will operate the multi-year program. An existing TUDOR Championship team appears to be the front-running squad to land the contract. (2 cars)
Mercedes — There’s a strong likelihood the new Mercedes AMG GT3 will be represented in the WeatherTech Championship next year, with the German manufacturer in discussions with multiple teams for potential 2016 customer programs. (1-2 cars)
Nissan — Look for the Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 to be on the grid for the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup races at a minimum, most likely with Always Evolving Racing. It’s understood a full-season effort is also a possibility. (1-2 cars)
Viper — Riley Motorsports is set to continue fielding Ben Keating’s Dodge Viper GT3-R, despite the Detroit automaker unlikely to commit to the financial spend to be represented in GTD next year. It’s understood Keating and Riley will be putting up the money themselves to keep the Viper on track. An additional Viper from a former PWC entrant is also possible. (1-2 cars)
Aston Martin — Kevin Buckler’s TRG outfit could be left in the same situation, with Aston Martin currently not an IMSA automotive partner, leaving some question marks if the Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3 will be allowed to race. Buckler has reiterated his intentions to remain with Aston next year, despite rumors indicating he may be nearing the end of that relationship. (1 car?)
McLaren — Its recent displeasure in PWC could see Flying Lizard Motorsports and K-PAX make the move to GTD next year with its McLaren 650S GT3 cars, although IMSA’s partnership deal has been known to be a stumbling block for the British manufacturer in the past as well. (2-3 cars?)
Bentley — There’s a chance to see a Bentley on the grid too, with at least one customer evaluating a GTD effort for next year with the Continental GT3. Dyson Racing is believed to not be involved in any potential IMSA program. (1-2 cars?)