The GT Daytona class in the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is set for the arrival of three new manufacturers, as well as the return of the majority of competitors that filled this year’s GT3-based grid.
In the latest Silly Season update, Sportscar365 takes a look at the confirmed, likely and possible entries for the season, as well as previewing potential one-off efforts for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
Confirmed/Planned Entries (12-14 cars):
Michael Shank Racing (Acura) – The longtime Prototype entrant will move to the GTD class next year, running Acura’s two-car factory NSX GT3 effort. While drivers for the program will be announced at SEMA next week, a number of top-level pilots have been linked to the program, including Andy Lally, Ozz Negri, Katherine Legge and Mark Wilkins. (2 cars)
3GT Racing (Lexus) – The newly rebranded Gentilozzi family run operation will have two 2017-spec Lexus RC F GT3 cars on the grid next year, with the Michigan-based team having recently taken delivery of its first car. Scott Pruett and Sage Karam have been two of the four full-season drivers confirmed for the program thus far, with the remainder of the lineup set to be announced shortly. (2 cars)
Riley Motorsports (Mercedes-AMG) – While not having yet been announced, Ben Keating will make the switch from Dodge to the Mercedes-AMG GT3, as part of the German manufacturer’s factory supported operation with Riley Motorsports next year. Keating and longtime co-driver Jeroen Bleekemolen will be in one car, with up to a three-car Riley-run effort possible. (2-3 cars)
Stevenson Motorsports (Audi) – Stevenson is expected to confirm a return of its two-car Audi R8 LMS program for a second consecutive season. There’s been no word on its driver lineup at this point, but it would be a surprise to see any changes to its full-season roster of Robin Liddell, Andrew Davis, Lawson Aschenbach and Matt Bell. (2 cars)
CORE autosport (Porsche) – The five-time Prototype Challenge champions will make the move to the GTD class with a customer Porsche 911 GT3 R program for Colin Braun and team owner Jon Bennett. It is the only Porsche confirmed for the class so far. (1 car)
Paul Miller Racing (Lamborghini) – While not yet formally announced, look for a near identical program for Lamborghini’s top-performing GTD team, which saw Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow deliver the Italian manufacturer’s first class win. (1 car)
Dream Racing (Lamborghini) – Enrico Bertaggia’s Las Vegas-based team is set to return for its first full-season effort after making its debut at Sebring this year. Driver lineups have yet to be announced but will likely consist of a similar combination of its 2016 roster of Cedric Sbirrazzuoli, Luca Persiani and Larry DeGeorge. (1 car)
Change Racing (Lamborghini) – The Robby Benton-led team is looking to expand into a two-car full-time program next year following its rookie season with a single Lamborghini Huracan GT3 with Spencer Pumpelly and Corey Lewis. Pumpelly, however, could be heading elsewhere for 2017. (1-2 cars)
Likely Entries (4-5 cars):
Scuderia Corsa (Ferrari) – The two-time and defending class champions are likely to return with at least one Ferrari 488 GT3 car, with the hope of retaining both Christina Nielsen and Alessandro Balzan. An expansion to a second full-season entry is also understood to be possible, with discussions having taken place. (1-2 cars)
Park Place Motorsports (Porsche) – While not yet confirmed, plans are being put into place for similar program for the Patrick Lindsey-led operation, including a likely return with its Porsche 911 GT3 R. A formal announcement on the team’s 2017 plans is expected to come in December. (1 car)
WeatherTech Racing (Mercedes-AMG) – Cooper MacNeil is poised to return to the WeatherTech Championship, but with a Mercedes-AMG GT3. While there were initial negotiations to continue with Alex Job Racing, it’s believed MacNeil could switch to the works-supported Riley operation, although not yet confirmed. A number of AMG factory drivers have been under consideration for MacNeil’s co-driver. (1 car)
TRG (TBD) – The Kevin Buckler-led team is looking to finalize a full-season return to GTD next year, likely with a new manufacturer. While Aston Martin remains as one of TRG’s four choices, Buckler has also been in discussions with Mercedes-AMG and Lamborghini, among others, for a potential program. (1 car)
Turner Motorsport (BMW) – Will Turner’s BMW operation has yet to confirm a return, with one of its longtime gentlemen drivers considering other options amid the category’s rising costs and driver pairing controversy. Michael Marsal and Bret Curtis bankrolled the team’s two M6 GT3s this year. Should one or neither pull out, Turner would be seeking new drivers, or a potential switch to Pirelli World Challenge to join its recently announced TC program. (2 cars?)
Alex Job Racing (Porsche) – The future of the longtime IMSA entrant is unclear, following The Heart of Racing’s decision to reduce its funding for the No. 23 Porsche 911 GT3 R, and the WeatherTech-backed effort poised to switch to another team and manufacturer. It currently leaves Job without a confirmed car or program for 2017.
Black Swan Racing (Porsche?) – After an end-of-season effort in Pirelli World Challenge, the future of Black Swan Racing in the WeatherTech Championship is also unclear, with no announcements having yet been made.
Lone Star Racing (TBD) – After a partial season with its Dodge Viper GT3-R, which will no longer be eligible for GTD competition next year, the Dan Knox-owned team is working to put together a full-season program with a new GT3 car. Discussions have been ongoing with multiple manufacturers. (1 car?)
Magnus Racing (Audi?) – Following a dreadful second half of the season that saw the team’s Audi R8 LMS excluded at VIR and a post-race drive-time penalty at Petit Le Mans, a return for the John Potter-owned team is currently unlikely. Longtime co-driver Andy Lally is reportedly off to the new Michael Shank Acura NSX GT3 program.
Bill Sweedler/Townsend Bell – After losing their planned full-season ride with the ceasing of O’Gara Motorsport’s operations, the 2015 GTD champions are working on a comeback to the class next year, with Sweedler having had discussions with multiple teams.
WRT (Audi) – The most successful Blancpain GT Series team in history could make its U.S. debut with at least one Audi for newly crowned Sprint Cup champion Enzo Ide. Final confirmation of the entry has not yet been made. (1 car)
Grasser Racing Team (Lamborghini) – Gottfried Grasser’s team is also preparing for a potential Daytona effort with up to two Huracan GT3s. Members of the Austrian squad assisted Change Racing in this year’s race, with Grasser having expressed interest to bring his full team to Daytona in 2017. (2 cars)
HTP Motorsport (Mercedes-AMG) – The German squad could field a Mercedes-AMG GT3 for Paul Dalla Lana, Mathias Lauda and Pedro Lamy, should Dalla Lana’s bid to enter an Aston Martin Vantage GTE in the GT Le Mans class not materialize. (1 car?)