Following the arrival of Ford this year, the GT Le Mans class in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is set to remain relatively unchanged for 2017, apart from some expected key driver changes.
Sportscar365 explores the confirmed and likely entries in the first installment of its 2017 Silly Season update for the top production-based class.
Confirmed Full-Season (8 cars):
Corvette Racing – The Pratt & Miller squad will return with its pair of championship-winning Corvette C7.Rs next year, with the unchanged lineup of Tommy Milner/Oliver Gavin and Jan Magnussen/Antonio Garcia. Look for the potential of new additional drivers for the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup races that would also be in the cars for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. (2 cars)
Ford Chip Ganassi Racing – Ford will return for the second of its now-planned four-year program with the Ford GT. No major changes are expected within the operation, with all four season-long drivers Joey Hand/Dirk Mueller and Richard Westbrook/Ryan Briscoe appearing to be safe bets again for 2017. (2 cars)
Porsche North America – The CORE autosport-run operation will debut Porsche’s new mid-rear engined 911 GTE car next year, with an expected shakeup in its driver lineup, with either or both Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber moving to the German manufacturer’s LMP1 program. With Porsche also returning to a factory GTE-Pro effort in the WEC, it’s unclear which program 2015 GTLM champion Patrick Pilet and countryman Fred Makowiecki will be placed. (2 cars)
BMW Team RLL – Look for potential major changes in the driver lineup for the pair of factory BMW M6 GTLM cars, which will take part in its second and final season of competition. Former DTM champion Martyn Tomczyk and 2015 GTLM winner Kuno Wittmer have been tipped for full-season seats, rumored to be replacing Bill Auberlen, Lucas Luhr and/or Dirk Werner, who could move to endurance roles with the team. Spa 24 winner Alexander Sims could also factor into a race seat as well. (2 cars)
Risi Competizione – Although not yet fully confirmed, the Giuseppe Risi-owned squad is likely to return with its Ferrari 488 GTE car, following its Petit Le Mans triumph with Toni Vilander, Giancarlo Fisichella and James Calado. A similar lineup would be expected for next year, particularly in the Finnish-Italian duo, who gelled well throughout 2016. (1 car)
Scuderia Corsa – After taking part in a partial season campaign, it’s understood the Giacomo Mattioli-led team is working to return, for either a full season or Patron Endurance Cup program, although it remains to be confirmed. (1 car?)
Proton Competition – The German squad could make its return to Daytona for the first time in 15 years if its plans to field a Porsche 911 RSR materialize. Team boss Christian Ried would be one of the drivers in the Pro-Am lineup that could feature a Porsche factory driver or two who won’t be part of the factory squad. (1 car?)
Aston Martin Racing – If Aston Martin ponies up with IMSA’s manufacturer agreement, look for a single Vantage GTE to be entered for Daytona with Paul Dalla Lana, Mathias Lauda, Pedro Lamy and Richie Stanaway at the wheel. Otherwise, Dalla Lana will likely take his effort to GTD, potentially in a Mercedes-AMG GT3. (1 car?)
AF Corse – It’s unclear if the Italian squad, either with its own operation or under the SMP Racing banner, could make a return to Daytona with a Ferrari 488 GTE. AF Corse gave the mid-engined Prancing Horse its competition debut in last year’s Rolex 24. (1 car?)