IMSA President John Doonan says he’s “encouraged” on the prospects of maintaining a six-car field in the GT Le Mans class, having revealed they’ve received inquiries from teams looking to field GTE-spec Aston Martin Vantages and Ferrari 488s next year.
The development comes in the wake of Porsche’s planned exit from GTLM at the end of the season, leaving only Corvette Racing and BMW as confirmed entrants in the class.
BMW Motorsport director Jens Marquardt told Sportscar365 last week that the German manufacturer is working with IMSA to help encourage additional teams or manufacturers to enter next year, with Doonan confirming such interest.
“We want to have as full of a field as possible in GTLM,” Doonan told Sportscar365. “There’s been a lot of folks expressing interest in coming.
“Obviously you look at the other brands that are currently competing [with GTE cars], it’s the Aston Martins and Ferraris. We’ve had inquiries from both.
“Certainly at the very least we’d love to have a field size comparable to what we have this year. Time will tell.
“Everybody’s going through the same challenging decision process right now with budgets and making sure the core business of the industry they have for their brand is focused on first.
“Based on all of the conversations and inquiries, I think we’re encouraged by the possibility to have as full of a field as we have right now.”
When asked if the additional cars would be from privateers or full-factory programs, Doonan indicated it would likely be semi-works operations.
“We would certainly hope to have teams similar to what we have with Corvette and BMW that really represent the factory,” he said.
“Even though they may be privately owned, they would be representing a factory program. Thats’ the hope.
“Time will tell if we’re able to pull it off.”
Doonan also hasn’t ruled out seeing upgraded GT3-spec machinery in the class if a compelling enough case presented itself.
Multiple GTD manufacturers are known to have explored such a possibility with IMSA in the past although those requests were denied at the time.
“We have a saying around the office, ‘the market will vote,'” Doonan said.
“If someone approached us with that… we would certainly be open to that kind of thing if it worked with the current manufacturers and made sure we maintain a level playing field.”
Doonan said IMSA has also been in “constant communication” with DTM boss Gerhard Berger, who is planning to re-launch the German-based series into a championship with upgraded GT3 machinery.
“Several of our manufacturers overlap,” said Doonan about DTM and IMSA.
“This whole situation with the pandemic has made everyone take a step back and understand cost efficiencies, understand common rulesets, understand what we could do for our manufacturer investors and what we can do for our audience, the fans.
“We’re in regular contact with those guys, making sure that everybody understands what each other is thinking so we don’t go off in these completely opposite directions.”
IMSA Hopeful of GT Convergence
Doonan is hoping to help make a push towards GT convergence in a similar method achieved with LMDh, in having global acceptance under a single set of regulations.
Talks have been ongoing for years, although are understood to have been accelerated in recent months due to the uncertainty surrounding the long-term future of GTE.
Doonan said he could envision a single GT platform used for both all-pro driver lineups and pro-am, similar to WEC’s GTE-Pro and GTE-Am class structure.
“Given the circumstances, the [COVID-19] shutdown and the challenges everyone is facing maybe it’s time to revisit it more seriously and make some decisions that could impact it sooner than we all think,” he said.
“The concept of whether the GTD/GT3 platform becomes more of a global platform for manufacturers to showcase… Yeah maybe that’s a possibility.
“As much enthusiasm and excitement and positivity there’s been around something like LMDh, I think that same type of positivity would result from doing something like this.
“With [GT] convergence, I think everyone would embrace that in the industry, not just IMSA, but it would be another good step with the industry.”
IMSA is currently committed to GTE through the end of next year, with a new cycle of GT3 regulations due in 2022.