Open the floodgates.
Cars homologated to FIA GT3 specifications will be allowed to compete in United SportsCar Racing’s GT Daytona class next year with only minor modifications, according to Scot Elkins, VP, competition and technical regulations for the unified series.
Currently, GT3 cars such as the Audi R8 LMS and Aston Martin Vantage GT3 have been modified to meet GRAND-AM’s rulebook, which had sometimes included significant and costly rollcage, aero and electronics changes.
That philosophy is changing, according to Elkins, who spoke in an exclusive interview last weekend at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, site of the fifth round of this year’s American Le Mans Series.
“I think what we need to do is do things that are more inviting to manufacturers to come play with us and not things that hold them up,” Elkins said. “By building a car to a single specification, where it can only race in one place, puts us in a difficult path.
“I’m not being critical on how things were done in the past but I think we need to be more open-minded on how we approach realizing that people are going to want to come and race with us because there’s only one series. So we have to look at things differently.”
Under the new set of initial technical regulations, announced late last week, FIA GT3-spec machinery will be allowed to compete with “minimal modifications, providing they meet class performance targets.
Elkins anticipates that mostly resulting in changes to a base GT3 car’s air restrictor, as well as slight aero changes, including the adoption of the class-wide wing manufactured by Crawford Composites.
“I think for me, the primary thing we need to do is to keep with the spec rear wing that GRAND-AM has,” he said. “Then in terms of reducing the performance level, fitting some kind of restrictor, which typically all the GT3 cars have now anyway, and then looking at some minor things in terms of aero to tweak on.”
One of the previous holdups for GRAND-AM GT homologation, the thickness of the roll cage, no longer appears to be an issue, but Elkins said IMSA is still evaluating that situation. No official decision has also been made on the future integration of the class-wide Bosch ECU system, another hurdle GT3 manufacturers had previously faced.
The new allowance of FIA GT3 cars to the GTD class will likely result in a significant numbers boost to the grid, primarily for the crown jewel events at Daytona and Sebring, which will kick off the unified North American sports car championship early next year.
Currently, only three GT3-based models are allowed for GRAND-AM Rolex Series GT competition, including the new V12-powered Aston Martin Vantage GT3, which is expected to debut in the hands of TRG-AMR at Road America next month.
With the prospects of McLaren MP4-12cs, Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3s, as well as the new Bentley Continental GT, which recently became the 18th manufacturer to become involved in the growing worldwide platform, the GTD class could become one of the most diverse in 2014.
“With the traveling around and the meetings that I go to, I think it’s safe to say that anybody that has a GT3 car is interested,” Elkins said. “Everybody’s got a real strong eye towards us in what we’re doing. Almost everybody has reached out to us and has asked what will happen.”
Last week’s announcement also confirmed the widely expected adoption of GX class cars into GTD, which will join the current-spec GRAND-AM GT and ALMS GTC cars in the Pro-Am driver enforced category
A slight reduction in performance is expected for next year, likely to the current levels in GTC in order to maintain the class separation currently seen in the ALMS.
Elkins also sees Prep 2-built cars being slowly phased out of GTD. In addition to the Mazda6, both the Camaro GT.R and Turner Motorsport BMW M3 currently conform to those regulations.
For now, the focus seems to be on the GT3 platform.
“It feels like [Prep 2] is organically going away,” Elkins said. “If that happens and that’s what the market dictates, then I think we should respect that. At some point, I think we could see Prep 2 regulations come out of the rulebook.
“I think the interest in GT3 cars [is increasing]. The way of the world is going that way. Everyone wants single-lug hubs and single-piece wheels. Those types of changes aren’t going to affect our customers that dramatically because half of the field is already there.”