After being forced to sit on the sidelines for the majority of this year, Marc Goossens will return to full-time IMSA competition in 2016, as part of VisitFlorida.com Racing’s all-new driver lineup for the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
The ex-SRT factory driver, who helped take the Bill Riley-led factory squad to the 2014 GT Le Mans class title, is targeting a championship bid alongside co-driver Ryan Dalziel in the final season of the Corvette DP.
For Goossens, the hunt for a full-season ride was aided by his three-race program with the Riley Viper GTD squad this year, which kept him visible in the paddock.
“After what happened in October of 2014 when SRT decided to pull the plug, it’s been tough because it was very late in the year,” Goossens told Sportscar365. “As we all know, there’s not too many factory rides available in GT.
“So you’re either looking to move up again to prototypes and be competitive and try to win overall or you try to land a factory drive.
“With all respect to GTD, in my opinion, once you get in there, it’s tough to get out again and it’s not the same for a professional driver. Having said that, I was very happy to have the deal with Riley and Ben Keating, Al Carter and TI Automotive last year.
“First of all, it kept me going. Second of all, it kept me in the paddock. You’re still showing your face around and people won’t forget what you can do.
“It gave me an opportunity to talk to people. When I came across Troy [Flis, team owner], it was at Road America and we started talking about what their plans were for next year, where I was and even looking at the future of the target of being in LMP2.
“I think this whole program worked out very well for both of us. I’m really excited about it.”
While predominately known for his success in GT machinery, Goossens is no stranger to prototype racing, having been part of the DAMS Cadillac effort in the early 2000s prior to a multi-year stint as Riley’s lead driver in its LMP900 and DP cars.
However, with his last DP start having been nearly five years ago, Goossens admits it will take some time adjusting.
“It’s been a few years but then again cars in general have moved a long way,” he said. “Technology has been going forward in a very fast way and it counts for GTs as well. If you look at what a GT car is today compared to four or five years ago, there’s nothing to compare.
“I get that question a lot: What is your favorite car to drive? But it changes so much year after year, there is no comparison. I think the same thing goes for the Daytona Prototypes.
“I’ve been working on this deal for a while and have been studying on-board cameras and everything that’s available through the media channels.
“After all the experience I’ve gained in so many different classes and different cars, I think it will be something to adapt to.”
Next week’s Daytona test will be his first chance to sample the team’s Corvette DP alongside Dalziel, who heads in with more recent DP and P2 experience, although Goossens is confident and excited for the challenge ahead with the Florida-based team, which contended for the Prototype title in 2014-15.
“It will be a first feel for me at that point to see what prototype racing is about now these days,” he said. “At the same time, it will be the first time I’ll be working with the team.
“The main thing is that it’s a good car with a good team. They’ve proven what they can do. I can’t see anything negative on the whole program.
“It’s different when you start with a completely new team or a completely new car. I think all of the ingredients are there so it will make it a lot easier for me to adapt.”
Despite being on a single-year contract with the team, Goossens is already thinking long-term, and the prospects of helping the Troy Flis-led squad in its transition to P2-based machinery in 2017.
“The goal for myself and the team is to work together on the longer term,” he said. “That’s what I think is interesting about it. It’s not just about being successful in ’16 but to build on a package, a program and help develop a car into the ’17 program.
“I think we’re all headed in the same direction. It’s a big target. A new team for the drivers, new drivers for the team.
“The first race where you have to be competitive is Daytona. It’s a 24-hour race. We all know what it takes to be successful but you need a little bit of luck, or rather no bad luck at least. Hopefully we can prepare well starting next week.”