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GTD Poised for Sweeping Cost-Cutting Changes in 2019

IMSA set to announce multiple cost-cutting changes, clampdown on driver ratings for GTD…

Photo: Rick Dole/IMSA

The GT Daytona class is set to see a series of cost-cutting changes for 2019 that will also include an expected clampdown on driver ratings in the Pro-Am-enforced category.

It comes amid rising budgets for competitors and a depleted field that’s largely made up of Silver-rated drivers that don’t bring significant funding to their teams.

Sportscar365 has learned that among the multiple areas that have been evaluated include a possible reduction from 11 to ten races, a restriction on the number of crew members and a significant cut in testing allowances.

IMSA President Scott Atherton confirmed that specific information on the changes will be communicated during next month’s “State of the Series” address at Road America, which will include the release of the 2019 WeatherTech SportsCar Championship schedule.

“The decision-making and the news that will be announced will be the byproduct of what I believe is the most comprehensive process we’ve ever done,” Atherton told Sportscar365.

“We’ve met face-to-face with every stakeholder of every description. From team owners to drivers to suppliers to manufacturers with an open mind of no bad idea can come out of this process.”

While not confirming specifics, Atherton indicated there’s been many areas the sanctioning body has been working through, all of which largely fall under the sporting and competition departments.

“It covers a broad spectrum of things from weekend schedules to personnel to testing to replacement parts pricing, you name it,” he said.

“Driver rating configurations within the cars… We’ve looked at every facet.

“It’s, at times, frustrating, because you look at the diversity of the teams and its rare that you can find any example that everybody agrees with.

“What do you do? You try to make the best, most educated decision you can based on the information you got.

“It’s been an interesting process, and I give a lot of credit to Simon [Hodgson, VP Competition] and his team who really led this, along with David Pettit [VP Marketing] because there’s a marketing component to this as well.”

While a Bronze-rated driver enforcement per lineup had been evaluated, Sportscar365 understands that IMSA could instead follow the SRO and ACO in making its own deviations to the FIA drivers’ ratings list that would prohibit questionable lineups.

Keating: GTD Currently Struggling with ‘Class Spirit’

Ben Keating, who is one of the few remaining gentleman drivers in GTD, believes the category has struggled in recent years to maintain its initial objective of providing amateur drivers a competitive platform to race.

“Right now we’re struggling with the spirit of the class,” Keating told Sportscar365.

“I can’t blame Acura or Lexus for coming here with a factory program. They don’t have a GTLM car and they’re following the rules, to how it’s written.

“But the spirit of the class [should be] that it’s a true GT Am deal. I’m excited about some of the changes being made to hopefully bring back some of that.”

Keating has praised IMSA for the process it’s underwent to gain competitor feedback during the re-evaluation process.

“I’ve been very vocal about some of my ideas,” he said. “They really liked some of them and they have not really liked some of them. That’s OK. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by many of their ideas that I wasn’t thinking of.

“I’ve been in this series for six years and I’ve never seen this type of collaborative effort to make it better for the spirit of the class.

“There have been a lot of really good ideas for making it less expensive and to where a gentleman driver can come here and be really competitive.”

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365 as well as the recently launched e-racing365 Web site for electric racing. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for FOXSports.com/SPEED Channel, and contributes to other publications worldwide. Contact John

43 Comments

43 Comments

  1. Tarek R

    July 23, 2018 at 11:07 am

    You have to compare GT Daytona in IMSA with the Pro-Am Cup in Blancpain GT Series. The IMSA one is way stronger, with all of the “fake” silvers in the line-ups.

    A good move from IMSA so, Pro-Am and customer racing must be protected

    • Old Trombone

      July 25, 2018 at 10:07 am

      Prototype – all pro lineups, amateurs welcome and a “Amateur Cup” offered with no prize money but a beautiful trophy.

      GTLM – lose it. It’s unsustainable and the ACO is going to spit it out anyway to make way for their new headline class that looks like GT cars.

      GT3 – all pro factory teams

      GT4 – Pro-Am class

      • Todd V Bender

        July 26, 2018 at 10:03 pm

        Noooo

        GTLM is a great class to watch race, especially in person with the Louder Corvettes and RSR… The GTD class is rather boring in comparison and slower. I would not go in person as much if they were not racing the GTLM cars right now. Signed Sebring/Petit Lemans/Daytona 24 ticket purchaser….

  2. Kurt

    July 23, 2018 at 11:16 am

    By restrictions on crew members, would they force teams to lay off a number crew members and in turn eliminate jobs in an already shrinking job market? I am all for cutting cost in GTD because it is one of the most expensive GT3 series to run in and there is an advantage to gain by the number of people you have working on a team but how can you justify eliminating people jobs?

    • Someone

      July 23, 2018 at 11:55 am

      Theoretically if you cut cost enough you have more teams willing to enter the market and at least a net neutral if not bet gain in employment.

      • Just Me

        July 23, 2018 at 5:48 pm

        that assumes that those let go can just up and move at the drop of a hat. contrary to popular belief, most race wrenches do actually have homes/mortgages/children in school/spouses with their own jobs…..

        • Someone

          July 23, 2018 at 10:03 pm

          Part of the risk of being in this industry… Either accept it or go elsewhere. For what it’s worth this is why most race shops are in the indy/ohio region or morsville.

          No one forces techs to get into motorsports, it’s like any pro sport there is a ton of risk involved.

    • David Chaste

      July 23, 2018 at 12:24 pm

      If the budgets are lower per teams, more teams would come in as it was before and they will hire the laid off crew members. At least ideally. In the first 2 years there were more GTD teams.

    • Matt

      July 23, 2018 at 3:10 pm

      Because there have been jobs added over the past few years due to how complicated it is to maximize the setup of GT3 cars. This is a great move by the series to stop teams from spending excessively on engineering personnel and driving up the costs of running GT3 cars.

  3. Georg

    July 23, 2018 at 12:11 pm

    About time to do something. This class clearly has a lot of potential as we have seen all around the world – especially the Blancpain GT Series in Europe, but by allowing factory teams and pro-pro line-ups in a pro-am category has dropped the car count to just 10 when it could well be 20 or 30.

    Does dropping 1 single race, from 11 to 10, really make enough of a difference to add cars to the grid? As in, are there teams with, say, 2.3M waiting to find a series where that’s enough to do the season instead of the 2.4M that it costs now (just picked wild-guess numbers to make a point)? Why not go down to, for example, 7 or 8 to have an impact of over 10%?

    Also, treating GTD clearly as the least important class probably does not help. TV coverage at times is horrible and even sportscar365 usually just adds a few lines under the GTLM report.

    Anyway, good that they are working on something and listening to guys like Keating.

    • Matt

      July 23, 2018 at 3:17 pm

      Damn you guys are thickheaded. Running 11 races is far from too many. The series shouldn’t have to cut races from the schedule. That’s just avoiding the real cost problem with GT3 cars. Taking races off the schedule degrades the quality of the championship and pisses off fans. Thankfully IMSA is taking a proactive approach and limiting team personnel and going after the problems that drove up GT3 costs in the first place.

    • NaBUru38

      July 23, 2018 at 4:08 pm

      Why would an amateur class get more TV coverage? Fans are the most interested in watching the best drivers.

      I would love to rent a McLaren, but nobody would be ever interested in watching me.

  4. David Chaste

    July 23, 2018 at 12:36 pm

    If they drop one of the NAEC races it will help a great deal. Daytona itself could reduce the budget in half. But its a desired race

    • GridS2Plaza

      July 23, 2018 at 1:59 pm

      The NAEC races are where larger fields are needed. Eliminating GTD from any other the NAEC rounds would render a pathetically small field for the most prestigious races of the series.
      Nothing like a 20 car field for a 10, 12 or 24 hour race.
      IMSA needs to find a way to get bigger fields for the major endurance events. It does not help when scheduling conflicts between the major sanctioning bodies occur that limit any cross over possibilities.

    • Matt

      July 23, 2018 at 3:19 pm

      No

  5. Tom Sawyer

    July 23, 2018 at 12:46 pm

    They could drop Detroit, I don’t care much for that race anyways…

    • David Chaste

      July 23, 2018 at 3:15 pm

      Good luck with that one. Even when you want to kick a dog in the street you need to know who its owner is first. Detroit is not the best venue. But its the only live fully nationally televised race for IMSA. Daytona and sebring are nationally televised but only a couple hours i believe.

      GM pays for the race and Roger Penske uses his connections and resources to fund the venue and get the live national tv coverage. Now that The captain has a team in both indycar and the imsa race i doubt that race is going away.

      Its both GM and Penske automotive’s home race. And imsa doesnt mind the free publicity that Roger Penske brings with the live national telecast.

      Its my home race too. 😁

      • Rworley

        July 23, 2018 at 11:19 pm

        I hate Detroit race, no on site camping, terrible parking and viewing.

  6. Jobs Matter

    July 23, 2018 at 1:26 pm

    Eliminating crew is so difficult……

    Here is a good breakdown for some people who don’t know the ins and outs of it. (**to current rules)

    Tire Changers(over wall) -3
    Fueler -1
    Fire Bottle -1
    Deadman -1
    Tire Handlers(cold side picking up tires) -2
    Lollipop Man(could be a tire handler) -1
    Tire/Fuel Helper(someone who is running tires+fuel drums back and forth from Pit to Conti to paddock) -1

    PLUS—-
    Data engineer
    Race Strategist
    Team Owner
    Spotter

    That is a 14 person, bare bones team. 7 hotel rooms, 13 airfare tickets (if the truck driver is part of the action.) Meals and Salary.

    That doesnt include any extra coaching or extra engineers. That is a few ppl doing 2 peoples jobs.

    • Keep the Jobs

      July 23, 2018 at 2:41 pm

      Don’t forget a fabricator, tire person, crew chief, strategist, gearbox mechanic, team manager, hospitality person (sometimes the truck driver)… believe me, if teams want to make cutbacks on personnel, they do. There’s no reason at all why the series needs to get involved. Cutting personnel will not make up for the 200-500% price hike that we’ve seen in sportscar racing over the last few years.

      Want to cut costs? How about you start with that $1,000,000 manufacturer fee? Most manufacturers would rather put that money into a factory team or event activation for the fans.

      • Jobs Matter

        July 23, 2018 at 3:31 pm

        I listed a few of those jobs which you mentioned. Also, a tire changer doubles up for most of what you labeled there. IE: GEARBOX Mechanic.

        However, if youre running a Porsche in GTD, Porsche has their gearbox guy, Bob at the track. I believe Audi has one there as well.

        Personnel is the largest billable item to a customer in GTD on the invoice at the end of the weekend.

        • Keep the Jobs

          July 24, 2018 at 10:02 am

          If a gearbox blows up in practice, the manufacturer doesn’t provide someone to rebuild it for them. That responsibility is solely the team’s.

          Elimating the amount of people working on the car will not downscale the amount of work that needs to be done. Do we really want less people working on a car in the same time frames? That’s putting drivers lives at risk.

          • Jobs Matter

            July 24, 2018 at 3:50 pm

            Manufacture doesnt “provide” it to them but the team has that easy option to take it down the paddock to the PMNA Support trailer and have Bob rebuild it. Yes youre relying on another entity but thats another risk in racing.

            Also in the past, Porsche has had spare gearboxes available to teams whom have the option to purchase/rent.

  7. Marc

    July 23, 2018 at 1:58 pm

    Running time needs to be brought way down. I think the series needs to drop 1 of the 2 GT only races. I’d hate to see VIR go, but it’s a huge track for only 18-20 GT cars. If the prototypes raced at VIR then I’d say just drop GTD at that race. With Mid-Ohio back on the calendar, you now have: Watkins Glen, Lime Rock, Mid-Ohio and VIR all within 5 hour drive of one another.

    And, I’d also consider dropping GTD from either CTMP or Laguna Seca. Both are relatively short and narrow tracks, which makes it hard for GTLM to get around due to the minimal performance deltas between the two classes of cars. Having prototypes and GTLM only at CTMP or Laguna still makes for a great race.

    • Matt

      July 23, 2018 at 3:26 pm

      Cutting races does not address the increasing costs in GT3. The cars/way teams run their operations needs to change, not the number of races. Mosport arguably the best spectating track in North America, and a very well attended race. Dropping GTD would be the equivalent of the series shooting themselves in the foot. If you had to cut races, dropping Laguna Seca and COTA, very sparsely attended races, would be a much better option.

      • Chips O'Toole

        July 23, 2018 at 3:53 pm

        COTA is already gone.

        • DEJ

          July 23, 2018 at 7:33 pm

          Glad COTA is gone! Horrible track. Who would put a blind left corner at the top of a hill ? also spectator appeal is will .

      • Andy

        July 23, 2018 at 6:11 pm

        You keep harping on the car costs but IMSA has ZERO control on that aspect. It’s not happening, they can not and would be laughed out of racing if they demanded price cuts on cars that make up under 10% of the sales of most of the cars. You don’t seem to understand cutting race(s) and personal is all IMSA can do to save their teams.

        At NO track would dropping GTD be shooting themselves in the foot. I rarely hear any cries that we need more GTD cars anywhere on line or at the track. Think in fact more people have cried about GTD guys screwing up other races than we need more of that action. Racing is expensive and it gets more expensive when you let factories play, see LMP1H, GT1, GTE, GT3, etc. Everyone wants factory teams until it gets expensive.

        As for cutting costs, teams of all sizes have said they can only see cutting track time and team costs as the cost savings, they aren’t building cars any longer and GT4 isn’t good enough to race in the main show.

        • Dave

          July 24, 2018 at 9:36 am

          I would love to see more GTD cars. Magnus Racing is the only R8 left (if you don’t count Paul Millers Huracan). I think the main problem is GTLM. Because everyone doesn’t have a GTLM/GTE car, they either have to race their GT3 car in GTD with an AM team or skip it altogether. I think Lexus and Acura would put up factory teams as well as Mercedes. Audi has de facto factory teams in European series…..Most of the current GTLM drivers race GT3 cars in other series. IMSA and the ACO should figure out how to create a GT3 Pro class that has faster cars, but that can be built based on the GT3 car with minimal added expense.

          • Larry

            July 24, 2018 at 6:25 pm

            Dave, how about a GT3 PRO class, with factory backing but not quite the GTLM/GTE level, with the exact same cars as the GT3 AM class?

            The all-pro lineups alone would make them faster.

            We don’t need to mess with GTLM/GTE and make it cheaper for manufacturers who aren’t willing to step up to the plate to race as the top GT class.

            GTLM/GTE is great as it is, even better in FIA due to the AM class as well.

            Maybe IMSA could have a GTLM PRO and GTLM AM with the same rules (last years car, etc) as well as a GT3 PRO and GT3 AM and lose the stupid “GTD” moniker.

  8. Pay Driver

    July 23, 2018 at 4:33 pm

    The writing was on the wall when golden boy Ratel failed to implement a cost cap for GT3 (this will happen with GT4 eventually too). Even the FIA/ACO got that right with LMP2.

    OEMs should not be making new cars (or putting out evos) every two or three years for a freaking Pro-Am category, citing “safety” or whatever that magically makes the car handle better, more aero-dependent, etc.

    • Andy

      July 23, 2018 at 6:38 pm

      There should be a level of safety Evo, but should be a measurable and demonstrated safety OR cost savings thing. I would have no problem with a new engine at the start of the season that makes the same power and fuel use but with longer lasting internals to extend service intervals. But making faster and faster cars each season just makes the cars insanely more expensive without much gain.

      • Dan

        July 23, 2018 at 7:42 pm

        I personally think anything safety related should be provided free to teams. They also need to limit the number of evo kits in general to one every other year at the soonest. Porsche released an evo kit for this year, then weeks later announced a brand new car for 2019. That makes no sense. There is great example of costs escalating through the roof. I know of one very P’Od Porsche GT3 team owner whom bought the kit at no small expense and now has to buy a brand new car for next, when he was expecting to get another year out of it at least. He is considering switching brands.

        • aserl

          July 27, 2018 at 9:30 pm

          Porsche should credit evo kit.

    • StueyB83

      July 23, 2018 at 8:38 pm

      Although it is Ratels brainchild – control of the technical aspects of the GT3 class is set by the FIA GT commission, which (surprise!) is made up of the manufacturers themselves. It’s why GT3 practically has no tuner builders anymore – they made build regulations that phased them out.

      They control the rule book of technical development via a supposedly collaborative process – and wat used to happen was if someone (say, Glickenhaus) submitted a design for homologation and they thought it was way too technical – they would veto it.

      They’ve allowed GT3 to grow from what was once modified road cars to pure build race cars. Why? because they have a vested interest – GT3 (and now GT4 and even TCR) cars give them sales and ongoing parts support. Total control of supply and pricing.

      The hope was that the free market and competition would keep the costs down, but hey haven’t. Also, each customer support program is wildly different. Audi has weight of numbers and have a 1st class customer support base, while say Nissan’s is nowhere near the scale of that.

      Only now do we hope to see some from of cost control by means of minimum build requirements – which should force price reductions to move cars. Or it could go the other way – manufacturers pulling out because of them.

  9. John Fulton

    July 23, 2018 at 6:47 pm

    A professional writer should know the difference between the words underwent and undergone and know how to use them correctly.

  10. Issac

    July 23, 2018 at 8:00 pm

    How to cut costs and attract more entrants according to one team owner I asked Sebring.
    1. Stop allowing the sneaky silvers that are proliferating the series, adopting a PWC style of vetting silvers to see if they are actually paying for their ride is important.
    2. Kick out the full works teams and those that are clearly competing on behalf of a manufacturer in his words, Land-Audi, MSR-Acura with the 86 car, 3GT-Lexus with 14 car, and Wright-Porsche, car features two porsche affilated drivers and is sponsored by two of Porsche subsidiaries.
    3. Limit the number of engineers a team is allowed to have and the number manufacturers are allowed to send unless evenly divided among teams, no putting three in one team, while others get 1 a piece if lucky.
    4. Change pitsop procedures to reduce number of personnel over the wall, maybe a style like the ACO and SRO used to use with one man with a gun and one tire carrier allowed apart from a fueler possibly two depending on car and guy with fire extinguisher.

    • Change it up

      July 24, 2018 at 7:47 am

      I’d volunteer to be the fire extinguisher guy 🙂 free race entry and I’m in!

      • A Random Idiot

        July 24, 2018 at 12:18 pm

        Although that may sound like a good idea, most guys that work for free are a danger and end up walking around the paddock talking more than they actually work. Holding a fire bottle isn’t all that guy does during a race weekend. You don’t want work Daytona and be up for 36 hours for free and most crews don’t want you either, believe me. A team owner might not care less but that’s another story

      • Andy Flinn

        July 24, 2018 at 4:37 pm

        I’m old enough (almost 50) to remember when MOST members of most IMSA Camel GT crews were volunteers.

        In 1976, Corvette racer Phil Currin (1972 IMSA GTO champ) had a Daytona 24-hour all-volunteer crew of fellow University of Florida students. It was a disaster.

        A much simpler time, I guess.

        Paid spotters?

        I don’t know how to cut GTD costs.

        Seems like in many areas the genie has been let out of the bottle and it will be tough to get him back in.

        Cutting or severely limiting GTD testing seems like a good start.

  11. The Esses

    July 24, 2018 at 9:22 am

    1. Make Daytona an exhibition (non-points) race
    2. Cut Detroit from the schedule and save all the teams that dough, it clashes too much with Le Mans anyways, lots of drivers scrambling between the two and it feels dumb to make a point to go to the motor city and not have Corvette or Ford there. Street circuits are rough on the equipment too…
    3. Lime Rock is rough on the equipment as well, maybe swap the GTD’s for the Prototypes their, I know the fans miss them. Would be a shame not to see Turner their tho.

  12. Andy Flinn

    July 24, 2018 at 4:59 pm

    Esses, I don’t understand how No. 1 is supposed to help lower costs when MOST (if not all) GTD teams (both domestic and foreign) WANT to race at Daytona of all the rounds on the schedule.

    The only IMSA GTD car I can think of that missed Daytona this year was the #36 Acura. I’m not sure that car was ready for Daytona though.

    And what GTD team skipped Daytona to race at Mosport, or Lime Rock or any other IMSA round, instead, this year?

  13. Porsche 1

    July 24, 2018 at 5:55 pm

    Reduce the amount of tires you get per weekend .
    Make the cars run a heavier fuel load on the longer
    races that mean less pit stops fewer tire changes

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