IMSA is expecting to have a capacity field for January’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, with the possibility of having to turn away entries for the first time since the launch year of the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2014.
This year’s grid in the Florida endurance classic exceeded 60 cars for the first time in eight years, with IMSA officials currently working to determine the maximum number of entries that can be accommodated for the 2023 running, amid the arrival of hybrid-powered prototypes in the new GTP class that will likely need additional pit space for safety reasons.
“It’s a nice problem to have, frankly,” said IMSA President John Doonan of the interest in the race.
“We’ve seen a tremendous amount of momentum for the sport – for IMSA and all the fans of IMSA – and I think 2023 is not going to be any different.
“Even compared to a year ago at this time, we’ve had another lift in interest from competitors wanting to run the Rolex 24 and the WeatherTech Championship season as a whole. New cars aside, it’s a really special time for the sport.”
While the new GTP class is expected to feature nine entries, spread between LMDh manufacturers Acura, BMW, Cadillac and Porsche, the production-based grids are expected to increase as well, with new cars such as the Ferrari 296 GT3, Type-992 Porsche 911 GT3 R and Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO2, all bringing in additional interest.
“The good news is not one class can be singled out in terms of the momentum and the growth we’re seeing,” Doonan said.
“LMP2 has seen a lot of interest in the last couple seasons, in particular some teams that have traditionally competed in Europe are interested in coming to the North American market for corporate partnership reasons.
“LMP3, in a similar manner, has attracted an entry number that’s in sort of a sweet spot. You add up all of those, and that’s probably half of your Rolex grid, with the other 50 percent GT cars.
“The momentum around the GT classes is significant, and around the corner in 2024 comes a Ford Mustang program and the availability of a customer Corvette.
“We’re real pleased with how GTD Pro came off as a category in its first season, and I think you’ll see consistent numbers similar to what you saw in 2022 for that segment of the grid. So, we are in a very fortunate position of having this much interest.”
If the size of the field needs to be capped, IMSA’s full season teams and manufacturers from previous years will be given higher consideration for their entries, followed by new teams intending to field full-time efforts in the WeatherTech Championship.
Among part-time entries, consideration will be given to those who have competed previously on a part-time basis – such as the Michelin Endurance Cup or WeatherTech Sprint Cup – followed by new part-time entrants and historical IMSA event participants.
IMSA is urging competitors to get their entries in as soon as possible in order to ensure the best chance of being confirmed on the grid.
“You can’t create more square footage at a lot of our tracks, and one of the things we need to look at in the case of Daytona entries is the number of garages, the paddock space and, of course, pit lane,” Doonan said.
“There are only so many boxes you can fit safely on pit lane. Last year, we had 61 cars, which was tight. With the new GTP cars, obviously there are some items that surround those cars and the hybrid technology that may require us to give them just a bit more space.
“Again, it’s a good problem to have.”
John Oreovicz/IMSA Wire contributed to this report