Kamui Kobayashi said he could look to other classes to remain active in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship next year, with a program in the GTP category appearing unlikely due to the “competition” between LMDh manufacturers and the existing Toyota Hypercar FIA World Endurance Championship program.
The Japanese star, who has been part of Action Express Racing’s Cadillac DPi-V.R effort for the last two years in the long-distance Michelin Endurance Cup races, is expected to be unavailable to continue in that capacity when the program switches to Cadillac’s global LMDh car next year.
This is because the factory Cadillac effort, and other LMDh manufacturers, will go head-to-head with Toyota in the converged WEC Hypercar class next year.
Despite his increased management role with Toyota Gazoo Racing’s WEC program — serving as team principal — Kobyayashi told Sportscar365 that he still has the time and desire to continue racing in the Endurance Cup races but possibly in a different category.
Kobayashi made his GTD Pro class debut in last weekend’s Chevrolet Grand Prix at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, filling in for the injured Jack Hawksworth in Vasser Sullivan’s Lexus RC F GT3.
“For Toyota it doesn’t matter, even if I have responsibilities or not,” he said. “They are definitely no clashes between the endurance races in IMSA and the WEC season as there are many drivers doing the same races.
“There will be no clash so for me [so] it’s not really a big deal, to be honest. Even on the Toyota side doesn’t have any problem.
“I think on our side the [bigger] problem is that LMDh will be the top category in IMSA next year and we are doing the Hypercar with Toyota in WEC, so I think that’s the biggest problem.
“Obviously it’s not a matter of my [workload], it’s more a matter of how the competition happening in between the WEC and IMSA.
“I think there’s still an open mind. There’s opportunities in GT3, there’s many things in LMP2 as well. I think there’s many things that can happen. Still, we are in the middle of the season and it’s still too early to talk about next year.”
Even if Kobayashi would be able to contest the IMSA GTP class with a LMDh car, car availability would likely dash hopes of a continued presence in the series’ top class, with Cadillac prioritizing its full-season WeatherTech Championship entries from Chip Ganassi Racing and Action Express Racing.
GM sports car racing program manager Laura Wontrop Klauser previously told Sportscar365 there could be a chance of a third Cadillac GTP entry for the Rolex 24 at Daytona but it will depend on the current supply chain constraints.
Action Express Racing, however, is likely to campaign only its single full-season entry at Daytona according to team manager Gary Nelson.
Kobayashi, a two-time Rolex 24 overall winner with Wayne Taylor Racing, meanwhile, has reaffirmed his desire to continue in the series.
“Definitely I have to say that I enjoy the IMSA racing,” he said. “I’m here for the third year. I know more people and people really have a spirit of motorsports and they enjoy it as spectators.
“I think here, there’s no restrictions at all in terms of spectators. Actually, it’s quite rare because when you go back to Europe there’s some restrictions as well. It makes it really fun for me. This is how it is.
“Whatever with next year is still not clear but then there’s the chance to do 2024 and 2025, [so] there’s many opportunities. I’m looking forward to still be here in the future.”