McLaren is poised to become the latest manufacturer to join the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship grid, with at least one of its new 720S GT3 cars “quite likely” to be racing in North America next year, according to McLaren Automotive director of motorsport Dan Walmsley.
The British manufacturer, which made its entrance into IMSA competition with the 570S GT4 in Michelin Pilot Challenge last year, is sizing up a global launch for its first in-house built GT3 car, which is set to debut in next month’s Gulf 12 Hours.
While initially featuring a limited rollout with selected customers, Walmsley indicated that IMSA’s new-for-2019 WeatherTech Sprint Cup could offer an ideal point-of-entry into the GT Daytona class.
“The category itself has opened the door to small manufacturers to look at that,” Walmsley told Sportscar365.
“We’ve been working very closely with the guys at IMSA for the last couple of years with our GT4 car racing in the GS category.
“From a sporting point of view and also from our automotive marketing point of view, it’s our largest global market for road car sales, so it’s a key area for us to be racing in.
“Although we haven’t committed to anything yet, IMSA is a place that we really feel we can race the car and show well, so we’re working really hard on that.”
Sportscar365 understands that a number of teams, including Flying Lizard Motorsports and Compass Racing, have been in discussions for potential Sprint Cup-only programs, which would kick off in the series’ fourth round of the overall season at Mid-Ohio in May.
While not confirming specific talks, Walmsley said interest levels have been high for the car globally.
“It’s quite likely that we’ll have a car racing in North America,” he said. “At least one. We’re an ambitious company. We want to have some good races over there so the target is more than one, and with competitive partners.
“We’ve also been watching with interest the evolution of the Pirelli World Challenge into the new format and structure with SRO.
“We’re watching with interest and America is a key market for us and we’re hoping to do really well in both championships over there.”
Blancpain GT America Presence Also Targeted
While the 720S GT3’s initial point-of-entry into the North American market is believed to come in IMSA, Walmsley said they are also keeping a close eye on developments in the newly named Blancpain GT World Challenge America series.
He admitted the SRO’s new World Challenge concept, which integrates its Europe, America and Asia-based sprint race series into a manufacturer-based customer competition, is also appealing to McLaren.
“I think the consistency of the format, the homogenous format across the world, is of huge interest to us,” Walmsley said.
“Stephane Ratel had made it quite clear that he feels that America is a bit of an untapped market for GT racing. I tend to agree.
“It’s a fantastic format and exciting for the viewers, spectators and the teams alike. I tend to agree with him.
“IMSA have a very long established presence there with their way of things and Stephane is trying to move what was PWC into a different space. I think we’re going to be watching with interest to see what that is.
“From our side, we’re making sure we’re putting our products racing competitively in front of as many American viewers as we can. It’s clearly of interest.”
McLaren was last represented in Pirelli World Challenge in 2017 with K-PAX Racing-entered 650S GT3s.