The calendar says that it is still summer, but many team owners, managers and drivers are casting an eye ahead to next year. The IMSA season heads into the final stages with this weekend’s Michelin GT Challenge at VIR and the season finales at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.
The days are getting a bit shorter as the December tests, the Roar Before the 24, and Rolex 24 At Daytona race week are drawing into clearer focus.
While many fans look to dealerships or various online sites, there are also shoppers in the IMSA GT and TCR paddocks looking for their next rides, too.
The IMSA teams and drivers have a wide range of prospective options with 17 manufacturers entered in competition this year compared to single specification cars in IndyCar and NASCAR.
In addition to the highly anticipated 2023 IMSA GTP (LMDh) entries from Acura, BMW, Cadillac and Porsche, there are exciting new GT cars on the way.
Ferrari and Porsche have each recently unveiled their new GT3 models. Both followed with comments indicating plans to have as many as six cars each at the 2023 Rolex 24 At Daytona. Lamborghini, meanwhile, will debut a second Evo for its Huracan GT3 next year as well.
Choosing The Right Car
Teams typically spend considerable time deciding whether to stay with current cars and marques or to explore new options.
The driver and team experience, history, data and insights into the specific performance traits and characteristics of certain marques and models can make it a close decision.
With pro drivers that are quick, the question for GTD entrants can revolve around a myriad of decisions. The range of set-up options, performance, consistency, and the confidence for the non-pro driver come into play, many of whom help to fund their entries.
Each manufacturer brings its own history, culture, car characteristics and people.
Finding The Right Fit
Season ending tests can also provide the opportunity to evaluate prospective new drivers and team members. Each team has its own process for determining the right fit.
Long time Corvette Racing program manager, Doug Fehan, described watching a driver invited to a test. Time out of the race car was spent with his entourage (girlfriend, business manager, and PR rep) rather than with the other drivers or team members.
While his lap times were reasonably competitive, the fit with the Corvette Nation and team culture was clearly missing.
Life With Factory Drivers
Seth Neiman, former owner of the highly respected Flying Lizards Porsche team, was once asked to provide an update on his team’s progress with the latest generation Porsche during the first day of American Le Mans Series winter testing at Sebring.
“When the morning session ended, the two drivers (Joerg Bergmeister and Patrick Long) went to opposite corners of the transporter. They sat quietly, somewhat frustrated, and tried to process everything that they had just experienced in the new car,” said Neiman.
Although the new Porsche was already slightly quicker than its predecessor, there was some initial moaning and groaning. “’Why did they change this? I liked that better on the old car. Why didn’t they change that?’” recounted Neiman.
“Then, in the next hour or so, slowly, gradually they started to find what they liked, things that were improved on the new car that they could build on.
“They started taking those threads and connecting them and soon they were finding the paths they wanted to try in the next session. Then, they started getting excited.”
“And that,” summarized Neiman with a smile, “is life with factory drivers.”
Knowing Your Tires
One thing that owners, drivers, managers and teams do not need to guess about are the Michelin tires that every IMSA WeatherTech Championship, Michelin Pilot Challenge, VP Racing SportsCar Challenge and Porsche Carrera Cup North America entry will race on in 2023.
The process of determining chassis set-ups, developing strategies that optimize performance and tire life while delivering consistent handling are especially important in establishing a baseline for new cars and drivers.
No matter which of the IMSA series, classes, or cars they drive, teams and drivers know that Michelin engineers will work with them to meet their technical needs.