Competitors have shared mixed views on IMSA’s newly announced WeatherTech Sprint Cup, which will create a third different title for GT Daytona class entrants in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship next year.
Announced earlier this month at Road America, the new seven-race cup will encompass the two-hour and 40-minute WeatherTech Championship races from May to September plus the 100-minute round in Detroit, which will be a Sprint Cup-only event.
The additional title, which is aimed to encourage participation from teams that are not able to commit to the costly endurance races, opens up additional opportunities for drivers with various budgets, according to longtime IMSA entrant Will Turner.
A season of Sprint Cup has been floated by teams to be in the range of $1 million, compared to a minimum of $2.5 million for the full season that includes the Rolex 24 at Daytona, Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring and Motul Petit Le Mans.
“I love the opportunity the Sprint Cup opens up,” Turner told Sportscar365. “A lot of people don’t have the time to do all the races. That’s a nice option.
“And someone doing the whole season can potentially go for three championships.”
Turner’s full-season BMW M6 GT3 entry has already been essentially split into endurance and sprint lineups this year, with Don Yount, Dillon Machavern and Markus Palttala focused on the Endurance Cup-only races and Robby Foley and Bill Auberlen in for the majority of the sprint rounds.
“It opens up just someone doing a limited schedule and cutting budgets down,” Turner said.
Turner’s view, however, is not met by fellow team owner Michael Shank, who said the addition of the Sprint Cup adds further confusion to the class structure.
“I understand what they’re trying to do but I really think adding all these classes just puts more confusion in our system,” Shank told Sportscar365.
“We’re going to go through this shift in GTD, to try and get more people to do it, and I guess I’m not convinced that’s going to do it, and I never have been.
“There’s other people that support that and think that would help, in that you can do the Endurance [Cup], Sprint [Cup], the whole [season].
“There’s going to be like seven champions at the banquet; everyone will get a trophy.”
While Shank doubts the Sprint Cup will result in additional entries, Ben Keating feels it will help draw back gentlemen drivers that were forced to exit in recent years due to the escalating costs.
The Riley Motorsports pilot is one of only two full-time Bronze-rated drivers that remain in GTD.
“There are a lot of people that will come out there for a Sprint Cup,” Keating told Sportscar365.
“I believe people out there who are willing to spend $1 million to do a championship in IMSA. I think it will be great.”
Keating: Other Cost-Cutting Measures Discussed
Keating said the Sprint Cup may be the first of a number of other cost-savings measures IMSA could eventually implement.
Discussions of limitations of over-the-wall crew and potentially tighter tire allocations, amid Michelin’s arrival into the class, have been items that have been under consideration.
“We talked about a lot of ideas,” he said. “I really liked how collaborative IMSA was on this and talked about a lot of ideas.
“I do think there were some other ideas that could still be implemented that could save some money. They are interested in helping us cut costs.”