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New Team, Manufacturer Interest in WeatherTech Sprint Cup

New teams, manufacturers poised for entries into new-for-2019 WeatherTech Sprint Cup…

Photo: Jake Galstad/IMSA

Interest is building in the WeatherTech Sprint Cup, with new teams and manufacturers to the GT Daytona class already in the planning stages for the new-for-2019 title.

Announced last month, the seven-race cup, incorporated into the existing IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season, will award a separate title, alongside the newly named Michelin Endurance Cup and overall GTD championship.

Despite the season not kicking off until the fourth overall round of the WeatherTech Championship season at Mid-Ohio in May, significant movements have already been made within the paddock for potential high-profile additions.

It includes Flying Lizard Motorsports and Compass Racing, which are both working on potential returns to top-level IMSA competition through the Sprint Cup.

“All options are open,” Flying Lizard program manager Darren Law told Sportscar365. “We’re considering what options are available in IMSA.

“For sure it makes it more cost-effective if you run just the seven-race sprint series. You would literally cut your budget in half. It definitely brings another opportunity.”

Compass, which currently fields a McLaren 570S GT4 and Audi RS 3 LMS TCR cars in Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, last raced in GTD in 2015 with an Audi R8 LMS ultra.

“Sprint Cup is an exciting addition to the WeatherTech Championship and the IMSA paddock,” team principal Karl Thomson told Sportscar365.

“It provides an important step in our ladder between CTSC GS and a full GTD season, and it’s no secret we’re working hard on returning to the class.”

Paddock rumors, meanwhile, have linked McLaren to a potential Sprint Cup campaign with two of its new 720S GT3 cars, as well as a new two-car team that would utilize GT3 machinery from an existing IMSA manufacturer.

IMSA President Scott Atherton said he’s been pleased with the level of early interest in the cup.

“I’ve lost track of the number of conversations with existing team owners that have content in the championship now, or those who are currently not involved but have either dropped an email, made a phone call, or bumped into me,” he told Sportscar365.

“They say, ‘put me down for one, put me down for two’. They say, ‘I’ve got at least one car filled and I’m looking for a second’.

“At this stage of the game, it’s an easy commitment. It’ll get more onerous as soon as entries actually open and deposits are due. Commitments need to be much more formal than they are today.

“But, I think if early returns are an indication, we’ll be in a good place.”

Atherton said a dedicated Sprint Cup entry in the “low double digits” would be beyond their expectations, and admitted that track capacity could play a role in a potential entry cap, especially at venues such as WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

The second Sprint Cup round of the season, at Detroit’s Belle Isle, is another caveat, in that it will not be a points-paying round for the overall GTD championship.

“If you’re competing for a full WeatherTech Championship season, you don’t have to be there,” Atherton said.

“But we’re of the opinion that the majority of full-season GTD competitors will be there, simply because it enables them to also compete for the Sprint Cup. Why wouldn’t you? We’ll see how it plays.”

Atherton said they’d welcome new GT3 manufacturers to the Sprint Cup with a reduced marketing commitment, likened to an “introductory offer” to join the series.

Manufacturers such as McLaren and Bentley had previously been hung up on the sanctioning body’s marketing requirements, which had been rumored to be in the $1 million range for a full season in the WeatherTech Championship.

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365 as well as the recently launched e-racing365 Web site for electric racing. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for FOXSports.com/SPEED Channel, and contributes to other publications worldwide. Contact John

18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. Tim

    September 11, 2018 at 8:36 am

    Please, please, please. Flying Lizard Porsche!!

    • Ko I

      September 12, 2018 at 1:10 pm

      Absolutely. I used to root for them in the early days of the merged series, and I’ve always loved their liveries. Getting them back would be excellent.

  2. Change it up

    September 11, 2018 at 8:43 am

    what’s the smallest pit lane in the Sprint cup that’ll host all classes? Is it leguna? what’s their capacity?

  3. Monoq

    September 11, 2018 at 9:04 am

    New McLaren 720S GT3s would be a welcome addition to GTD in my opinion, especially from Compass Racing.

    • Prototype 1

      September 11, 2018 at 9:47 am

      I agree.

  4. N8

    September 11, 2018 at 9:23 am

    Not a huge fan of sub-championships, but this one is common sense. 20+ car fields for the GT only events is going to be awesome.

  5. David K.

    September 11, 2018 at 11:49 am

    It may be time for some stand alone GTD races !

    • jason

      September 11, 2018 at 12:19 pm

      Pretty certain every race will have at least 2 classes going forward. I am blessed that Lime Rock and VIR are still all GT races next year again.

      I think IMSA should consider reducing the LMP2 calendar some. Still time to do that. Another thing not mentioned in the article is that BECAUSE the sprint season starts in May. There is plenty of time for teams to set up something if they want to.

      • KV

        September 15, 2018 at 2:51 pm

        Cadillac might tune up the ATS V.R,3.6TTV6!

  6. Mike S

    September 11, 2018 at 12:14 pm

    Agree, this sub format I am not a fan but if FLM is back at least in GTD then I can forget the shotcomings of it.

  7. Pay Driver

    September 11, 2018 at 12:17 pm

    Very interesting. I wonder if IMSA Sprint Cup will be competing with PWC GT for entries moving forward then? PWC will also have 7 events, with 5-6 hours of running time per weekend.

    • jason

      September 11, 2018 at 12:20 pm

      My opinion to this question is: Yes Big time! But that is ok. IMSA always comes first in my mind.

  8. Philip

    September 11, 2018 at 12:23 pm

    I would love to see FLM with a R8 in GTD. Would help to have more than one running.
    They already have experience with the R8, correct?
    Plus they’d take the best livery crown as soon as they pulled off the trailer!

    • Steve

      September 11, 2018 at 12:49 pm

      Yes but it was with a Audi R8 LMS ultra that was built specifically for grand am starting in 2012. Raced until 2015 then gt3 spec came in 2016.

  9. JeffB

    September 11, 2018 at 9:56 pm

    The reduced marketing commitment for a sprint only campaign is one very intelligent decision in order to allow new manufacturers such as McLaren, Nissan and Bentley a chance to come and sample the series. Even just one more than they have now is a win with all the talk of increased costs for GT3.

    • Ko I

      September 12, 2018 at 1:16 pm

      Yeah, I’ve never understood that massive price tag for manufacturers being allowed to race in the series. Maybe I’m wrong, but vastly reducing the cost of entry seems like it would bring more manufacturers, which would result in more competitors, which would result in more spectators.

  10. Fred Smith

    September 14, 2018 at 7:42 pm

    FLM with a McLaren.

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