Two-time IMSA GT Daytona class champion Christina Nielsen and GT veteran Lawson Aschenbach are among the free agents on the driver market amid a rapidly changing GTD landscape in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season next year.
Sportscar365 has learned that Nielsen has parted ways with Wright Motorsports following a race-winning program alongside Porsche factory driver Patrick Long in 2018.
The Silver-rated Dane, who was named the first-ever ‘Porsche Selected Driver’ late last year, is believed to have been unable to deliver the full budget that’s since been required by the John Wright-led team for 2019.
Aschenbach, who co-drove the No. 93 Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 with Justin Marks this year, is also without a full-season GTD drive for next year, with the Ohio-based team reportedly opting for a revised lineup in its second entry.
Katherine Legge and Jackie Heinricher were confirmed in MSR’s No. 57 CAT-sponsored Acura in October, in what will be an all-female driver lineup for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
The recent developments come in the wake of Madison Snow’s exit from Paul Miller Racing, leaving the Silver-rated champions from the last three years in GTD without any confirmed plans for 2019.
Snow, who brought a significant budget to Paul Miller, has elected to curtail his racing plans following IMSA’s decision to elevate him to Gold status in its sanctioned championships.
The 22-year-old, along with 19-year-old rising star Sheldon van der Linde and open-wheel ace Rene Binder, were all bumped from Silver to Gold by IMSA, while several other Silver-rated drivers, including Kyle Marcelli and Mario Farnbacher, have been re-classified globally by the FIA.
Van der Linde, who was tipped to again be Montaplast by Land Motorsport’s designated Am driver, is now rumored to be replaced by 18-year-old Ricardo Feller, who took part in ADAC GT Masters this year with BWT Muecke Motorsport and remains Silver-rated for 2019.
Despite Snow’s exit, Sportscar365 understands that Paul Miller is close to finalizing a full-season return, with Bryan Sellers the leading candidate to pair with a graduate from Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America.
Its plans to switch to Blancpain GT World Challenge America are understood to have not materialized following Snow’s exit.
Increased Audi, Lamborghini Contingent Set for 2019
At least four Audi R8 LMS Evos could be on the grid for the Rolex 24 at Daytona, alongside as many as five Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evos from various teams.
Montaplast by Land Motorsport is expected to join sister squad Starworks for the season-opener, along with a second, a yet-to-be-announced full-season Audi effort and possible one-off entry from Team WRT.
Lamborghini, meanwhile, looks set to have at least two full-season entries in the previously announced Magnus Racing effort and the expected return of Paul Miller, with Grasser Racing Team and Ebimotors also confirmed for the Florida endurance classic.