Mercedes is unlikely to be represented on the grid in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship next year — at least in the early season races — as the German manufacturer does not have the immediate capacity to support customer entries in the GT Daytona class.
Multiple sources have indicated to Sportscar365 that Mercedes has not yet entered into an Automotive Partnership agreement with IMSA, which is one of the conditions required to compete in the GTD class next year.
As a result, it will likely prevent all Mercedes teams participating in January’s season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona, a race that has seen up to three potential customer entries, including a new Mercedes-AMG GT3 from a leading European GT3 outfit.
DragonSpeed, which had tested two SLS AMG GT3 cars in IMSA’s open test at Daytona last month, had been hopeful of being able to compete in the four-round Tequila Patron North American Endurance Championship.
Team principal Elton Julian told Sportscar365 that it’s his understanding that Mercedes will not pay the partnership agreement and therefore the cars will not be eligible to race in GTD.
It appears DragonSpeed’s plans have shifted immediate focus to other projects, with Julian saying his team is busy preparing for its upcoming European Le Mans Series LMP2 program with an Oreca 05 Nissan, which is due to arrive next week.
AMG customer sports driver Thomas Jaeger told Sportscar365 last month that a Mercedes-AMG GT3 entry for Daytona wouldn’t be possible due to the first deliveries of the car being primally for European customers.
The works team, which was present at the Daytona test with the Mercedes-AMG GT3, also recently put the new car through its paces in a private test at Sebring, in order to gain further data on U.S. circuits.
There, however, will be at least two of the new GT3 cars competing in North America next year, with Weistec Engineering having been announced to field a pair of Mercedes-AMG GT3s for Pirelli World Challenge.
It’s understood Mercedes is also in discussions with at least two other teams for potential efforts, although it’s unclear if that could be for the WeatherTech Championship — should an agreement be finalized — or additional cars for PWC.
Mercedes is just one of several GT3 manufacturers still on the fence regarding the Automotive Partnership deal, with both McLaren and Bentley also apparently not yet signing agreements as well.
It’s understood Aston Martin is in the final stages of an agreement with IMSA, which will result in a factory GTD entry for Daytona and Sebring, with the backing required for Dodge’s continued involvement having been put up by Ben Keating.