Porsche Motorsport North America President Jens Walther has voiced concern over the evolving landscape of the GT Daytona class, citing limited growth in numbers despite a recent influx of manufacturers.
The Pro-Am category is set to see the arrival of three additional GT3 manufacturers in Acura, Lexus and Mercedes-AMG next year, but not an increase in overall car count in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
All three factory or works-supported programs will be run by existing teams, although both Michael Shank Racing and the former RSR Racing outfit move from the prototype ranks.
“We’ve seen a lot of cannibalization happening,” Walther told Sportscar365. “New manufacturers are coming in and we don’t really have new teams coming in. The same teams are switching between manufacturers.
“The paddock is not really growing. But the share for each manufacturer is shrinking; that’s what we’re seeing.
“That’s a little bit worrying because we want the series to grow for sure.
“But on the other side, the decision is made by the customer; the guy who says, ‘I’m committing to buying a car and I’m committed to running this car for a full season.’
“The customers will make the decision.”
Walther said he currently expects between two to four full-season Porsche 911 GT3 R entries on the grid next year, with uncertainty looming over the two Alex Job Racing entries.
Porsche, however, will see at least one new GTD customer in CORE autosport, with the Jon Bennett-owned operation expanding its commitment to the German manufacturer.
“CORE goes back a couple of years even before the factory team, they ran an [ALMS GT] car with Patrick Long as a customer program,” Walther said.
“Now with them making the decision to move out of PC, we’re very happy they decided to go for a Porsche in GTD.
“It’s a full customer program and a good addition to the other cars we have next year.”
The CORE-operated Porsche North America squad, meanwhile, will give the all-new Porsche 911 GTE car its global debut in January’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, a program Walther said remains at its core.
The mid-rear engined car will be unveiled at the LA Auto Show next month, ahead of its on-track public debut in December’s IMSA-sanctioned test at Daytona.
“For us, GTLM has always been the factory side of GT racing,” Walther said. “We put a lot of effort in that program. From a development point of view, it’s always been the latest innovation for us, in terms of the 911 platform.
“This is very exciting for us to have a new car. Again, launching the car in the U.S. is a clear signal to the U.S. market and the racing scene.
“Racing it for the first time in North America is another clear signal of how important that market is for Porsche and also Porsche Motorsport.”
While having been one of the leading customer cars in GTE/GTLM championships worldwide, Walther doesn’t expect the new-gen 911 GTE car to have a significant U.S. presence with privateers, at least initially.
Team Falken Tire was the last team to run a privateer 911 RSR in IMSA competition, prior to the completion of its multi-year program in 2015.
“The 911 RSR has been traditionally been a good platform for customers,” Walther said. “Depending if there will be an Am component in GTLM in the future, if opportunities like that open up, we’ll probably see customer cars coming back.
“The budget level between GTD and GTLM is not as far as way as it was in the past. The GTD car cars have put the budget level of Pro-Am racing quite high.”