Winward Racing is set to return to IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competition in next month’s Motul Petit Le Mans, with an eye to take on a full-season effort with a Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo in 2022.
The Texas-based team, which claimed GT Daytona class honors in the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona, will field a brand-new Mercedes chassis in the ten-hour enduro at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta with a to-be-announced driver lineup.
According to team principal/driver Russell Ward, the decision to contest Petit Le Mans was made “really early” in the year and is being used as a yardstick to chart the team’s progress since January’s twice-around-the-clock enduro from its participation in other series.
“It was just a plan to do Daytona as a test and then come back and do the end of the year and see how we’ve improved and what we can do better,” Ward told Sportscar365.
“We came into Daytona with an idea of it being a learning experience, a step up to a new series [for us]. It was a big step up from a GT4 car.
“The car itself is a lot more complicated. The pit setup is a lot more complicated. We know we can win but we’re going there as a test.
“We’ll do the best we can, keep the car clean and see where we end up at the end.”
Ward said the lineup is not yet “completely finalized” although he will feature as one of the required Silver-rated drivers.
Ward was joined by Indy Dontje, Philip Ellis and Mercedes-AMG factory driver Maro Engel in the team’s class-winning Rolex 24 effort.
Its Petit Le Mans venture is a precursor to a likely full-season GTD effort in the WeatherTech Championship next year alongside a return to Fanatec GT World Challenge America powered by AWS.
“We really want to come and compete well in IMSA,” Ward said. “After Petit Le Mans, if we think we’re ready to do a full season, then for sure we’re going to do that and most likely SRO as well.
“SRO [America] is a good testing ground and a great series to compete in. The competition is getting more and more strong every year.
“Both series are fantastic to be in but the endurance [aspect] of IMSA is really where we want to compete.
“That’s more or less the plan. We have to see how we perform in Atlanta.
“I really don’t want to step up to something that we’re not ready for. We need to keep the morale high.
“But we do believe it’s the right time to enter. We’ve sorted out a lot of internal issues with the team and have been practicing a lot with pit stops and things like that. I think we’re ready.”
Winward GS Program On Hiatus; Waiting on Customers
The team has put its Michelin Pilot Challenge program on hiatus while it focuses on the transition to GT3 competition in IMSA, although Ward has not ruled out it returning as a customer program in the future.
The team was absent from the most recent Pilot Challenge round at Virginia International Raceway, with the decision having been made to forgo the final two events of the season.
“As of right now we’re looking for someone to come in, join us as a driver and be part of our GT4 program,” Ward said.