Interest in next month’s inaugural Michelin IMSA SportsCar Encore is building among teams, with several championship-winning operations gearing up for a final end-of-year run in preparation for 2019.
JDC-Miller Motorsports, P1 Motorsports, KohR Motorsports, GMG Racing and Rumcastle Racing are among the teams set to take part in the four-hour enduro at Sebring International Raceway, which will mark the first official running on Michelin tires.
Michelin will become the Official Tire of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, as well as the exclusive tire provider for both the newly named Michelin Pilot Challenge and IMSA Prototype Challenge series next year.
Teams will be competing for a $10,000 winner’s price and $5,000 Michelin tire credit to apply for the 2019 seasons.
“We are going to use the Encore race as a test session for next season,” said KohR Motorsports team owner Dean Martin. “It should give us some insight into what the car is going to want with the Michelin tires for Sebring in 2019.
“We’re trying to get a leg up on 2019 because we are very disappointed with our finishing position in the team championship this year (second) and we’re not going to let that happen again next year.”
Martin will field two Ford Mustang GT4s and will make his racing return alongside full-season drivers Kyle Marcelli and Nate Stacy.
Reigning Pirelli World Challenge GTS champion James Sofronas, meanwhile, has entered one of his GMG Racing Audi R8 LMS GT4 cars for the Nov. 9-11 event and will team up with customer Jason Bell.
Sofronas said the Encore will be an “event like no other” and is looking forward for a return to IMSA competition after running this year’s season-opening Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge round at Daytona.
“The event will welcome a new tire partnership that marks a new era ahead of IMSA’s 50th Anniversary, and the first preliminary run of the new Michelin Pilot Challenge will be a great way to see what the series has on offer, and of course at one of the most iconic circuits,” he said.
JDC-Miller, meanwhile, will enter a Ligier JS P3 Nissan for Guy Cosmo and Patrick Byrne, with its TCR class-winning pairing of Stephen Simpson and Michael Johnson in an Audi RS 3 LMS TCR car.
“We’ll have a TCR car and a P3 car [entered], so that will be fun,” team principal John Church told Sportscar365. “We’ll see how it goes as it will be our first [race] with Michelins. We’re going to do a test with the TCR car [at Road Atlanta] at the end of the month on Michelins.”
An additional Audi TCR car will be fielded by Rumcastle, with brothers Tanner and Luke Rumburg set to drive.
IPC front runner P1 Motorsports, which also fielded entries in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America this year, meanwhile, will also run one of its Ligier LMP3 car.
According to team manager Alberto Pena, the race serves as a cost-effective way to prepare for 2019.
“There’s no replacement for seat time,” he said. “Any time we don’t have to spend a lot of money to run a track, and still have a good time, it is always a plus.
“So that’s what our driver’s really looking forward to more than anything. Just going out there and having a good time.”
While an entry list has yet to be released, Sportscar365 understands that upwards of 25 cars are expected for the event, including additional likely efforts from Extreme Speed Motorsports (LMP3), K2R Racing (LMP3), Montaplast by Land Motorsport (GT3) and Carbahn Motorsports (GT4).