As the year draws to a close, following multiple top-10 reviews, Sportscar365 looks ahead to what could be in store for 2017 with a look at the Top 10 Stories to Watch:
10. LMP3 Growth — With new cars from Norma and Ave-Riley set to debut, will the LMP3 platform continue to grow worldwide? Will the introduction of the class in IMSA competition, albeit in a standalone sprint series, generate further North American interest, and how will the ACO’s two-tier approach for ELMS and the Michelin Le Mans Cup work?
9. Driver Ratings — After a number of off-season changes and selected series taking measures into their own hands, will the driver rating situation improve in 2017? Will gentlemen drivers continue in the WEC LMP2 ranks, despite the likely surge of young open-wheel drivers? How will it impact IMSA and particularly PWC, which is now fully embracing the global FIA categorization?
8. New GTE Manufacturers on Horizon — With BMW set to debut an all-new GTE-homologated car for 2018, will there be any other manufacturers that will officially throw its hat into the category next year? It’s known that Lamborghini is working on a new car, but not likely until 2019, while rumors have continued of McLaren GT evaluating the platform as well.
7. SRO’s Role in PWC — Less than 12 months after announcing its ownership stake in WC Vision, will SRO Motorsport Group take a larger public role in Pirelli World Challenge? Will changes on the sanctioning body front, with USAC poised to be introduced, likely in addition to continued SCCA involvement, affect the racing on track?
6. VW’s Motorsports Involvement — Audi’s withdrawal from LMP1 competition after an 18-year run has been a big blow, but is there more still to come amid the fallout from VW Group’s emissions scandal? Will Porsche continue at the same level financially in the WEC and could any of the brand’s GT3 customer programs be in jeopardy in the long-term?
5. PWC’s New Format and Cars — The integration of SprintX into the overall PWC series had been a major talking point in the second half of this year. Will teams embrace the two-driver, pit stop format that will be on all standalone weekends? Will the GTS class continue to grow with the launch of new GT4 models? How will TCR fare in its integration into the TC class?
4. Rise of GT4 — New cars from Ford, BMW, Mercedes-AMG and Chevrolet are set to debut in 2017, in what’s shaping up to be one of the hottest trends in GT racing. Will GT4 play a significant part in the global GT racing landscape, and can costs be kept under control to prevent an arm’s race between manufacturers?
3. Factory vs. Privateers in GTD — With the arrival of factory backed efforts from Acura, Lexus and Mercedes-AMG, how will that impact the largely privateer-focused GT Daytona class in IMSA next year? A number of series stalwarts, including Alex Job Racing and Turner Motorsport, are already on the fence because of rising costs and a general lack-of-interest from gentlemen drivers in IMSA’s top Pro-Am class.
2. New LMP2/DPi Regulations Debut — The new-look LMP2/DPi platform debuts next month in Daytona after two years of work from the FIA, ACO and IMSA. Will it attract new teams to the prototype ranks? How will IMSA’s DPi platform stack up against the global-spec LMP2s? Will any of the four LMP2 constructors have a distinct advantage and will that be controlled?
1. Future of LMP1, WEC — With Audi’s exit, the WEC is left with only two LMP1 manufacturers next year, casting questions over the category, and potentially even the championship’s long-term health. Will another manufacturer announce its intentions of joining Toyota and Porsche, amid further cost-reduction initiatives and a regulations freeze from the FIA and ACO?