GT3 manufacturers are taking a wait-and-see approach to IMSA’s recent announcement of the GTD Pro class, with representatives from Lexus, Lamborghini and Acura all supporting the move but are awaiting further technical and sporting details before making any form of clear decision.
Confirmed last month at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, GTD Pro will replace the GT Le Mans category beginning next year in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, opening the doors for all-pro GT3 driver lineups and the potential for factory or works-supported operations.
“We still have a lot of questions,” Lexus motorsports manager Jeff Bal told Sportscar365. “We’re really excited — for Toyota and Lexus as a brand — we’ve got a lot going on between our involvement in WEC and we’re still studying LMDh very closely.
“We want to be everywhere but [right now] we have unfinished business in the GTD class. For us it’s about connecting performance to the brand.
“This GTD Pro class for us, we’re going to take a hard look at it.”
Bal said the class makeup of GTD and whether a Bronze driver mandate will be introduced into the existing class could have an effect on Lexus’ decision along with its customer team Vasser Sullivan Racing, which it intends on continuing with into next year.
“I think it makes sense for all manufacturers to have an entrant [in GTD Pro] but there’s validity in Pro-Am,” said Bal. “We haven’t ruled anything out yet.
“From the technical side and entrant side, we have a lot of questions for IMSA.
“What will the class look like? Will there be three different podiums for Pro-Am and Am-Am? Our customer teams will have questions on that.”
Lamborghini, meanwhile, “massively supports” IMSA’s move to introduce GTD Pro according to Chris Ward, its senior motorsport manager for North America.
“Following the announcement at Daytona, conversations have already begun on what could potential lineups look like,” Ward told Sportscar365. “But we’re a long way off from knowing what that could be.”
Ward, however, stressed that any potential GTD Pro campaign involving the Italian manufacturer would strictly be a customer effort.
“That denotes how we go racing all over the world in every championship,” he said. “Lamborghini is still far removed from having a factory program.
“It would be a customer effort albeit with a heavy influence of Lamborghini factory drivers.
“I think the [timing] is terrific. Now we have a clear runway what competition will look like in the IMSA paddock for the foreseeable future.”
Acura NSX GT3 program manager Lee Niffenegger echoed Ward’s comments in that any potential entry would need to be customer-based.
“We are focused on supporting our customers, existing and/or new,” he told Sportscar365.
“If we had a customer that wanted to participate in that category — there’s people involved in SRO and IMSA that choose to spend their own money and want to participate with the best drivers and teams — they can. Our focus is on what our customers want.”
Niffenegger added that he can’t see GTD Pro featuring a different technical ruleset to GTD, although IMSA has yet to confirm details.
“There hasn’t been a lot of discussion with IMSA on what that’s going to look like,” he said. “I can’t imagine there will be any kind of specification changes because nobody wants to develop new cars.”
Lamborghini’s Ward, meanwhile, believes that the adoption of a Bronze mandate in GTD would help boost car counts in the class.
“I think a mandatory Bronze with a Platinum or a Gold is the way to go for the two-driver lineups for GTD,” he said. “I think that would pull out of the woodwork some people that have not wanted to participate in that Pro-Am category to date. “
Manufacturers Don’t Need All New Car, Evo Kit for 2022 GT3 Regs
The basis of the 2022 GT3 regulations is to lay down “enforceable regulations” instead of the rulebook being open to interpretation, according to HPD’s Niffenegger.
Sportscar365 understands this includes the tightening up of homologation waivers and a stronger adherence to technical regulations, similar to what’s currently seen in GTE.
Existing GT3 machinery that do not opt for an Evo kit, meanwhile, will remain eligible through its homologation period.
“For any car that’s already existing and has a homologation you don’t have to change anything,” Niffenegger explained. “Whatever was in the regulations at the time of your homogloated car — unless you change a part — you don’t have to meet the new regulations.
“We don’t have to change anything. If we decide we want to change a part, we’d have to meet the regulations as written.”
Niffenegger said there isn’t much motivation for the Acura NSX GT3 Evo to undergo any modifications for 2022.
“It’s a BoP series so you’re not going to see any major changes from our side,” he said. “Of course there’s always tweaks and this, that and the other. But nothing I would say substantial.
“Our new customers for this year won’t [have to purchase] a new Evo in 2022. It’s better for everyone unless you have a major flaw you’re trying to address.
“From a financial viewpoint for the manufacturer and customer there’s no big incentive because the performance windows don’t change. The FIA is targeting stability and cost control. That’s the main reason for the 2022 regulations.”