The framework of IMSA’s new GTD Pro class has made significant progress since it was announced in January.
Set to arrive in 2022, GTD Pro will serve as the replacement for the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s GT Le Mans factory category using cars conforming to the popular GT3 regulations. Questions of how IMSA will try and differentiate the performance between GT3 cars in GTD Pro and the same GT3 models in the Pro-Am GTD class continue to be raised, and with some help from IMSA president John Doonan, the thought process behind the co-existence of GTD and GTD Pro has come to light.
“We plan to try to keep the GTD Pro regulations as simple as possible and, as well, make sure they remain relative to the FIA GT3 technical regulations as the cars are delivered,” Doonan told RACER. “And obviously, we’re going to focus on any GT3 cars that are eligible in ’22, as well as any of the existing cars that have been upgraded through an Evo kit.
“You then have factors like tires, which we’re working very closely with our partners at Michelin on. And then you have driver ratings. Once again, in the simplest of terms, GTD Pro, by definition, is an all-pro line-up. And then GTD, as we know, it would provide an opportunity for a non-professional driver, one that doesn’t get his or her full-time income from driving race cars. And then partnering that driver up with a driver that’s gold- or platinum-rated.
“So there’s a lot to be discussed yet. But from all the manufacturers and from all the feedback we’ve received, they’re very keen on the future that we have set for us with GT racing. And from an availability standpoint of these GT3 cars around the world, to the value that we present here by going to GT3 in both classes, it’s exciting to be on the forefront of this to try to set up the whole program, maybe globally, for a bright future.”
IMSA’s decision to leave GT3 technical regulations untouched for GTD Pro and GTD is significant. It means the series will not alter the existing standards for minimum weight, power, or aerodynamic settings in either class as a tool to increase or decrease speeds and create a separation in lap times through Balance of Performance.
“I think that’s a good way to present it,” Doonan said. “Our thinking is to let the drivers behind the wheel be the biggest differentiator. To have the relative speed between GTD Pro and GTD come down to the drivers. I think there’s some unique opportunities to create some exciting racing — whether it’s 100 minutes, 240, six hours, 10 hours, 12 or 24 — by having the best professional GT drivers in the world battling it out in cars that are all based around the same set of GT3 technical regulations.”
One key item left to determine is whether GTD Pro will continue the longstanding GTLM tradition of having custom “confidential” Michelin tires — which are developed for each model and offer multiple compounds to use — or if GTD Pro will align with GTD, where all cars make use the same tire and a single compound.
“We still have a lot to define,” Doonan added. “But we’ve had the opportunity, leading up to the announcement we made in January, to get feedback from the manufacturers and teams and drivers, as well as the folks at Michelin. We’ve had one really solid call with further feedback from manufacturers. And I think the more that we can now hone in on the final set of sporting regulations, the better off we’ll be. And then we can set everybody up for a GTD Pro launch at Daytona in January.”