IMSA has announced their 2019 calendar for the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship as well as some changes for the racing on track.
The series will revisit the same 12 tracks as in 2018, with the DPi and LMP2 cars doing 10 rounds, GTLM cars will do 11 rounds and the GTDs will have 10 rounds counting towards the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. GTD however has a bonus race in Detroit counting towards a new Championship – more of that later in this article.
10 of the 12 rounds will be run on the same weekends as in 2018, while Virginia International Raceway and WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca both will be moved one weekend back compared to this year.
The 4 long races on the calendar will count towards the Michelin Endurance Cup, i.e. Daytona 24 hours, Sebring 12 hours, Watkins Glen 6 hours and Petit Le Mans 10 hours. That’s the one that so far is called the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup.
The reason for the Michelin name appearing, is the change from Continental rubber to the French manufacturer from 2019 onwards.
The prototypes will be split into two classes. From now on the DPi cars like Mazda, Acura, Nissan an Cadillac will race against each other with their own BOP, while the LMP2 cars will follow the rules in the rest of the world without any kind of BOP, plus the minimum of one silver ranked driver in the car, just like it is in FIA WEC, ELMS and the Asian Le Mans Series. DPi can still be all pro drivers.
It’s a change due to issues with balancing the DPi and LMP2 cars for a long time – well, actually it only really has started to work for the last three weekends, and at those events we have seen the LMP2 privateers stealing the limelight from the works DPi teams, grabbing Pole Position and/or the win. The works teams no longer want that. They want full focus on their efforts, since they put so much money into the series in form of promotion etc.
The Silver and Bronze rated LMP2 drivers will battle for the Jim Trueman Award, which is for the best placed Am driver in the Championship. The winner will also get an entry to the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which is quite a big prize to receive.
The GTD category has their own Bob Akin Award, for the best placed Silver or Bronze in the Championship, and will also get a ticket for Le Mans.
In case of a points dead heat in those two awards, it will be given to the one of those drivers, who has run for the longest time in the car during the season
There will be a new practice session for Silver and Bronze GTD drivers only, like we know from the ELMS, where it however is across all classes. The extra dedicated practice session will be a good opportunity for the drivers to get some extra laps, and the teams will also get an extra set of tires for that specific session.
The GTD teams will have even more trophies to fight for. The WeatherTech Sprint Cup will be a new Championship to fight for, with the 7 “short” races of 2 hours of 40 minutes or shorter counting towards it.
The testing opportunities ahead of and during the 2019 will also be limited. The Roar test ahead of the Daytona 24 hours will run over three days, while the GTD teams only will run two of those days. That will be the only IMSA sanctioned test prior and during the 2019 season.
The DPi and LMP2 teams will have the possibility for 10 private test days, the GTLM teams will have 9, while the GTD teams have four days only.
The WeatherTech SportsCar Championship calendar for 2019 will look like this:
|4-6 January||Roar Before The Rolex 24 at Daytona||DPi, LMP2, GTLM, GTD – 3 (2) days test|
|24-27 January||Rolex 24 at Daytona||DPi, LMP2, GTLM, GTD – 24 hours|
|13-16 March||Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring||DPi, LMP2, GTLM, GTD – 12 hours|
|12-13 April||BUBBA Burger SportsCar Grand Prix at Long Beach||DPi, LMP2, GTLM – 100 minutes|
|3-5 May||Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course||DPi, LMP2, GTLM, GTD – 2 hours 40 min|
|31 May – 1 June||Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix||DPi, LMP2, GTD (Sprint Cup) 100 min|
|28-30 June||Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen||DPi, LMP2, GTLM, GTD – 6 hours|
|5-7 July||Canadian Tire Motorsport Park||DPi, LMP2, GTLM, GTD – 2 hours 40 min|
|19-20 July||Northeast Grand Prix – Lime Rock Park||GTLM, GTD – 2 timer og 40 minutes|
|2-4 August||Road America||DPi, LMP2, GTLM, GTD – 2 hours 40 min|
|23-25 August||Virginia International Raceway||GTLM, GTD – 2 hours og 40 minutes|
|13-15 September||WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca||DPi, LMP2, GTLM, GTD – 2 hours 40 min|
|9-12 October||Motul Petit Le Mans||DPi, LMP2, GTLM, GTD – 10 hours|