The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship has announced their 2021 schedule, and other plans for the upcoming season.
The biggest news of all is probably the entry of LMP3 cars at selected rounds, including the Daytona 24 Hours. It’s no secret that the grids in IMSA are declining, and especially the LMP2 category has less and less, plus we will lose Porsche GTLM next year. LMP3 cars are very popular other places in the world, and IMSA has lacked a secondary category for newcomers since the LMPC category shut down a few years back.
You have to remember that DPi and LMP2 cars are almost doing the same pace, so there is a need for something a bit slower, and easier to drive, for drivers that never has raced a prototype before, but still wants to compete in the big races, that LMPC offered in years past.
IMSA underlines that this will be the new LMP3 cars, that were introduced in Europe for the 2020 season. Speed-wise, they are right in between the LMP2 and GTE cars in Europe, so they hopefully won’t interfere too much on those categories.
There will be a change to the points system, so the points that we know now will be 10x. So you will be awarded 350 points for a victory instead of 35. That has been made, so they can introduce points in the qualifying session. Some teams haven’t really tried going fast in the qualifying in the past, but focused more on the races themselves, since there was no reward for going fast in Qualifying. That will be changed from 2021, with points given from the “old” points scale, with 35 for the polesitter, 32 for number two etc etc.
The LMP2, LM3 and GTD cars will have a new qualifying format. That will be split into two segments, where the Am drivers will be out first. They will be running for the starting position for the race, and will have one set of tires to do so. Then all drivers will have to swap to the Pro driver, who will get a new set of tires, to go flat out. The Pro driver results will give the car the championship points. The GTLM and DPi qualifying sessions will remain unchanged.
The schedule itself looks very much like the one we saw ahead of the 2020 season. The season starts at Daytona with the 24 hours race in January, before going to the 12 Hours of Sebring in March. Long Beach is back on the schedule in April, before the teams will go straight to WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, which is located quite close to each other. That is a change, since it was scheduled to be an autumn race in 2020. The series continues in Mid-Ohio, Detroit, Watkins Glen, CTMP, Lime Rock Park, Road America, VIR and Petit Le Mans. Not all category will do all race, and there are differences in the rounds counting towards the sprint or endurance championships. LMP2 and LMP3 won’t score overall points for the championship at Daytona, but only for the Michelin Endurance Cup.
All this, of course, depends on the COVID-19 situation – but we have seen Daytona and Sebring events being run in 2020, so they should still be possible, even if there are issues in other areas of the USA. So unless everything goes in a much worse situation in Florida, there shouldn’t be any major issues before Long Beach, California in April.