This article sums up various bits of IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship news, that has been released over the last few days.
Wright Motorsport has announced, that they will return to IMSA for 2021 without any changes. Ryan Hardwick will once again share the blue Porsche 911 GT3 R with works driver Patrick Long, while Jan Heylen will join them for the endurance races in the Michelin Endurance Cup. That trio ended the 2020 season by winning the Sebring 12 Hours in the GTD category.
They were very close at grabbing the GTD title, where they only finished two points behind the champions from Meyer Shank Racing. Hardwick did, however, win the Bob Akin Award, which hands him a ticket for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. All he needs to do now is to find a team, and thereby handing them an Auto-entry for the race. So don’t be surprised, if he will appear alongside Patrick Long in a Proton Competition or Team Project 1 car for the 24-hour race in France.
They need a fourth driver for the Rolex 24 at Daytona, and that will once again be Klaus Bachler, just like in the 2020 edition of the race. Bachler is the closest to a Porsche works driver, without officially being one. He has raced thousands of laps in a Porsche, all over the world, and is one of the very best in that discipline.
Whelen Engineering has announced, that they will run a fourth driver in their Cadillac DPi #31 at Daytona. That is none other than newly crowned NASCAR Cup Champion Chase Elliot. Elliot is currently the most popular driver amongst NASCAR fans – even before his championship win – and will try equal his father Bill Elliot’s victory from 1987.
The rules for the 24-hour race isn’t as stringent as for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, where each driver is mandated to do at least 6 hours of the race. At Daytona, 2 hours would be enough to fulfil the minimum drive time in DPI and GTLM. So don’t expect Elliot to do much more than that, when he has teammates like Pipo Derani, Felipe Nasr and Mike Conway, who are all specialists in prototype racing. We saw the same thing with Jeff Gordon, when he won the race in 2017, by only doing 2 hours and four and a half minutes of the race. But the presence of a current NASCAR driver in the race brings a lot of interest to the race and IMSA – who by the way is owned by the NASCAR organization.
Vasser Sullivan has ended their collaboration with AIM, but will keep the Lexus cars. Aaron Telitz and Jack Hawksworth will share the #14 throughout the full season, while the driver for car #12 plus the endurance drivers haven’t yet been announced. Telitz and Hawksworth raced together for most of the 2020 season, since Parker Chase left the team after just competing at Daytona. Telitz had to jump back to car #12 for the endurance rounds, to fulfil the original agreement.
Pfaff Motorsports has really big plans for the 2021 season in IMSA. Zacharie Robichon will continue in the Porsche 911 GT3 R #8, but will be joined by Porsche works driver Laurens Vanthoor for the full season. Robichon is what can be described as Fake Silver – i.e. a Silver ranked driver that probably should have been ranked Gold, if you look at his laptimes. Him in combination with Vanthoor, who has raced GTLM in IMSA for the past few years, will be an extraordinary fast combination, with none of their currently GTD competitors being able to beat them – at least on paper. The most important thing for them, is to keep out of trouble, and keep the car mechanically running all the time.
Lars Kern will help them out at the four MEC rounds, just like in 2020, with Porsche works driver Matt Campbell joining them at Daytona. If the car gets a fair BOP for the 24 hours race, we have to expect that they slowly will pull away from the rest of the field, simply due to the average speeds over each stint, that the four drivers will be able to do.
Magnus Racing has chosen to change their equipment once again. They are going to race in an Acura NSX GT3 Evo for the 2021 season, which they will run together with Archangel Motorsports. John Potter and Andy Lally will continue to race together, but haven’t announced their teammates just yet. This is their fourth different car in seven seasons, for the long-time Porsche team. They switched to Audi for a couple of years, broken up with a sabbatical in 2017, before going for Lamborghini in 2019, with themselves running that car in 2019, before collaborating with GRT for 2020. We have to go all the way back to 2012, to find their biggest achievement, when they managed to win the Daytona 24 hours in a Porsche. By choosing the championship-winning car from 2020, they hope to get closer to the front of the field once again.
That was a bit of a catchup on various IMSA news. Despite the Christmas coming up next week, more news is expected to break during the coming days, since the entry list will soon be released.