2024 Sports-Car Racing Season Starts with a Roar on Friday

Ford/Wes Duenkel

Ready for the sound of racing engines?

This weekend’s Roar Before the 24 is the annual three-day practice session for teams participating in the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona International Speedway in Florida, which is scheduled for January 27–28, and in the Michelin Pilot Challenge race, which runs on January 26.

The Roar starts on Friday and runs through Sunday, and it’s open to the public. All 59 cars entered for the Rolex 24 (they numbered 60, but one pulled out) are on the entry list for the Roar. That list includes 10 GTP cars, 13 LMP2 cars, 13 GTD Pro cars, and 23 GTD cars. The LMP3 cars, which raced for the past few years with the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, are no longer part of the series, but they will compete in some support races this year. Several of the LMP3 contenders moved up to the LMP2 class during the off-season.

It’s a compelling time for the WeatherTech Championship, which opens its season with the Rolex 24. IMSA president John Doonan said there are multiple reasons for fans to be excited about the upcoming year.

“If you’re looking back to 2023, kicking off a brand-new hybrid platform with the GTP class was important, and it’s still going to be exciting in 2024, especially when Lamborghini comes and joins us at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in March.

Lamborghini SC63 Hypercar exterior high front three quarter on track S-curve
Lamborghini SC63, GTP Class Lamborghini | philipprupprecht

“But for me, the big story of ’24 is a GT battle like none other. There’s no place else in the world where there are this many manufacturers competing against each other. Eleven of our 18 OEMs are racing in GT. That, to me, is really exciting news for the fans,” Doonan said.

“You have the new cars—the Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Corvette, and a new Aston Martin. Lexus finally got a championship last year, and they’re back, in both GTD and GTD Pro. Aston Martin is in GTD and Pro. Porsche, the perennial GT champion, is back. Ferrari brought a new car last year, and they’re back.”

As usual, the Roar and the Rolex 24 “are like an all-star team of drivers. You have Formula 1’s Jensen Button and Felipe Massa, you have IndyCar winners, and from NASCAR there’s Bubba Wallace and John Hunter Nemechek in a Toyota Supra in the Michelin Pilot Challenge series. Both the WeatherTech series and the Michelin Pilot Challenge series are just stacked. As a racer at my core, that gets me excited.”

Besides GT, the LMP2 class is showing some growth. “LMP2 is only racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the [mostly European] World Endurance Championship, and some of those teams have decided to join IMSA,” Doonan said. “LMP2 has a lot of veteran and up-and-coming talent that we look forward to watching.”

If you’re new to IMSA racing, here is a quick primer for the 2024 Roar.

Cadillac 2023 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship gtp
No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac V-Series.R competes in the GTP class in 2023 Cadillac

• The top class is GTP, consisting of cars that were introduced just last year. Manufacturer backing comes from Cadillac, Porsche, BMW and Acura. Looking much like the GTP cars is the LMP2 class, which uses a chassis produced by Oreca or Ligier. They all use the same V-8 engines produced by Gibson, a British company. LMP2-class cars are the only ones racing in the IMSA WeatherTech series that aren’t backed by an OEM.

• The GTD class is invariably the largest. The driver lineup consists of some professional racers (rated Platinum, the highest rating, or Gold, which designates a less-experienced pro) but must also include drivers who are rated Silver or Bronze, which suggests amateur status. The cars are fully modified racers but must begin life as a street-going model (ex. a 911, a Mustang, a Corvette).

porsche 911 gtd 2023 kellymoss imsa
A Porsche 911 GT3 R fielded by Kellymoss and competing in the GTD class (2023). Porsche/Kellymoss

• The GTD Pro class is just what it sounds like—a group of GTD cars that are allowed to have an all-pro driver lineup. GTD Pro entries typically have a slightly closer relationship to their respective manufacturers than GTD teams.

• Probably the hardest job IMSA has is to write the class rules so each of the cars has a shot at winning its class. This process is called the Balance of Performance, or BoP. It allows IMSA to adjust the rules for each model within a class to either speed up or slow down the car—that can be done by regulating engine power, adding or subtracting weight, adjusting a car’s aerodynamics, or one of several additional changes. This allows, say, for a McLaren 720S or a Lamborghini Huracán to compete in the same class as a Ford Mustang. Or for a V-8 GTP car like Cadillac’s to compete with one powered by a V-6, like Acura’s.

#10: Konica Minolta Acura ARX-06 at petit le mans 2023
Acura/LAT Images

Five WeatherTech test sessions are scheduled for all Roar classes on Friday and Saturday, with a short sixth session for GTP cars on Sunday, just ahead of qualifying for the Rolex 24. In addition to the WeatherTech Championship, the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge series will use the weekend for testing, and the IMSA VP Racing SportsCar Challenge will begin its second season with a pair of 45-minute races. Those races feature LMP3 cars, plus full-bodied GT4 cars, like the Mustang, Toyota Supra, and BMW M4.

The 59 entries for the Rolex 24 constitute a full house. “There are no more pit boxes, no more garage space. From what I’m told, every camping spot is spoken for, every hospitality suite is spoken for,” Doonan said. “It’s a really good sign for our sport that there’s that much momentum, that much interest, both on the competitor side, and probably more important for us, on the fan side.”

More information is available at IMSA.com.

Mustang GT3 at Daytona test IMSA




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