The IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championships sees the first of two GT-only showcase events this weekend with the Northeast Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park.
With the Prototype class, the usual headliner, not on the docket, GT Le Mans (GTLM) and GT Daytona (GTD) get to headline an event and vie for overall victory honors.
Last year saw Porsche sweep both classes, with Patrick Pilet and Dirk Werner leading a Porsche GT Team 1-2 in GTLM, while Patrick Lindsey and Joerg Bergmeister claimed GTD honors, and the German marque will be keen to mimic that result in 2018.
Previews for both GTLM and GTD are below.
- Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook continue to show the way it GTLM in their No. 67 Ford GT for Ford Chip Ganassi Racing, but only lead the Corvette Racing duo of Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia by a scant five points. Still, Briscoe and Westbrook are riding a wave of momentum after taking their second win of the 2018 season at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. The Ford GT is possibly the fastest of the GTLM platforms, giving them an inherent advantage. But, a continuation of their success is far from a guarantee. They might be favored entering the weekend, but don’t be surprised if they face multiple challengers.
- Magnussen and Garcia rank second in their No. 3 Corvette C7.R, while Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller sit third in their No. 66 Ford GT, trailing teammates Briscoe and Westbrook by eight points. Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin rank fourth, 14 points out of the lead, in the No. 4 Corvette. Such a tight margin means the GTLM title is still completely up for grabs. What’s even more surprising is that Magnussen and Garcia rank second in the GTLM standings despite not having a win in 2018. They’ll be motivated to break that winless streak, while all three of these entries are poised to mount title challenges, beginning with Lime Rock.
- Porsche sits fifth and sixth with its entries – Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor are fifth in the No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR, while Nick Tandy and Pilet sit sixth in the No. 911. Pilet is a defending Lime Rock winner, and he won the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring with Tandy, while Bamber and Vanthoor won at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Porsche clearly goes well at Lime Rock, so this weekend presents them with a golden opportunity to vault themselves squarely into the title picture.
- BMW Team RLL still sit seventh and eighth with their BMW M8 GTEs – Alexander Sims and Connor de Phillippi sit seventh in the No. 25 while John Edwards and Jesse Krohn sit eighth in the No. 24. They continue to develop the new M8, and their best result is still a second place effort in Sebring with Sims, de Phillippi and Bill Auberlen. A podium is possible again this weekend as they continue to improve the M8 platform.
- The GTD class is set for a genuine championship fight for the rest of the season after Meyer Shank Racing confirmed that their No. 86 Acura NSX GT3, with co-drivers Katherine Legge and Alvaro Parente, will see out the rest of the 2018 IMSA season (details can be found on the team’s website). Legge has been hot on the heels of points leaders Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow, in the No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3, for most of the summer and trails them by only three points entering Lime Rock. Legge finished fifth at Lime Rock last year, alongside then co-driver Andy Lally, while Sellers and Snow finished second behind Lindsey and Boergmeister. The MSR squad will need to improve on their Lime Rock outing this time around to regain the points lead, while Sellers, Snow, and the Paul Miller squad will aim for one position higher on the podium. Regardless, the two teams look destined to fight it out all the way to the end.
- Somewhat alone in third is the Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports duo of Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen. They sit 14 points back in third, but are coming off a win at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. A second consecutive win would make the GTD title chase a three-team duel, and Keating, Bleekemolen, and the Riley-Mercedes group are quite capable of doing so.
- Given the success of Porsche last year, one might think that Wright Motorsports is a team to watch this weekend. And they certainly are in desperate need of a strong result. Christina Nielsen and Patrick Long have a best finish of sixth at Sebring in their No. 58 Porsche 911 GT3, and teammates Michael Schein and Wolf Henzler have a best finish of ninth at Detroit. It’s been a rough year for a team that expected to battle for a GTD crown, and a podium would be great medicine.
- Magnus Racing (Andy Lally and John Potter) and Scuderia Corsa (Cooper MacNeil and Jeff Segal) high the GTD teams looking for their first wins of 2018 at Lime Rock.
A weekend schedule can be viewed here. Both qualifying and the 2 hour 40 minute race will be held on Saturday July 21.