IMSA: Motul Petit Le Mans – GTD Pre-Event Notebook

Photo courtesy of IMSA

IMSA Wire Service

There’s plenty of intrigue in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GT Daytona (GTD) class heading into Saturday’s Motul Petit Le Mans, with championships on the line and the usual complement of additional drivers and teams joining the fray for the 10-hour season finale. The 21st Motul Petit Le Mans takes the green flag shortly after 11 a.m. ET on Saturday.

Live television coverage begins at 10:30 a.m. ET on FS1, with continuing coverage on FS2 from 12 p.m. ET through the checkered flag. FOX Sports Go also will offer a complete broadcast with FS1 authentication. Live IMSA Radio coverage also will be available on, and SiriusXM Radio (Sirius 119/XM 202/App 972). Tickets are available now at

With practice slated to get under way tomorrow morning, here are some key GTD storylines to consider:

* The No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 squad and full-season co-drivers Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow go in search of their first WeatherTech Championship titles. They enter Saturday’s race six points ahead of Katherine Legge in the No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 and can clinch the title with a podium finish – which they’ve already done seven times in the first 10 races of the season.

To aid them in their quest for the title, they’ll be joined for the endurance race by Corey Lewis, with whom they also co-drove to victory in March’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts. This week, the team also rolled out a special, black and green livery for the race car.

“In 2014, we ran a matte black livery on the Paul Miller entry for Petit Le Mans, and we won the race,” said Team Owner Paul Miller. “We liked the idea of running a black car for Petit this year, and with the Lamborghini green highlights, maybe it’ll bring us some good fortune again.”

* As the lone full-season driver of the No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3, Legge is looking to become the first driver to win a WeatherTech Championship title as a solo driver since Patrick Pilet won the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class championship in 2015. She’s also looking to be the third straight female GTD champion, following Christina Nielsen, who won back-to-back titles in 2016 and 2017.

Legge’s co-drivers in the No. 86 are Alvaro Parente, with whom she won the America’s Tire 250 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca last month, and Trent Hindman, who drove with the team at the Rolex 24 At Daytona and at Sebring.

“All I and the team can do is to do our best,” Legge said. “I will be as best prepared as I can be, but I’m also aware it’s a long race and there is a lot that is out of my control. I think we have to view the race as a matter of survival for the first nine hours and then depending on where we are, we can do battle right until the very end.”

* In addition to the overall WeatherTech Championship, there’s also a spirited battle for the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup title that will have its final act this weekend. Patrón Endurance Cup points will be awarded after four hours, eight hours and at the finish of Motul Petit Le Mans.

Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen and the No. 33 Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports squad are looking for their second consecutive Patrón Endurance Cup title and go into the race alongside endurance co-driver Luca Stolz with a two-point lead in the GTD standings over Legge and Parente.

* The No. 29 Montaplast by Land Motorsport Audi R8 LMS GT3 is returning to defend its 2017 Motul Petit Le Mans title with drivers Christopher Mies, Sheldon van der Linde and Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Yokohama graduate Daniel Morad. Mies and van der Linde won the race last year alongside Connor De Phillippi, who now drives the No. 25 BMW Team RLL entry in the GTLM class.

It will be the No. 29 team’s first WeatherTech Championship appearance since the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen in July.

Don’t forget that IMSA coverage moves to the NBC Sports Group in 2019.

Ford unveils a new Mustang for 2024 Le Mans in motorsports ‘lifestyle brand’ retooling

Ford Mustang Le Mans
Ford Performance

LE MANS, France — Ford has planned a return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans with its iconic Mustang muscle car next year under a massive rebranding of Ford Performance aimed at bringing the automotive manufacturer “into the racing business.”

The Friday unveil of the new Mustang Dark Horse-based race car follows Ford’s announcement in February (and a ballyhooed test at Sebring in March) that it will return to Formula One in 2026 in partnership with reigning world champion Red Bull.

The Mustang will enter the GT3 category next year with at least two cars in both IMSA and the World Endurance Championship, and is hopeful to earn an invitation to next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. The IMSA entries will be a factory Ford Performance program run by Multimatic, and a customer program in WEC with Proton Competition.

Ford CEO Jim Farley, also an amateur sports car racer, told The Associated Press the Mustang will be available to compete in various GT3 series across the globe to customer teams. But more important, Farley said, is the overall rebranding of Ford Performance – done by renowned motorsports designer Troy Lee – that is aimed at making Ford a lifestyle brand with a sporting mindset.

“It’s kind of like the company finding its own, and rediscovering its icons, and doubling down on them,” Farley told the AP. “And then this motorsports activity is getting serious about connecting enthusiast customers with those rediscovered icons. It’s a big switch for the company – this is really about building strong, iconic vehicles with enthusiasts at the center of our marketing.”

Ford last competed in sports car racing in 2019 as part of a three-year program with Chip Ganassi Racing. The team scored the class win at Le Mans in 2016 in a targeted performance aimed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ford snapping Ferrari’s six-year winning streak.

Ford on Friday displayed a Mustang with a Lee-designed livery that showcased the cleaner, simplified look that will soon be featured on all its racing vehicles. The traditional blue oval with Ford Performance in white lettering underneath will now be branded simply FP.

The new mark will be used across car liveries, merchandise and apparel, display assets, parts and accessories and in advertising.

Farley cited Porsche as an automaker that has successfully figured out how to sell cars to consumers and race cars in various series around the world while creating a culture of brand enthusiasts. He believes Ford’s new direction will help the company sell street cars, race cars, boost interest in driving schools, and create a merchandise line that convinces consumers that a stalwart of American automakers is a hip, cool brand.

“We’re going to build a global motorsports business off road and on road,” Farley told the AP, adding that the design of the Mustang is “unapologetically American.”

He lauded the work of Lee, who is considered the top helmet designer among race car drivers.

“We’re in the first inning of a nine inning game, and going to Le Mans is really important,” Farley said. “But for customer cars, getting the graphics right, designing race cars that win at all different levels, and then designing a racing brand for Ford Performance that gets rebranded and elevated is super important.”

He said he’s kept a close eye on how Porsche and Aston Martin have built their motorsports businesses and said Ford will be better.

“We’re going in the exact same direction. We just want to be better than them, that’s all,” Farley said. “Second is the first loser.”

Farley, an avid amateur racer himself, did not travel to Le Mans for the announcement. The race that begins Saturday features an entry from NASCAR, and Ford is the reigning Cup Series champion with Joey Logano and Team Penske.

The NASCAR “Garage 56” entry is a collaboration between Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear, and is being widely celebrated throughout the industry. Farley did feel left out of the party in France – a sentiment NASCAR tried to avoid by inviting many of its partners to attend the race so that it wouldn’t seem like a Chevrolet-only celebration.

“They’re going right and I’m going left – that NASCAR thing is a one-year deal, right? It’s Garage 56 and they can have their NASCAR party, but that’s a one-year party,” Farley said. “We won Le Mans outright four times, we won in the GT class, and we’re coming back with Mustang and it’s not a one-year deal.

“So they can get all excited about Garage 56. I almost see that as a marketing exercise for NASCAR, but for me, that’s a science project,” Farley continued. “I don’t live in a world of science projects. I live in the world of building a vital company that everyone is excited about. To do that, we’re not going to do a Garage 56 – I’ve got to beat Porsche and Aston Martin and Ferrari year after year after year.”

Ford’s announcement comes on the heels of General Motors changing its GT3 strategy next season and ending its factory Corvette program. GM, which unlike Ford competes in the IMSA Grand Touring Prototype division (with its Cadillac brand), will shift fully to a customer model for Corvettes in 2024 (with some factory support in the IMSA GTD Pro category).