IMSA restructures GT classes for 2022 season

IMSA new GT class
IMSA
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The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Series announced the creation of a new GT class for the 2022 season with GTD PRO replacing the GTLM class.

The GTD PRO division will feature cars built to FIA GT3 technical regulations, which would include the factory-supported cars that comprise much of the GTLM class.

GTD PRO also will be open to customer teams that competed in GTD to compete in either GTD PRO or standard GTD.

The GTLM field has shrunk in 2021 with the departure of Porsche Motorsport (which is focusing on the new LMDh) and the BMW team scaling back to endurance races only. Corvette Racing, which won the 2020 championship with its new CR.8 model, is the only full-time factory-supported team in GTLM this season.

“The introduction of a GTD Pro category in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is a positive move forward for the future of professional GT racing in North America,” said Mark Stielow, Chevrolet Director of Motorsports Competition Engineering. “We appreciate the leadership and openness from IMSA during this ongoing process.

“Now that the class structure has been established, Corvette Racing and Chevrolet will continue to work with IMSA to determine how Corvette could fit into this new future of GT competition.”

Though GTLM teams currently are invited to race in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the new GTD PRO division (which will adhere to a different car spec) currently doesn’t have that classification.

“The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship has long been regarded as featuring the world’s greatest GT manufacturers, teams and drivers and some of the world’s most exciting and competitive professional GT endurance racing through the GTLM class,” IMSA president John Doonan said in a releaese. “We believe the move to GTD PRO offers the best opportunity for manufacturers and teams to continue that legacy well into the future. We expect considerable manufacturer participation when we kick off the GTD PRO class a year from now in the 60th Rolex 24 At Daytona.”

Here’s the release from IMSA:

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Solidifying a bright future for factory-supported, professional GT endurance racing in North America, International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) officials today announced the introduction of the GT Daytona (GTD) PRO class to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship beginning in 2022.

GTD PRO will include race cars built to FIA GT3 technical regulations. GTD PRO offers the opportunity for factory teams and driver lineups to compete in the class, while customer teams, Pro-Am or Am-Am lineups have the option of competing in either GTD PRO or the standard GTD class. Michelin will be the exclusive tire supplier for both the GTD PRO class and the existing GTD class in the WeatherTech Championship.

TD PRO replaces the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class, which will contest its final WeatherTech Championship season in 2021 using LMGTE technical regulations developed by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO).

New FIA GT3 technical regulations will debut in 2022. New cars built to those specifications, as well as any existing cars upgraded through “Evo” kits will be eligible to compete in GTD PRO and GTD starting next year. There are nine manufacturers currently participating in IMSA with GT3 cars in the GTD class.

 

New Chip Ganassi driver Marcus Armstrong will team with boyhood idol Scott Dixon

Marcus Armstrong Scott Dixon
Joe Portlock - Formula 1/Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images
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Marcus Armstrong was a Scott Dixon fan his entire life, and when he was 8, the aspiring young racer asked his fellow New Zealander to autograph a helmet visor that he hung on his bedroom wall.

Next year, Armstrong will be Dixon’s teammate.

Armstrong was named Friday as the fourth IndyCar driver in the Chip Ganassi Racing lineup and will pilot the No. 11 next season on road and street courses.

A driver for the five oval races on the 17-race schedule will be named later.

The No. 11 is essentially the No. 48 that seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson drove the last two seasons, with Chip Ganassi making the change to run four cars numbered in sequential order. Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson drives the No. 8, six-time champion Dixon drives the No. 9, and 2020 IndyCar champion Alex Palou drives the No. 10.

So just who is the second Kiwi in the Ganassi lineup?

A 22-year-old who spent the past three seasons in Formula One feeder series F2, a Ferrari development driver in 2021, and former roommate of Callum Illot and former teammate of Christian Lundgaard – both of whom just completed their rookie IndyCar seasons.

“I’ve always been attracted to the IndyCar championship because it’s one of those championships that’s been really well televised in New Zealand since I was young, mainly because of Scott and his success,” Armstrong told The Associated Press. “As time progressed, as I got closer to F1 and single-seaters, the attraction to IndyCar grew just because of how competitive the championship is – I like to challenge myself and the level of competition in IndyCar is remarkably high.”

Armstrong, from Christchurch, New Zealand, was set to travel from his current home in London to Indianapolis this weekend to meet his new team. He won’t need an introduction to Dixon, the 42-year-old considered the best IndyCar driver of his generation and Armstrong’s unequivocal childhood hero.

Last season, Dixon earned his 53rd career victory to pass Mario Andretti for second on the all-time list. Dixon has driven for Ganassi in all but 23 of his 345 career starts.

“For a long time I’ve been a Scott Dixon fan. I don’t want to make him cringe with our age difference,” Armstrong told the AP.

Despite the two-decade age difference, Armstrong never considered someday racing with Dixon a fantasy.

He convinced his father after winning five national karting championships to allow him to leave New Zealand for Italy at age 14, where he moved by himself to pursue a racing career. Armstrong said as soon as he’d received parental permission, he’d never look back.

Armstrong was in Formula 4 two years after his move to Italy and won that title in his first season. He won four races and four poles in F3 in the 2018 and 2019 seasons, then collected four wins and eight podiums in three seasons of F2.

“Maybe it’s a strength, or maybe it’s a weakness, but I always thought I was capable of doing great in the sport,” Armstrong told the AP. “I think you probably have to succeed in the sport, you need to believe in yourself. I always pictured myself being in IndyCar.

“As Scott’s teammate? I can’t specifically say I saw that. It’s an extraordinary chain of events.”

Armstrong becomes just the latest driver to leave Europe, where F1 is the pinnacle but has only 20 seats each year. Alexander Rossi began the trend in 2016 when the American left F1 and won the Indianapolis 500 as a rookie. He’s been followed by Ericsson, last season’s Indy 500 winner, Romain Grosjean, Illot, Lundgaard, and on Thursday three-time W Series champion and Williams F1 reserve driver Jamie Chadwick was announced as driver for Andretti Autosport in IndyCar’s second-tier development series.

Armstrong said he could have remained in F2 for a fourth season, but he’d been watching IndyCar for so long, and after conversations with Illot and Lundgaard, he decided to make the move to what he believes is the most balanced racing series in the world. He tested for Dale Coyne Racing at Sebring in October.

He doesn’t know if European racing is done for good, just that he wants to be in IndyCar right now.

“I don’t want to think too far into the future, I’m just grateful for this opportunity that is standing right in front of me,” Armstrong said. “I want to perform as well as I can in the near future and just consolidate myself in the fantastic chance that is IndyCar and just do my best.

“I’m not looking at F1 as a landing spot – I am looking at IndyCar, and that’s exactly why I am here.”