Featured Image by Osajus Photography on Flickr (CC-BY 2.0)

Are you new to Sports Cars Racing? Curious about the differences between DPi & LMP2? No worries, we’ve got you covered. Ahead of the 2021 Season, we’ve decided to produce articles introducing Sports Car Racing to our readers. This is an in-depth introduction to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, discussing it’s history & the categories.

The WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is a sports car racing championship based in the United States & Canada, organized by the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA)

The championship had its inaugural season in 2014, consisting of 13 races, with 9 Sprint races & 4 Endurance Races. The inaugural championship in 2014 marked the reunification of Sports Car Racing in America, following 16 years of division between the IMSA GT Championship/American Le Mans Series and the United States Road Racing Championship (USRRC)/Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series (RSCS).

It is unique in that it features a “championship within a championship”, the Michelin Endurance Cup (MEC), formerly known as the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup (TPNAEC), which is available in all classes. The GTD class also features a similar competition, the WeatherTech Sprint Cup, for the class at the sprint events of the calendar.

History

Initial Merger Announcement

On the 5th of September 5, 2012, American Sports Car Racing saw a historical announcement – The merger of the rival sanctioning bodies, the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) & the Grand-Am Road Racing (GARRA), and their premier championships, allowing for the unification of top-level American sports car racing.

Since the 1997 season, top-level North American Sports Car Racing had seen a split, with 2 major championships directly competing against each other: The IMSA GT Championship, which evolved into the American Le Mans Series (ALMS), and the US Road Racing Championship, which evolved into the Rolex Sports Car Series (RSCS). With the merger, 2013 would be the final year of existence for both championships, ahead of the 2014 re-unification of top-level American sports car racing.

On the 8th of January 2013, the preliminary class structure for the new merged series was unveiled. The RSCS’s Daytona Prototype class would combine with the ALMS’s P2 class, and the DeltaWing to form the Prototype Class. The Le Mans Prototype Challenge (LMPC) class would be retained with no changes, barring the introduction of Continental tyres. The ALMS GT class would remain unchanged, while the RSCS Grand-Am GT & ALMS GTC classes would merge. At the time, it was also announced that the RSCS’ GX class would remain separate. This announcement left the ALMS P1 class as the only cut class from the new combined series.

On the 14th of March 2013, at the Chateau Élan Hotel and Conference Center located alongside the Sebring International Raceway, American Le Mans series CEO Scott Atherton announced IMSA would continue as the sanctioning body for the new series, alongside the name of the merged series & class structure. The announced class structure remained mostly similar to the one announced in January, with only the GT classes renamed. ALMS’ GT class became renamed as GT Le Mans (GTLM), while the GA-GT & ALMS GTC combined class was to be known as GT Daytona (GTD). However, on 19th July 2013, it was hinted that the GX class would be folded into the GTD class, with Atherton stating: “the GX cars are close enough in performance that a merger of GX into the GT Daytona category is not that much of a reach,”

On 31st July 2013, a tire partnership was announced with Continental Tire. Continental would serve as the exclusive tire supplier for the Prototype, Prototype Challenge and GT Daytona classes; Continental would retain this role until 2017, being replaced by Michelin post-2017.

Lastly, on the 12 of September 2013, Tudor was announced as the title sponsor for the series, which was named the United SportsCar Championship.

Post-Merger

The 2014 calendar saw a total of 13 races, with 4 races (Daytona, Sebring, Watkins Glen and Petit Le Mans) forming the TPNAEC.  All circuits were carried over from the 2013 schedules of both the American Le Mans and Rolex Sports Car Series. However, several circuits were dropped, including long-time sports car venues Lime Rock Park & Mid-Ohio, alongside Barber & Baltimore.

The 2015 calendar saw the calendar reduced to 12 races, with the rounds at Kansas and Indianapolis dropped in favour of a new round at Lime Rock Park for the GTD & PC classes. GTLM saw the loss of Dodge, who departed in December 2014. On August 8, 2015, WeatherTech was announced as the new title sponsor for the series, renaming the series to the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, starting with the 2016 season. This was done despite of TUDOR’s 5-year title sponsorship deal, signed in 2013.

2016 saw the calendar remain at 12 races, with no rounds added or removed. Owing to the high car counts for the round at Laguna Seca, the round featured 2 races, split into 1 race for the GTLM & Prototype class and the GTD & PC classes. 2016 was the last season to feature the Generation 3 Daytona Prototypes, alongside the Open-Cockpit LMP2s.

2017 saw the calendar remain at 12 races, with no rounds added or removed once again. The round at Circuit of the Americas ran as a standalone round for the first time; past editions of the round, previously known as Lone Star Le Mans, were held as part of the 6 Hours of Circuit of The Americas weekend. The season saw the introduction of the new Daytona Prototype International cars, alongside the new 2017 “Licensed Chassis” LMP2 cars in the prototype class. 3 cars were built to the new DPi regulations for the 2017 season: The Cadillac DPi-V.R, Nissan-Onroak DPi, and the Mazda RT24-P. This season was also the final season for the Prototype Challenge class, and the ageing Oreca FLM09.

2018 saw the calendar remain at 12 races, although the round at the Circuit of the Americas was dropped, being replaced by a round at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The Prototype class saw the introduction of a new DPi car, the Acura ARX-05.

2019 saw the calendar remain at 12 races, with no rounds added or removed. The championship returned to a 4-class structure, following the division of the Prototype class into the Daytona Prototype International (DPi) Class, and the Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) class. The DPi class would be the lead class of the championship, and featuring teams with full professional lineups running DPi cars, and Balance of Performance (BoP). The LMP2 class would be the lower prototype class in the championship, featuring LMP2 cars with Pro-Am lineups, without BoP applied. 2019 also saw the introduction of the WeatherTech Sprint Cup, for the GTD class, comprising of all sprint events in the championship, barring Long Beach, where GTD did not participate.

Originally for the 2020 season, the calendar was to have 12 races, with no new tracks added or removed from the schedule. However, in the wake of the global Coronavirus Pandemic, a revised calendar was issued on 15th of May 2020, with a reduced 11 race calendar. This calendar is inclusive of the 2020 Rolex 24 at Daytona, which had already been run prior to the global outbreak

The 2021 season sees the introduction of the LMP3 class, a new points system and a qualifying race for the Rolex 24, alongside a return to a 12 race calendar.

Class Overview

For a detailed guide between the classes, visit Part 2: Prototypes & Part 3: GTs.

Daytona Prototype International

Denoted by White Sticker with Black Font, White Number on Black Background.

#55 Mazda RT24-P Mazda Team Joest Image by Osajus Photography on Flickr

Introduced in 2017, the Daytona Prototype International (DPi) class is the spiritual successor to the original Daytona Prototypes. DPis are standard ACO/FIA homologated 2017 LMP2 chassis fitted with IMSA-homologated, manufacturer-designed, and branded bodywork and engines

The class utilises Balance of Performance, with aerodynamic adjustments, fuel capacity adjustments, weight changes, turbocharger boost and air restrictor size changes. Wind tunnel and dynamometer testing also performed on cars to establish a baseline specification for all new cars.

LMP2

Denoted by: White Sticker with Blue Font, White Number on Blue Background, Blue Mirrors & Wing Endplates

#38 Performance Tech Motorsports Oreca 07 – Image by Corey Fonseca on Flickr

The second tier Prototype class in the WeatherTech Championship & the FIA World Endurance Championship. In all Championships, it is a Pro-Am clas. All teams must have one Amateur driver, who may be either a Bronze or Silver-rated driver.

Since 2017, all LMP2 cars have been mandated to be closed cockpit designs. LMP2 is a tightly controlled category. Chassis price is capped at 483 000€, while cars can only be built by the 4 licensed manufacturers (Ligier, Oreca, Dallara, Riley-Multimatic), and powered by a spec engine, built by Gibson Technology. Bodywork is also homologated, and can only be altered under a “Joker” upgrade once during the current homologation cycle. 2 aerodynamic configurations are used: A high-downforce “sprint” kit for use on all tracks, alongside a low drag kit for Le Mans.

LMP3

Denoted by: White Sticker with Orange Font, White Number on Orange Background, Orange Mirrors & Wing Endplates

#85 DC Racing Ligier JS P3, 2016 Road to Le Mans
#85 DC Racing – Ligier JS P3 – Nissan – Image by Kevin Decherf on Flickr

The 2021 season sees the introduction of a new class to the WeatherTech Sports Car Championship, LMP3. LMP3 may be new to the WeatherTech Championship, but it is not new to IMSA, having been running in the IMSA Prototype Challenge since 2018.

Introduced in 2015, it is the third tier Prototype class in ACO & IMSA competition and one of the most widely raced prototype classes globally. The class replaced Formula Le Mans, also known as the Le Mans Prototype Challenge (LMPC) in Europe.

Intended for young drivers and teams who are new to endurance racing, it is a stepping stone before advancing to the higher prototype classes. Hence, it is mainly an amateur class, with the majority of the championships requiring line-ups to include one bronze driver, while the remaining drivers in the line-up may be Silver or Gold rated, although this varies from series to series. In the WeatherTech Championship, LMP3 lineups can either have 1 Bronze rated Driver of any age, or 1 Silver rated Driver under the age of 30 as of January 1, 2021, along with a maximum of 1 Gold rated driver.

As with LMP2, LMP3 is a tightly controlled category. The cost of a complete car is capped at 239 000€, while cars can only be built by the 4 licensed manufacturers (Ginetta, Ligier, ADESS, Duqueine). A spec powerplant, the Nissan VK56DE is utilised across all cars, paired to a 6 speed gearbox.

GTLM

Denoted by White Sticker with Red Font, White Number on Red Background.

#3 Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R – Image by Alexandria Bates on Unsplash

The GTLM class uses cars built to the ACO/FIA LM GTE regulations. The class has its origins in the N-GT class of the FIA GT Championship, which was renamed as GT2 in 2005. The GT2 class was later renamed as LM GTE in 2011, after the ACO removed the GT1 category from its sanctioned competition.

Unlike in the WEC, there is no Pro/Am class division in the category. Driver aids are limited to the use of engine-based traction control, while Balance of Performance is applied.

Engine size is limited to 5.5L for Naturally Aspirated engines, and 4L for Forced Induction engines, although waivers may be issued. As with most motorsport categories worldwide, the use of four-wheel drive is banned.

GTD

Denoted by White Sticker with Green Font, White Number on Green Background. Green rear wing endplates and headlights with yellow lenses.

#14 AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 – Image by Corey Fonseca on Flickr

Instead of utilizing a second GTE class for Pro-Am lineups, the WeatherTech Championship utilises Group GT3 cars to form it’s second division of GT racers.

GT3 is the most popular GT class in use, being used by most GT Championships globally. GT3 was introduced in 2005 by the FIA and the Stephane Ratel Organisation (SRO) as the third rung on the GT racing ladder, below the GT1 and GT2 categories which were used in the FIA GT Championship. GT3 was originally designed as a Pro-Am class. However, it is used today as both a Pro-Pro and Pro-Am class.

In the WeatherTech Championship, driver lineups are restricted to having a maximum of 1(1) Platinum or Gold rated Driver. Driver aids include engine-based traction control, alongside ABS is also allowed.

Compared to GTE/GTLM, fewer bespoke racing components are allowed, while cars are less aerodynamically complex. As with most motorsport categories, Four Wheel drive is prohibited.

Points System

WeatherTech Sports Car Championship

Points awarded based on the final finishing position of the car at the end of the race.

Pos

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

21

22

23

24

25

26

27

28

29

30

Race

35

34

30

28

26

25

24

23

22

21

20

19

18

17

16

15

14

13

12

11

10

9

8

7

6

5

4

3

2

1

Michelin Endurance Cup (MEC)

For the MEC, a different scoring system has been adopted. Points distributed at race intervals for both drivers, teams and manufacturers.
Daytona 24: Hour 6/12/18/24
Sebring 12: Hour 4/8/12
Watkins Glen 6: Hour 3/6
Petit Le Mans (10 hours): Hour 4/8/10

Post

1

2

3

Other Classified

Race

5

4

3

2

2021 WTSC Calendar

Rnd

Race

Length

Classes

Circuit

Location

Date

QR

Motul Pole Award 100

1 hour, 40 minutes

All

Daytona International Speedway

Daytona Beach, Florida

January 24

1

Rolex 24 at Daytona

24 Hours

All

Daytona International Speedway

Daytona Beach, Florida

January 30–31

2

Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring

12 Hours

All

Sebring International Raceway

Sebring, Florida

March 20

3

TBA

2 hours, 40 minutes

DPi, LMP3, GTD

Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course

Lexington, Ohio

May 16

4

TBA

1 hour, 40 minutes

DPi, LMP2, GTD

The Raceway on Belle Isle

Detroit, Michigan

June 6

5

Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen

6 hours

All

Watkins Glen International

Watkins Glen, New York

June 27

6

Grand Prix of Mosport

2 hours, 40 minutes

DPi, LMP3, GTLM, GTD

Canadian Tire Motorsport Park

Bowmanville, Ontario

July 4

7

Northeast Grand Prix

2 hours, 40 minutes

GTLM, GTD

Lime Rock Park

Lakeville, Connecticut

July 17

8

Road Race Showcase at Road America

2 hours, 40 minutes

All

Road America

Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin

August 8

9

Michelin GT Challenge at VIR

2 hours, 40 minutes

GTLM, GTD

Virginia International Raceway

Alton, Virginia

August 22

10

IMSA Monterey Grand Prix

2 hours, 40 minutes

DPi, LMP2, GTLM, GTD

WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca

Monterey, California

September 12

11

TBA

1 hour, 40 minutes

DPi, GTLM, GTD

Long Beach Street Circuit

Long Beach, California

September 25

12

Motul Petit Le Mans

10 hours

All

Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta

Braselton, Georgia

October 9

Titles Awarded

Drivers’ Titles

DPi Drivers’ Championship
LMP2 Drivers’ Championship
GTLM Drivers’ Championship
GTD Drivers’ Championship

Jim Trueman Award – Top Amateur Driver in LMP2; Awards Le Mans Auto-Invite
Bob Atkin Award – Top Amateur Driver in GTD; Awards Le Mans Auto-Invite

Teams’ Titles

Every car is considered as its own individual team, regardless of the number of entries submitted by each team.

DPi Teams’ Championship
LMP2 Teams’ Championship
GTLM Teams’ Championship
GTD Teams’ Championship

Manufacturers’ Titles

Only the top-finishing car for each manufacturer is awarded points

DPi Manufacturers’ Championship
GTLM Manufacturers’ Championship
GTD Manufacturers’ Championship

How to Watch

IMSA provides a free broadcast of all sanctioned races on it’s streaming site IMSA.tv, and through the IMSA App. However, owing to exclusivity deals signed with various broadcasters worldwide, the broadcast may be geo-blocked.

Geo-blocking of IMSA.tv is active in the following locations:
North America:
– United States (available on NBC Trackpass)
– Canada (available on Velocity)
– Mexico (available on Fox Sports)

Caribbean:
– Dominican Republic (Available on Fox Sports)

South America:
– All countries, except Chile, Bolivia, Guyana & Suriname (Available on Fox Sports)

Europe:
– None

Asia:
– None

Australasia:
– New Zealand (Available on Sky Sports)

Past races are also available for free viewing on the official IMSA Youtube Channel.

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