On Friday afternoon, IMSA announced the 2017 schedule for the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship during a press conference in Victory Lane at Road America. There are no new venues on the schedule, but there are some changes.
The most noticeable change is that the rounds at Circuit of the Americas (COTA) and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca have effectively swapped places. The COTA round this year is being run as part of a doubleheader with the FIA World Endurance Championship. Due to a fair amount of work being required after the IMSA race ends to facilitate the garage setup for the WEC teams, the Lone Star Le Mans is scheduled for an 11:30 a.m. local time start.
That will not be the case in 2017. Lone Star Le Mans will be a twilight sprint race with all four classes in action. Start times will be announced at a later date. The Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix presented by Mazda will move to late September and be run as the second-to-last race of the season. This race will be contested by the DPi (Daytona Prototype International), GT Le Mans and GT Daytona classes. As of right now, the race will once again be only one race. Earlier this year and in 2014, the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca round has run as split races for the Prototype-GT Le Mans and Prototype Challenge-GT Daytona classes.
Once again, each class will have a different amount of races. The GT Daytona class will be the only class to compete in all 12 rounds. Long Beach, which has previously been a Prototype-GT Le Mans round, will now have three classes. The GT Le Mans teams will compete in 11 races, only missing Detroit. This is mainly because Detroit is the same weekend as the Le Mans Test Day and a number of IMSA teams compete in GTE-Pro (this year, five full-time teams raced at Le Mans and swept the GTE-Pro podium). The DPi teams will contest ten rounds, skipping Lime Rock and VIR, which are dedicated GT Le Mans-GT Daytona races.
2017 will also mark the last season for Prototype Challenge in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. The open-cockpit prototypes will be entering their eighth season in 2017. In their final season, the PC teams will only race in eight events. They will not race at Lime Rock Park and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, in addition to Long Beach and Virginia International Raceway (not on the PC docket for 2016.
2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Schedule
|1/28-29||Rolex 24 at Daytona||Daytona International Speedway||DPi/PC/GT Le Mans/GT Daytona||24 Hours|
|3/18||Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring||Sebring International Raceway||DPi/PC/GT Le Mans/GT Daytona||12 Hours|
|4/8||BUBBA Burger SportsCar Grand Prix at Long Beach||Long Beach Street Circuit||DPi/GT Le Mans/GT Daytona||100 Minutes|
|5/7||Lone Star Le Mans (Subject to Change)||Circuit of the Americas (COTA)||DPi/PC/GT Le Mans/GT Daytona||160 Minutes|
|6/3||Chevrolet Belle Isle Detroit Grand Prix||Belle Isle Park||DPi/PC/GT Daytona||100 Minutes|
|7/2||Sahlen's Six Hours at the Glen||Watkins Glen International||DPi/PC/GT Le Mans/GT Daytona||6 Hours|
|7/9||Mobil 1 Sportscar Grand Prix||Canadian Tire Motorsports Park||DPi/PC/GT Le Mans/GT Daytona||160 Minutes|
|7/22||IMSA WeatherTech Northeast Grand Prix||Lime Rock Park||GT Le Mans/GT Daytona||160 Minutes|
|8/6||Continental Tire Road Race Showcase||Road America||DPi/PC/GT Le Mans/GT Daytona||160 Minutes|
|8/27||Michelin GT Challenge||VIRginia International Raceway||GT Le Mans/GT Daytona||160 Minutes|
|9/24||Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix presented by Mazda||Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca||DPi/GT Le Mans/GT Daytona||160 Minutes|
|10/7||Petit Le Mans||Road Atlanta||DPi/PC/GT Le Mans/GT Daytona||10 Hours|
Despite a number of rumors of the LMP3 formula being brought into the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship to replace Prototype Challenge, the Prototype Challenge class will not be replaced. Starting in 2018, the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will contract to just the Prototype, GT Le Mans and GT Daytona classes.
To counteract the loss of Prototype Challenge, IMSA plans to emphasize a couple of awards designed for pro-am drivers. Pro-am Prototype teams will race for the Jim Trueman Award, named after the longtime owner/driver and founder of Red Roof Inns. Pro-am GT Daytona teams will race for the Bob Akin Award, named after the longtime owner-driver who competed in IMSA from 1978-1987, winning the 1986 12 Hours of Sebring as an owner-driver along with Hans-Joachim Stuck and Jo Gartner. The winners of these two awards, which were formerly awarded in Grand-Am, will claim the two automatic entries to the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The Jim Trueman Award winners will earn an entry in the LMP2 class, while the Bob Akin Award winners will earn the automatic entry in GTE-Am.