At Road America Friday (Aug. 3), IMSA held their annual State of the Series press conference. As usual, there were a flurry of announcements made.
The biggest of those moves is the decision to split the Prototype class starting in 2019. Starting with January’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, the DPis and Global LMP2 cars will be in separate classes. The two classes will no longer be balanced together. Instead, the DPis will be balanced with each other. There will be no Balance of Performance in LMP2 since everyone already runs the same engine and theoretically should have similar performance.
In addition, the new LMP2 class will be a Pro-Am class with the same driver ranking rules as GT Daytona. That means that there is a minimum of one silver or bronze-rated driver required for sprint races. Endurance race driver lineups will be skewed more toward amateur lineups than professional lineups. Also of note, there will be a strict maximum of one platinum-rated driver with an LMP2 team at any time. That technically puts the LMP2 class in line with other series such as the FIA World Endurance Championship and the European Le Mans Series.
The 2019 schedule was also released. There are no new races on the schedule and two date changes. The VIR round in August has been moved back one week, putting it back where it was in 2017. In addition, the race at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca has been moved back a week as well. That move puts the race on back-to-back weekends with the INDYCAR season finale, which moves to the Salinas-based road course next year.
The Belle Isle Park round is currently in provisional status because the race weekend does not have state approval yet as of this writing.
Finally, IMSA has introduced the IMSA WeatherTech Sprint Cup for 2019. This is a championship-within-the-championship for GT Daytona teams comprised of the seven sprint races on the schedule. Detroit is currently designed to be a Sprint Cup race only for GT Daytona teams. No regular points will be offered for GTD teams. We’ll have more on the WeatherTech Sprint Cup in Pace Laps on Sunday.
2019 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Schedule
|January 26-27||Daytona International Speedway||Rolex 24 at Daytona||NBCSN||All|
|March 16||Sebring International Raceway||Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring||NBCSN/CNBC||All|
|April 13||Long Beach||BUBBA Burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach||NBCSN||DPi/LMP2/GTLM|
|May 5||Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course||N/A||NBCSN||All|
|June 1||Belle Isle Park||Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix||NBCSN||DPi/LMP2/GTD*|
|June 30||Watkins Glen International||Sahlen's Six Hours at the Glen||NBCSN||All|
|July 7||Canadian Tire Motorsports Park||N/A||NBC||All|
|July 20||Lime Rock Park||Northeast Grand Prix||NBCSN||GTLM/GTD|
|August 4||Road America||N/A||NBCSN||All|
|August 25||VIRginia International Raceway||N/A||NBCSN||GTLM/GTD|
|September 15||WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca||N/A||NBC||All|
|October 12||Road Atlanta||Motul Petit Le Mans||NBC/NBCSN||All|
Last year, IMSA announced that Michelin would become the new official tire of the sanctioning body, replacing Continental. In addition, it was announced that Michelin would serve as title sponsor of both the current Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge and the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup.
Friday saw the new name for the CTSC unveiled. Starting in 2019, it will now be known as the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge. Pilot is a type of tire that Michelin makes.
For 2019, the biggest change in the Michelin Pilot Challenge will be the elimination of the Street Tuner class. That was announced last year and was not a surprise to anyone. The class has operated as a lame duck in 2018.
The schedule is more or less a carbon copy of 2018. 10 races, mostly two hours in length with two four-hour events (Daytona and Watkins Glen).
2019 IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge Schedule
|January 25||Daytona International Speedway||4 Hours|
|March 15||Sebring International Raceway||2 Hours|
|May 4||Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course||2 Hours|
|June 29||Watkins Glen International||4 Hours|
|July 6||Canadian Tire Motorsports Park||2 Hours|
|July 20||Lime Rock Park||2 Hours|
|August 3||Road America||2 Hours|
|August 24||VIRginia International Raceway||2 Hours|
|September 14||WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca||2 Hours|
|October 11||Road Atlanta||2 Hours|
The IMSA Prototype Challenge presented by Mazda in 2019 will have six races once again. The newest wrinkle here is the introduction of two three-hour events into the schedule. Those will be held at Daytona International Speedway (as part of the Roar Before the 24) and Canadian Tire Motorsports Park in July. Aside from the season opener at the Roar, the other five events will run as support races to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
2019 IMSA Prototype Challenge presented by Mazda Schedule
|January 6||Daytona International Speedway||3 Hours|
|March 16||Sebring International Raceway||105 minutes|
|May 5||Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course||105 minutes|
|July 6||Canadian Tire Motorsports Park||3 Hours|
|August 25||VIRginia International Raceway||105 minutes|
|October 12||Road Atlanta||105 minutes|