L&T Motorsport

IMSA United SportsCar Championship – A Beginner’s Guide

History – IMSA USCC

The Weathertech United SportsCar Championship was formed in 2014 as a merger of the American Le Mans Series and the Grand-Am Rolex series.

One of the biggest challenges it faced in its inaugural season was balancing the performance between the LMP2 cars previously used in the ALMS and the Daytona Prototypes formerly run in the Grand-Am series.

The DPs were given a significant power and downforce enhancement to match the P2-spec machinery on pace before the 2014 season and the balance of performance was refined by IMSA ever since.

Up until the end of this season, this is how the battle in the Prototype class has shaped up, with occasional entries from the unorthodox DeltaWing.

The grid before the first ever IMSA United SportsCar race at Daytona in 2014. Credit: Corvetted
The grid before the first ever IMSA United SportsCar race at Daytona in 2014.
Photo: Credit to Corvetted

Classes – Prototype

The Prototype class is home to the fastest cars in the series, featuring cutting-edge machinery which often bear little resemblance to a street car.

There is a drastic shake-up in this class for 2017, with the DPs being replaced with Daytona Prototype international (DPi) vehicles. This is an ACO/FIA homologated LMP2 car with a choice of chassis produced by the four approved constructors – Dallara, Onroak Automotive, ORECA or Riley/Multimatic.

They will be balanced in terms of performance against 2017 LMP2 cars as well as closed cockpit 2016-spec LMP2 machines. After 2017 these 2016 P2s will no longer be eligible. The DeltaWing will also compete next season in the opening round at Daytona, for what will be the coupe’s swansong in competitive racing.

The Prototype class is a Pro category – meaning teams can field a line-up of professional drivers in their cars. However, some teams do include team owners or gentleman drivers in their driving duties.

DPs and P2s battle into the tight first hairpin at CoTA last season. Photo: Credit to IMSA
DPs and P2s battle into the tight first hairpin at CoTA last season.
Photo: Credit to IMSA

GTLM

The GT Le Mans (GTLM) category is often regarded as the one of the most competitive GT fields across the globe. It’s not difficult to see why, with factory efforts from Ford, Chevrolet, Porsche and BMW and strong customer teams running Ferrari’s.

These cars are the same configuration that run in the WEC and at Le Mans in GTE, hence the LM element of the category’s moniker. The vehicles are based on production models but are modified significantly to extract maximum performance.

Like the Prototype class, it is a Pro category, with top GT drivers competing in vehicles which are balanced performance-wise by IMSA. The net result is close racing – the gap across the line after 24 hours at Daytona last year was just 0.034 of a second between the two Corvettes.

The GTLM field heads into turn one at Laguna Seca earlier this season. Photo: Credit to Michelin Alley
The GTLM field heads into turn one at Laguna Seca earlier this season.
Photo: Credit to Michelin Alley

GTD

The GT Daytona (GTD) class is another GT class with cars based on production models, but they do not have the same levels of downforce and power as the GTLM machinery.

Originally, the GTD class started life in 2014 as a mix between GT and GTX cars from the Rolex Sports Car Series and the ALMS GT Challenge Porsche GT3 cars.

The class was stepped up for the start of the 2016 season, featuring FIA GT3-spec cars with another strong manufacturer presence. Porsche, Ferrari, Aston Martin, BMW, Audi and Lamborghini were among a strong field of competitors in the 2016 season.

GTD cars at Watkins Glen this season. Photo: Credit to Autoweek
GTD cars at Watkins Glen this season.
Photo: Credit to Autoweek

 

North American Endurance Cup

Often dubbed the ‘championship within a championship’ the NAEC features 52 hours of racing across four of the longest races of the season. It has become a prestigious element of the championship and one that all teams want to win.

It kicks off with the first two rounds of the season – the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Sebring 12 Hours – making up the first 36 hours of racing. Later in the season, the Sahlen 6 Hours of the Glen also contributes towards the NAEC before the final round of the season at Petit Le Mans concludes the Cup and often crowns a winner.

 

Michael Haffenden

Second year Journalism student at the University of Kent, with a huge passion for Motorsport. Love all types of motor racing from F1 to touring cars but endurance and sportscar racing has to be my favourite. Primarily cover IMSA United SportsCars for L&T Motorsport, but can be found writing about other series, including ELMS, WEC and 24H Series races.

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