The return of IMSA competition to Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been hotly anticipated, and it shows in the 48-car entry list for the Battle on the Bricks for the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship on Sept. 15-17. Forty-eight cars are entered for the 2h40m contest on the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course, the largest entry for a sprint race this season.
“I’m glad we’re going back,” said Ryan Dalziel, who won in Grand-Am’s days at IMS in 2012-’14, the last time prototype sports cars raced at the Brickyard. “I was definitely happy to see it back on the schedule. I think it’s somewhere that we should be taking sports cars and I’m looking forward to it for sure.”
Whether it’s simply the allure of racing at Indy, anticipating the race’s position next year as part of the Michelin Endurance Cup or preparing for the SRO’s Intercontinental GT Challenge Indy 8 Hour that’s coming up in a few weeks, the race has attracted some interesting one-offs, adding to the show that the regular competitors have been putting on throughout the season.
The GTP category remains at 10 cars, the latest addition being Proton Competition’s Porsche 963 that it introduced at Road America with Harry Tincknell and Gianmaria Bruni. Likewise, the LMP2 field will look very familiar.
LMP3, however, has grown. Bijoy Garg, who has been dominating the VP Racing SportsCar Challenge, returns for his second WeatherTech Championship race, this time partnering with Guilherme de Oliveira in the Jr III Racing No. 29 Ligier. Alexander Koreiba, who finished second in the final year of Prototype Challenge in 2022, partners with Connor Bloum in a Performance Tech Motorsports Ligier. Another couple of familiar faces in LMP3, Jason Rabe and Dakota Dickerson, are together in an MLT Motorsports Ligier. But there are also a couple of LMP3 rookies. Kevin Conway and John Geesbreght have competed together in Pirelli GT4 America for the last several years with good success, including a win in Pro-Am this season. They’re making their WeatherTech Championship LMP3 debut with Ave Motorsports.
Lone Star Racing is making its return to WeatherTech Championship GTD with a Mercedes AMG GT3, although drivers have yet to be named. Two other occasional entrants are jumping in at Indy, bringing the GTD total to 17 cars. Racers Edge with WTR have been competing in IMEC events, with select sprints thrown into the mix. Indy will be one of those, with Kyle Marcelli driving with Ashton Harrison in the No. 93 Acura NSX GT3 Evo22. In addition, Jarett Andretti and Gabby Chaves are entered in the No. 94 Andretti Autosport Aston Martin Vantage GT3 as they prepare to run a full season in the class next year.
The biggest field in a sprint race this year should create a buzz around the event, which started among the drivers and teams from the moment the 2023 schedule was announced. Sebastien Bourdais, the one driver who has both won at IMS in sports cars and also has several starts in the 500, thinks its going to be a good show and attract a lot of spectators, especially with Indy allowing infield camping for the first time at a race.
“Every time I’ve raced at IMS, it’s got a different vibe,” said Bourdais, driver of the No. 01 Cadillac Racing V-Series.R with Renger van der Zande. “A lot a lot of people are going to show up, I hope. I know it’s it’s been it’s been asked a lot that sports cars come back, and I’m fully anticipating a great racing weekend with a big crowd. This place deserves a big crowd because it’s such a big place. And I think, obviously, Indianapolis being such a motor racing city, it’s always responding well to good shows and we definitely have that in IMSA right now.”
Although the WeatherTech Championship, which will be accompanied by Michelin Pilot Challenge for a four-hour race that goes into the night as well as Lamborghini Super Trofeo and Porsche Deluxe Carrera Cup North America, has been attracting record attendance everywhere this year, drivers caution not to expect the place to look crowded. Like Daytona, the Speedway is massive, accommodating a quarter-million people.
“It’s not going to feel busy because of just the mass and the size of these places,” said Dalziel, who may feel differently during the grid walk for the fans as he prepares to race the No. 18 Era Motorsport ORECA LMP2 with Dwight Merriman.
“I think that we need to make Indy a signature event, which is obviously what next year’s plan is turning into an endurance race. I think it’s going to take time. I think Indy is very much an IndyCar town and area. But there’s a lot of sports car fans not too far away. So I think there’s opportunity there to have a good turnout, and I think that we need to probably not be disappointed if it doesn’t seem as busy as it actually is for a sports car attendance. But think either way, it’s going to be a good event and I think there’s nobody that’s not happy that we’re going there.”