GTs in the spotlight a welcome change for IMSA racers

This weekend’s GT-only event at Virginia International Raceway presents a unique opportunity for IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GTD PRO and GTD competitors — the chance to race head-to-head without worrying about prototype traffic getting involved. And while some drivers may rue the lost opportunities of a prototype opening the door for them to make a pass on a GT competitor, most like having the spotlight to themselves.

“I think for us, we feel like the black sheep of the family with GTP being a new category this year and new class and being so exciting,” says Katherine Legge, driver of the No. 66 Gradient Racing Acura NSX GT3 Evo22 (pictured above) with Sheena Monk. “I think that, especially for television, they tend to focus on that, and I don’t think that we get the recognition in the GT class that we always deserve, because there’s some epic battles that go on. I think you miss the nuances of who’s doing what, why and where, especially with the Bronze class. I think that kind of gets lost in the whole big picture.”

IMSA oldtimers will remember the days when, at most races outside the endurance events, there were separate GT and prototype races; GTP and Lights had their race, preceded at some point during the weekend by race for the GTO and GTU categories. Now, the opportunity for GT drivers to enjoy their own race happens only once or twice a year, and while most of the drivers love multi-class racing, there are times when having everyone on the track on equal footing can make the racing interesting as well.


“It’s pretty epic, to be honest. I am a huge fan of multi-class racing, the challenge of having the GTPs and P2s around you is fun and adds another element to the race,” says Vasser Sullivan Racing driver Ben Barnicoat, who shares the No. 14 Lexus RC F with Jack Hawksworth. “But I think having GTs and, driving for a brand like Lexus, it helps put us a lot more in the limelight in terms of viewership when the nation and public are tuning in and watching and just seeing our cars and the brands and manufacturers race outright for wins. It is very attractive in that sense, you know, because our RC F GT3, if we win on Sunday, they can go out and buy one on Monday, whereas with the top-class racing, they don’t do that. So I think it’s incredibly important for the sport and for GT racing on a whole, and certainly something that I don’t want to see being reduced in the future.”

Legge is also aware of the more direct connection that GTs have to the public compared to the prototypes. She has, as most GT drivers have, seen the enthusiasm that derives from an enthusiast seeing his or her brand competing on track.

“I remember when I was a race fan as a kid, and I would go to Brands Hatch with my dad and I would watch touring cars. There was a Renault Laguna there and my mom had a Renault Laguna, so of course I really want the Renault Laguna to win,” she recalls. “And I feel like you can be a Porsche fan or you can be an Acura fan, and you can say, ‘Well, I had an Acura when I was a kid,’ or ‘One day, I want to have a Ferrari,’ or whatever it may be. So you really kind of get that buy-in from the fans, and I think that it’s more direct and more pure when it’s just the GT cars out there.”

Without prototypes constantly trying to get by, GT drivers like Trent Hindman are free to focus fully on their races. Motorsport Images

And the racing is different. With GTD PRO and GTD both GT3 classes and having the same Balance of Performance equations, the two classes are mixing it up in equal cars. There’s no faster class roaring through the field and constantly disrupting a driver’s rhythm.

“The fact that this is a GT-only round also takes some pressure off our shoulders and allows us to race forward, uninterrupted,” says Trent Hindman, sharing the No. 77 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R with Alan Brynjolfsson.

The 2h40m Michelin GT Challenge kicks off on Sunday at 2pm ET, broadcast live on USA Network and streamed on Peacock. For those outside the U.S., it will be available on

Story originally appeared on Racer