IMSA season preview: GTD

Bryan Sellers, Madison Snow and Paul Miller Racing may have given the GTD field fits last year as their competitors tried to figure out a way to beat them in IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competition, but PMR is GTD PRO’s problem now, and that means GTD will be wide open.

Will it be a perennial contender claiming the crown, or will someone have a breakout season? Who knows, but with 17 full-season contenders in 11 different marques, we’re betting against a runaway like we saw last season.

Let’s start with Roman De Angelis. In the last three years with Heart of Racing, he has never finished outside the top three, and Heart of Racing was the only team outside of PMR to win more than one race last season. The 2022 champion, though, finds himself in a new position. Promoted to Gold status by the FIA means he’s going to be the leader in the No. 27 Aston Martin Vantage GT3 Evo.


Leading whom, though, is still a question. If the team has a full-season driving partner for De Angelis, they’re keeping it quiet. What we do know is that for Daytona, De Angelis will have Zacharie Robichon – and the 2021 GTD champ happens to be rated Silver and eligible to race with De Angelis – along with HoR team principal Ian James and last year’s full-season partner Marco Sorensen. As he demonstrated in 2022, De Angelis doesn’t need a full-season partner to fight for a championship, and if there’s a team that could run away with the title, this is it.

“You hope you’re in a position to have the car and the team and the driver lineup to [dominate like PMR did last season],” says De Angelis. “But also, it’s always fun when there’s good competition. And I think other than the Paul Miller car last year, there was always good scraps from second down in the races that they won.

“Everybody raced very hard and very well and I think that this year will be no exception. I think it’s gonna be very difficult to have a runaway car, as it always is.”

Korthoff/Preston Racing took the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup title last season, and returns with the same lineup of Mike Skeen and Mikael Grenier for the full season, Kenton Koch popping into the No, 32 Mercedes AMG GT3 for the endurance races. The team nearly won the championship in its first full season, and were in position to win the Rolex 24 at Daytona last year but for a bad wheel bearing. If they can keep on form, they certainly have to be considered contenders.

“I think we’re highly confident,” says Skeen. “There were a lot of opportunities we had for race wins or podiums last year that maybe didn’t fall into place. But we’ve obviously shown pace and put the car in the right position and just had bad luck or something – last year, a fluke wheel bearing issue, which these cars never have, and even with that, we still led the most laps. So we’ve got the same driver crew, most of the same crew this year, so, really happy with that. We’ve got a nice new car, it should be fresh, ready to go. But obviously the field’s as strong as it’s ever been, so there are plenty of contenders and lots of things outside of our control. It’s just trying to mitigate any of those issues throughout the race and hope to be there at the end.”

Vasser Sullivan’s No. 12 Lexus was triumphant at Watkins Glen last year. Jake Galstad/Motorsport Images

The No. 12 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 took a victory in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen last year (pictured above), but comes into this season with an altered driver lineup. Parker Thompson and Aaron Telitz have swapped roles, with Thompson now the full-season partner to Frankie Montecalvo. Thompson started the year off on a good note, taking the pole for the Rolex 24, so perhaps last year’s third-place team has a good shot at the title.

Forte Racing’s Loris Spinelli and Misha Goikhberg showed promise last season, finally fulfilled with victory at Motul Petit Le Mans. With that momentum and a solid team behind them, they have the tools to challenge for the championship in the No. 78 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo2.

It’s been many seasons since a Turner Motorsport BMW didn’t end up in victory circle, but that was the case as Robby Foley and new partner, but longtime friend, Patrick Gallagher failed to stand on top of the box. Despite that, they finished fifth in the championship. With Gallagher now having a full season under his belt, the pair should be able to fight for wins and improve on that position as Turner moves back to running a single car.

Winward Racing has been strong each season they’ve competed. Russell Ward and Philip Ellis claimed victory at Indianapolis in the No. 57 Mercedes AMG, but aside from a third at VIR, the rest of 2023 was a season to forget. If they can put a whole season together, the team that won the Rolex 24 at Daytona in its first attempt can certainly fight for the championship.

Brendan Iribe and Frederik Schandorff spent much of the season in the mix for at least runner-up honors in the championship. Three podiums, though, were offset by some bad luck and poor finishes. The No. 70 Inception Racing McLaren 720S Evo has been knocking on the door for a win for a couple of years, though. It’s past time for a breakthrough for this team.

Other returning teams that should land on the podium in 2024 include Gradient Racing with Sheena Monk and Katherine Legge in the No. 66 Acura NSX GT3 Evo22, which adds Tati Calderon for the endurance races. Kellymoss with Riley found victory in 2021; now down to one car for WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca winner David Brule, can they do it again?

On to the newcomers, and there are a lot of them. If we’re to pick one to make a statement in 2024, it’s going to be the one that comes form one of the mightiest teams in IMSA history, Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti. Fielding the No. 45 Lamborghini Huracán for two-time Lamborghini Super Trofeo champs Danny Formal and Kyle Marcelli, this is a “rookie” team that has the tools to fight for wins and a championship.

“I think we’ve got arguably one of the strongest lineups when it comes to the sprint races,” says Marcelli. “I think we’ll be in really good shape. Having said that, there’s still so much more that goes into winning a race and winning a championship.” Marcelli and Formal will be joined by Graham Doyle in the endurance races.

Andretti Motorsports dabbled in GTD last year with an Aston Martin As Jarett Andretti and Gabby Chaves looked to transition away from LMP3. Now back with a Porsche 911 GT3 R, the team hopes that the bad luck that seemed to plague their GTD outings in 2023 is erased.

Another team moving from LMP3 is the one that is perhaps making the biggest splash among the newcomers, AWA and its new Chevrolet Corvette Z06 GT3.Rs. The Canadian outfit was announced last year as the first customer team for the cars in IMSA, and is the only two-car GTD team (although Vasser Sullivan and Heart of Racing run two cars split between GTD and GTD PRO). Orey Fidani and Matt Bell are the full-season pairing in the No. 13, while Anthony Mantella is joined by Corvette factory driver and 2022 World Endurance Championship GTE-Am champ Nico Varrone in the No. 17.

“The competition in this class is a lot better, a lot more cars,” Fidani says, comparing GTD to LMP3. “But I’m just gonna dive in. I’m up for the challenge and I think it’s gonna go pretty well.”

Ford v Ferrari revisited: Proton’s new Ford Mustang will take on Ferrari in GTD. Jake Galstad/Motorsport Images

Proton Competition, which will run the new Ford Mustang GT3 in WEC competition, put together a late program to run a car in GTD, bringing Corey Lewis in to partner Giannmarco Levorato, with Ryan Hardwick in for the endurance races. The vastly experienced team knows how to run a good program, and if the new Mustang is up to the task, should be a contender for wins. And, for the first time in years, there will be a full-season Ferrari entrant in GTD. Many Franco has had success in GT World Challenge America, and continues his partnership with Conquest Racing. Alberto Costa Balboa will join him in the No. 21 Ferrari 296 GT3.

That’s a lot of talented teams and drivers fighting for one championship – and we’re not even getting into the teams that will run Michelin Endurance Cup only, such as Magnus Racing, Cetilar Racing, Triarsi Competition, Iron Dames, Wright Motorsports and AF Corse. GTD could very well produce one of the most exciting, rollercoaster seasons in IMSA history.

Story originally appeared on Racer