Virginia International Raceway plays host to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s second GT-only race of the year, the Michelin GT Challenge, where 20 GTD PRO and GTD drivers get to slug it out without constantly checking their mirrors for prototype traffic. That’s probably a good thing, because 3.27-mile, 17-turn VIR keeps a driver pretty busy as it is.
“Heading to VIR, I think, puts a smile on every driver’s face,” said Ben Barnicoat, driver of the No. 14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 in GTD PRO with Jack Hawksworth.
“It’s such a unique track; it’s very fast, very high-speed, flowing up through the Esses and into Turn 10, the quick left-hander… along with a combination of tight, slow-speed corners as well, like Turn 1 and Oak Tree, where it’s easy to over-brake and drop wheels and run wide. It’s certainly a challenging one for the drivers, thoroughly enjoyable. That makes it quite hard to pass because some of those challenges; it’s obviously quite hard to follow in high speed corners, although there are a couple of long straights here where you can get slipstreams and overtake.”
Barnicoat and Hawksworth are enjoying a stellar season where two victories and only one race off of the podium have left them with a fairly substantial lead in the GTD PRO points with three races to go. If their closest pursuers, Corvette Racing’s Jordan Taylor and Antonio Garcia, want to have any shot at the championship, they need to start whittling away at the 169-point deficit in a hurry. The good news for them is the Corvette C8.R is often good at VIR, and Barnicoat and Hawksworth were chasing them to a third-place finish last year.
But both of them were chasing Pfaff Motorsports, which scored its second victory in a row at the track after having taken GTD the year prior. It would love to get a third, and Klaus Bachler and Patrick Pilet would gladly add to their lone win of 2023 so far, at Sebring. The Porsche 911 GT3 R has often been very good at VIR, although if that transfers to the new 992-generation is in question.
Heart of Racing is on its own streak, having taken GTD PRO in the last two events at Lime Rock – also a GT-only event – and Road America. Plus, it should be noted that Ross Gunn, who pilots the No. 23 HoR Aston Martin Vantage GT3 with Alex Riberas, currently holds the lap records in both GTD PRO and GTD.
Speaking of Heart of Racing, Roman De Angelis and Marco Sorensen would like to add a third victory of the season in GTD and close the 205-point gap to Paul Miller Racing’s Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow. The No. 1 PMR BMW M4 GT3 has been a force this season, with four victories and a second heading into the final three races. Sellers and Snow haven’t won here since 2016, so a more recent victory at VIR would be most welcome.
Last year’s GTD winners were Russell Ward and Philip Ellis, scoring Winward Racing’s first victory in GTD since the Rolex 24 in 2021. Winward has had a tough season, so repeating in the No. 57 Mercedes AMG at VIR would be quite the boost for the team.
The Michelin GT Challenge is also the penultimate round of the Sprint Cup championship for GTD. Snow and Sellers lead that points race as well, but their gap to the second-place team of De Angelis and Sorensen is a much narrower 59 points.
The 2h40m is scheduled for a green flag at 2:10 p.m. ET on Sunday. Live coverage on USA Network (and streaming on Peacock) begins at 2 p.m. ET. Qualifying will be Saturday afternoon at 3:20 p.m. ET on IMSA.tv. Those and other select sessions will be called by the IMSA Radio team on IMSA.com and RadioLeMans.com, as well as SiriusXM 207 (or 992 on the SiriusXM app). The WeatherTech Championship is accompanied at VIR by Michelin Pilot Challenge, VP Racing SportsCar Challenge, Lamborghini Super Trofeo, and Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup.