IMSA’s New GTD Pro Class Will Be Artificially Faster Than GTD

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Illustration for article titled IMSA's New GTD Pro Class Will Be Artificially Faster Than GTD

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As if sports car racing isn’t already complicated enough for the casual fan, IMSA has decided to replace its GTLM class with a second GTD class in 2022. This is mostly because GTLM has become an economic failure of a class, and the series is attempting to bring more OEM money into the sport. No knocking them for trying such a monumental task, but maybe this isn’t the best way to manage it. In any case, IMSA announced a few rules and regulations for the GTD Pro class next year. Let’s dig into them.

Obviously both GTD Pro and regular GTD will be run in FIA GT3 spec cars from Lamborghini, Porsche, Lexus, Ferrari, Aston Martin, Mercedes-AMG, Audi, Acura, BMW, and potentially McLaren. There is currently discussion happening behind the scenes to allow Corvette to continue running the C8.R in GTD Pro, but severely detuned from GTE spec to be balanced with the GT3 machinery.

“It was important that we worked in lockstep with our manufacturers and tire partner to develop the GTD PRO ruleset,” said IMSA President John Doonan. “Our IMSA technical team was thorough in its analysis and the end result allows us to chart a successful course for the future of factory-supported GT racing in GTD PRO as opposed to the customer racing nature of the GTD class. Ultimately, the market will speak as manufacturers confirm plans to participate, but we are very optimistic that we will have strong fields in both GTD PRO and GTD starting next year.”

The biggest unknown prior to this announcement from IMSA was what tires the two classes would ride on. The going discussion was that Michelin would build a faster tire specifically for the Pros to separate themselves from the Joes. That has been spiked for fear of development costs for Michelin and the teams involved, and both classes will share a common tire. For 2022, that will be the same Michelin S9M tire used this year. Both classes will also make use of the same mix of VP Racing Fuels.

From a platform perspective, both classes will be identical. The only real difference will be the driver ratings and the individual class balance of performance. GTD will maintain its current driver ranking system in which a bronze- or silver-rated driver must be included on the team and qualify the car. GTD Pro will carry on where GTLM left off, allowing teams to use any mix of gold- or platinum-rated drivers. The only major change for 2022 will be a rule which mandates GTD Pro classed cars start the race on the same tire they qualified on. GTD Pro cars will be allowed as many as eight testing days throughout the season, while GTD is limited to just four.

So how will the classes be differentiated if they’re using the same cars, tires and fuel? This is where BoP comes in. According to the release from IMSA on Wednesday, “on-track performance levels achieved by the GTD PRO class is expected to exceed that of the GTD class.” The BoP for each class will be managed independently, by which I take to mean that each class will have a set target pace, and the GTD Pro class target will be five percent or so quicker than GTD. More power, less weight, pro drivers, and more testing time.

I definitely want to see deeper grids in 2022, as the Corvettes vs. a privateer Porsche show in GTLM isn’t cutting it in 2021, but will average fans be able to tell the difference between identical cars in two different classes? Just because they have different colored windshield banners and mirrors doesn’t mean people can figure it out. And what happens if the gap between the two classes isn’t enough? Do they make GTD Pro even faster, or do they slow down GTD even more? We’ll have to wait until next year to really find out.

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