As the IMSA WeatherTech round at the famed Road America circuit approaches, Motorsport Week explores some key talking points ahead of the race weekend.

The IMSA SportsCar Weekend will host the eighth stop on the 2023 calendar, featuring the return of all five car categories, for the first time since the 6 Hours of the Glen in June.

Road America is a historic circuit with 15 corners, located just outside Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, and has often been described as ‘America’s Spa’.

Sportscars have been racing at the venue since the 1950s with a continued regular presence over 70 years with the National Sports Car Championship, United States Road Racing Championship, IMSA GT Championship, and so forth.

Last week, it was revealed a grid of 46 cars are set to take on this 2 hour and 40 minute affair across the GTP, LMP2, LMP3, GTD Pro and GTD classes.

First time in anger for GTPs

Without any doubt, it will be an exciting track debut for the GTPs.

Last year, there were six DPi cars representing either Acura or Cadillac; this year, we have 10 entries representing four manufacturers, double the number in the top class.

Seeing the GTPs assert their pace, proven similar if not slightly off the DPi predecessors, will be an exciting watch around the wide, fast and challenging complex.

Porsche Penske Motorsport will mark their return to Wisconsin, since using the RS Spyder LMP2 package in 2008, and carry winning memories from what was a four-hour race a year before that.

Porsche’s current 963 Hybrid (L) next to their RS Spyder (R) – Credit: © 2023 Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG.

Konica Minolta duo Filipe Albuquerque and Ricky Taylor won last year’s race marginally over two Cadillacs and so their eyes are set on another Road America win.

For BMW, it will have been since the 2021 IMSA season when they used the BMW M8 GTE as their most recent Rahal Letterman Lanigan works entry at Road America, although BMW was since only represented in GTD until this year.

Last year, the 2022 title-winning #60 Meyer Shank Acura was nursed home after Oliver Jarvis crashed within the final 10 minutes after he ran wide at The Kink and slammed into the inside concrete wall after defending his P3 spot from Earl Bamber. This showed that all can easily be lost at Road America.

The GTP championship standings are closely matched heading into the weekend, hence making every point crucial to keep the momentum going until the final round.

The #31 duo of Pipo Derani and Alex Sims lead on 1872 points, followed closely by the #24 BMW drivers Nick Yelloly and Connor De Phillippi on 1862 points. In third are last year’s winners on 1843 points.

GTP debut for Proton Competition

Proton Competition are renowned for their Porsche GT customer commitments in the World Endurance Championship GTE-Am class.

At the 6 Hours of Monza last month, they debuted into the WEC’s Hypercar class and showed promising form until running into reliability woes.

They will bring that exact car to use as their GTP whilst another Porsche 963 Hybrid is on-order and set to take its place as their WEC Hypercar.

It will be the team’s second race with the LMDh package, so building experience from the team and drivers’ perspectives is still a crucial priority, especially in preparation for the 10-hour-long Petit Le Mans season finale.

Proton Competition (#99) WEC drivers (L to R) – Neel Jani, Gianmaria Bruni, Harry Tincknell – Credit: © 2023 Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG.

Harry Tincknell and Gianmaria Bruni were two drivers at the Monza debut, although the Brit’s first racing miles behind the wheel were cut short due to the reliability issue.

The duo return, with the valuable Monza debut experience behind them, to pursue a stronger result at Road America.

Penske Porsche brought out encouraging pace at the Glen, and besides JDC Miller MotorSports, it would be a strong statement for Bruni and Tincknell to finish on the podium.

At the very least, reaching the chequered flag will be the target of utmost importance although a 2 hour and 40 minute affair could open the spotlight on their pace without their new Porsche 963 facing the stresses of a six-hour endurance event.

A chance for GTDs to fight

It was a disappointing yet unsurprising sight when the GTD cars did not closely fight as anticipated at the Lime Rock GP with no prototype traffic to consider.

Qualifying was an undeniable thriller to watch as the field was close with one another, therefore seeking tenths-of-a-second on their flying laps.

Road America is a larger and wider circuit, which will prompt more fights in GTD as they can run side-by-side throughout most of it.

Ross Gunn and Alex Riberas of the #23 Heart of Racing Aston took the overall/Pro win at Lime Rock, just over four-tenths on the #14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus duo of Jack Hawksworth and Ben Barnicoat.

Even though the #23 are favourites for this upcoming weekend, the #14’s race narrative demonstrated promising pace as Hawksworth and Barnicoat conducted competitive stints; they may be able to challenge for a third win of 2023, which would continue their momentum within the standings. 

#1: Paul Miller Racing, BMW M4 GT3, GTD: Bryan Sellers, Madison Snow – Credit: LAT Images / Copyright: © 2023 Jake Galstad

As GTD Pro winners of last year’s race, perhaps two class wins are on the cards this time for Vasser Sullivan.

Corvette Racing’s Antonio Garcia seemingly brought out the raw speed of the Corvette C8.R at Lime Rock in free practice, but was not able to translate it into qualifying and the race with Jordan Taylor, his teammate.

Three classes of prototype traffic lapping them may give the Corvette an opportunity to close on the GTD Pro podium spots, with the added probability of where the traffic catches them which could keep a constantino effect in place within the GTD-Pro front runners.

Heart of Racing’s #27 GTD drivers of Roman De Angelis and Marco Sorensen won their second 2023 race at Lime Rock since the 24 Hours of Daytona class-win in January, when they were joined by Ian James and Darren Turner.

GTD should pose a much closer race due to more competitors than in GTD-Pro, and we should expect a close fight emerge early on.

With a larger total grid compared to last year (46 now to 37 in 2022), there is a higher chance of cautions being deployed for incidents and debris, especially given the sprint length of this race.

Road America is a fast circuit where drivers need to anticipate each other, especially different classes of cars, to implement their manoeuvres carefully and keep things in green flag running.

Respectively, the LMP2 and LMP3 categories will showcase potential for some wheel-to-wheel racing albeit amongst 10 GTPs and a total of 21 GTDs around the four-mile complex.

Qualifying is set for this Saturday 5 August at 7:10pm BST and the race on Sunday from 4pm BST.

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