(image credit: Morgan Rhodes)
The third and final class in IMSA’s WeatherTech SportsCar Championship belongs to the
GT3 GTD clan with the likes of Ferrari, Porsche, Mercedes, Lamborghini, Acura, BMW, Audi and Lexus set to battle it out in the Pro-Am GT division.
3GT Racing and Lexus return with two RC F GT3s, but new driver lineups as Dominik Baumann and Kyle Marcelli team in the #14 with Jack Hawksworth and David Heinemeier-Hansson team in the #15. The team showed some speed in 2017, but needs consistency from the drivers, which they should get more of in 2018, to compete for wins and championships this season.
Riley Motorsports returns with their #33 Mercedes AMG for Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen after finishing runner-up in 2017. The team won twice last season (Sebring and COTA), but their success started to falter as the season went on. Look for the Riley Mercedes to start strong and keep the momentum up for 2018. Riley will also run the #75 SunEnergy1 Mercedes for Kenny Habul and a rotation of pro drivers.
After a quick spin with Pirelli World Challenge in 2017, Magnus Racing returns to IMSA in the #44 Audi R8 LMS for John Potter and Andy Lally. The last time the team raced at Daytona they took the win, so look for them to be extremely strong once again this weekend.
Paul Miller Racing returns as the only full-season Lamborghini entry with Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow on driving duties. The #48 finished 8th overall last season, but look for the raging bull to take a step forward in 2018.
Also moving over from Pirelli World Challenge GT Competition sees Wright Motorsports and their #58 Porsche 991 GT3R. Long-time (see what I did there) Porsche factory driver Patrick Long will drive with two-time GTD champion, Christina Nielsen, after she moves over from Scuderia Corsa.
Speaking of Scuderia Corsa, the team sees a shakeup as Cooper MacNeil and WeatherTech move over from Porsche/Mercedes/Porsche machinery to Ferrari with the #63 entry. MacNeil will drive with Alessandro Balzan as the team looks to defend the 2016 and 2017 GTD class titles. Bill Sweedler and Townsend Bell will also run a Ferrari with Scuderia Corsa for the NAEC championship in the #64 488 GT3.
Michael Shank Racing returns with their two Acura NSX GT3s, but with a few new faces behind the wheel. The #86 will be piloted by Katherine Legge and former McLaren-man Alvaro Parente for the NAEC rounds while the #93 sees Justin Marks team with Lawson Aschenbach for the full season. MSR took two wins with the car in 2017 (Belle Isle and Watkins Glen) and looks to continue to move up the ranks after finishing an impressive 5th in their debut season.
Turner Motorsports comes back with their now Liqui Moly livieried BMW M6 where Jens Klingmann will run the season with the duo of Mark Kvamme and Don Yount. The #96 finished 4th overall in 2017, taking one win at Road America and looks to move up into the top 3 this season.
2016 ADAC GT Masters champions, Land Motorsport, have submitted an entry to the full IMSA season after doing a few one-off races in the States last season, including grabbing the win at Petit Le Mans in October. While the team is trying to do the said full season, there are a few clashes between the IMSA and GT Masters schedules that could keep them out of one series or the other. What we do know, however, is that when Land is racing, they will be one of the favorites in the GT3-based class and tough to take down. Brothers Sheldon and Kelvin van der Linde, Jeffrey Schmidt and Christopher Mies will drive at Daytona.
Park Place Motorsports brings back their #73 Porsche, but only for the NAEC championship where team owner/driver Patrick Lindsey and factory-man Joerg Bergmeister will drive. The team took victory at Lime Rock in 2017 and finished an impressive 3rd overall in the championship. While the overall championship is out of the question, look for them to contend during the endurance races.
HART confirms the leap to GTD in an Acura NSX GT3 for the NAEC season with Hart-throb Ryan Eversley and Chad Gilsinger driving. The #69 entry was quick at The Roar and will be one to watch during the NAEC rounds.
IMSA Prototype Challenge regulars, P1 Motorsports, will introduce themselves to IMSA’s WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with an NAEC entry in a Mercedes AMG. Kenton Koch, Robby Foley, Loris Spinelli and JC Perez will drive.
With one-off or partial season entries sees GRT Grasser Racing Team bring two Lamborghini Huracan GT3s, Spirit of Race and a Ferrari, Manthey Racing and a Porsche, and Risi Competitizione with a Ferrari. 21 cars will take part in the season-opening event at Daytona International Speedway with the green flag flying on Saturday January 27th at 2:40pm ET.