IMSA’s State of the Sport has traditionally provided the calendar for the upcoming season. Doonan’s presentation was no exception, with 2021 provisional schedules unveiled for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge and IMSA Prototype Challenge.
The presentation also included the unveiling of a new class and qualifying format for the WeatherTech Championship and a new points structure.
2021 WeatherTech Championship Schedule Revealed
The WeatherTech Championship schedule will see the series return to traditional venues next year, beginning with a week-long celebration of speed at Daytona International Speedway in January through the 10-hour Motul Petit Le Mans in its familiar, season-ending slot in October at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.
Highlights of the schedule include the return of the WeatherTech Championship to the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, Watkins Glen International, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and Lime Rock Park after a year’s absence. The season will feature one West Coast road trip – beginning with Long Beach on April 16-17 followed by WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca one weekend later on April 23-25.
The IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup again features 52 hours of racing at four iconic venues – Daytona International Speedway, Sebring International Raceway, which includes the return of the FIA World Endurance Championship and the SuperSebring event; Watkins Glen International and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.
The complete schedule follows below.
WeatherTech Championship Expands to Five Classes
There will be even more action for WeatherTech Championship fans to follow in 2021 as the Daytona Prototype international (DPi), Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2), GT Le Mans (GTLM) and GT Daytona (GTD) classes will be joined by a new class – Le Mans Prototype 3 (LMP3) – at selected events.
A new generation of LMP3 models will be introduced to IMSA competition in 2021-2022 from four approved constructors – Ligier, Duqueine Engineering, Ginetta and Adess – using 455 horsepower, Nissan VK56 engines. New LMP3 cars or earlier models that have been updated to the new Evo will be eligible for WeatherTech Championship LMP3 competition.
Both the LMP2 and LMP3 classes will compete for points in six 2021 WeatherTech Championship races. The Rolex 24 At Daytona serves as a stand-alone event that only counts toward the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup for LMP2 and LMP3.
Driver combinations in LMP2 include a mandatory Bronze-rated driver – consistent with 2020 regulations – but now permit a maximum of one Platinum-rated driver for all races. The Bronze-rated LMP2 class champion will earn the Jim Trueman Award and an invitation to participate in the 2022 Le Mans 24 Hours.
Two options for LMP3 driver combinations are currently under consideration. One option includes a minimum of one Bronze-rated Am driver and one Pro driver rated Silver or Gold. The other option includes an Am driver that is either Bronze-rated or a Silver driver under the age of 25 during the 2021 season, as well as a Pro driver that is either Gold rated or Silver over the age of 25 on the day of their first 2021 WeatherTech Championship event.
Platinum-rated drivers are prohibited in the LMP3 class.
New Championship Points Structure Introduced; WeatherTech Championship Offers Qualifying Points
IMSA will adopt a new championship points structure for the WeatherTech Championship, IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge and IMSA Prototype Challenge for all race events.
Points will be 10 times what they were in previous years, with a win now worth 350 points, 320 for second, 300 for third, etc. Points will continue to be awarded to 30th place in each class.
In addition, the WeatherTech Championship will begin awarding points for qualifying at 10 percent of the 2021 points structure. A pole will be worth 35 points, with 32 points for a second-place qualifier, 30 for third, etc. down to 30th place in each class.
Points from qualifying will be awarded for all drivers in each car in addition to each team. Each manufacturer’s highest-qualifying car also will earn points toward the manufacturers’ championship.
“The introduction of qualifying points will bring even more excitement to our event weekends and the season championship,” said Doonan. “With points on the line, we expect teams will go all out in qualifying as well as the races to earn as many points as possible. Qualifying points also will reward a team’s performance throughout an entire weekend.”
New Qualifying Format for LMP2, LMP3 and GTD
Qualifying sessions for WeatherTech Championship LMP2, LMP3 and GTD classes will be broken into two segments and split between two drivers. The first segment will see Am drivers on new sets of tires in each car to set its starting position.
At the end of the Am segment, there will be a mandatory driver and tire change. The driver in the second segment will qualify for championship points, also using new tires. The tires used in both qualifying segments must be used in the race, and all qualifying tires are considered part of each team’s event tire allocation.
“Including multiple drivers in qualifying for our Pro-Am classes provides some unique opportunities,” Doonan said. “The Am drivers will continue to play the ultimate role of establishing each car’s starting position, while the Pro drivers should contribute to further showcasing each car’s performance.”
The DPi and GTLM qualifying structure continues as it was in 2020, with each car being qualified by a single driver and also earning championship points.
10-Race Schedule Confirmed for IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge
10-Race Schedule Confirmed for IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge
The IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge returns in 2021 with a 10-race calendar, once again run as a companion to the WeatherTech Championship at all events. All races will include both the Grand Sport (GS) class – utilizing race cars built to international GT4 technical specifications – and the TCR class.
The season begins with a four-hour race at Daytona International Speedway on Jan. 30 and concludes Oct. 8 at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta. The series returns to Watkins Glen International on June 26 for another four-hour race, and also revisits Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on July 3 and Lime Rock Park on July 17 after missing these venues in 2020.
The complete Michelin Pilot Challenge schedule follows below.
IMSA Prototype Challenge Shifts to Two Classes and Same Race Lengths for All Six Rounds in 2021
The six-race IMSA Prototype Challenge season will feature a two-class format in 2021, with new specification LMP3 cars and updated Evo machines making up one class, and 2020 IMSA-specification LMP3 machines eligible for a second class for the 2021 season only. All six races will be one hour and 45 minutes in length.
The LMP3 driver champion in IMSA Prototype Challenge will receive a $100,000 IMSA credit applicable toward entry fees for any 2022 WeatherTech Championship event. The award will be divided equally among both drivers if there are co-champions.
The 2021 IMSA Prototype Challenge schedule follows below.
2021 Schedule Links: