The pro-am Prototype Challenge class will spin off track for good in 2018, per IMSA. A series of changes announced today will leave the WeatherTech Sportscar Championship with only three classes and IMSA with only one open-cockpit car still racing in all seven of their series.
With the PC class’s spec Oreca FLM09 racing car getting long in the tooth, everyone wondered what might be in store for its future. Now we know: it’s going away, leaving the WTSC with only three classes: Prototype, GT Le Mans and GT Daytona.
Fear not, those needing a new butt to all their American endurance jokes, for as long as there is racing, there will be amateur drivers with money who fund it (and also make questionable decisions behind the wheel). They’ll just migrate to GTD and Prototype now.
Also going away are the current L2-class cars in IMSA’s Prototype Lites ladder series, per today’s announcement. Both L1 and L2 classes currently use the open-cockpit Élan DP02 chassis, however, L2 runs a less powerful engine. For 2017, Prototype Lites will keep a two-class structure, with closed-cockpit LMP3 cars taking over its new top PC1 class in 2017. The current L1-class cars will now race in the PC2 class and become IMSA’s only remaining open-cockpit race car.
With a new top-class Prototype Lites car and PC taking its final blue flag, this means that all but one car running in IMSA’s numerous sanctioned series will be closed-cockpit.
Sportscar racing in particular seems to have realized that open cockpits—where the only thing really protecting a driver’s head from debris is a helmet—are an unacceptable risk. PC in particular didn’t make sense anymore, given that it ran open cars alongside multiple classes of varied speeds—one of which was considerably faster than the PC cars.
IMSA CEO Ed Bennett confirmed that these changes are an effort to “modernize” their various racing platforms, and “modernize” in sportscar racing is usually a nice way of saying “properly protect a driver’s head.” A good snark-tweet from the series’ Twitter presence backs that theory up:
In this day where there are better, safer platforms with proper roofs and windshields to race, it’s about time IMSA ditched its open cars.
IMSA also announced a host of other things today during its big “state of the series” chat at Road America, including their 2017 schedule and changes to other series. Circuit of the Americas’ date has been moved to May, where it will not be joined by the World Endurance Championship next year, reports Sportscar365.
Like Prototype Lites, IMSA’s Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge will be adopting internationally-used specs for its cars soon. The Grand Sport class will start running GT4 cars starting in 2018, a spec that is already used by the Pirelli World Challenge series. The Street Tuner class isn’t changing until after the 2018 series, although its exact future plans weren’t specified in IMSA’s announcement. However, IMSA is in talks with the Touring Car Racing International series to adopt that spec for a CTSCC class starting as early as 2018.
I think we know someone who’s raced in TCR before. Here’s your cue, Robb. Come race more in America.