AO Racing is waiting on a decision from IMSA on whether the GTD class will be Bronze driver-mandated before confirming its return to the production-based ranks of the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship next year.
Team manager Gunnar Jeannette told Sportscar365 that the first-year operation, which has fielded Bronze-rated PJ Hyett and rising star Seb Priaulx in its Porsche 911 GT3 R, currently has no clear direction on its 2024 program.
It comes amid a renewed push from several parties in the paddock, including Porsche and its customer teams, for a Bronze driver requirement in GTD, which is currently open to Bronze or Silver-rated drivers for the Am portion of the Pro-Am driving crews.
“I haven’t heard anymore definitively of what the plan is for next year,” Jeannette told Sportscar365.
“You can argue the fact that looking at the grid, a lot of the guys running in GTD can race with the guys in GTD Pro with Silvers. I don’t really understand how that would affect things that much at the front of the grid.
“Looking at where GTD is currently and the amount of Bronzes. We at AO certainly hope that they go with that decision for next year.”
Roughly half of the GTD field features Bronze drivers, which IMSA currently incentives with the Bob Akin Award and podium recognition for the highest-placed car featuring a Bronze-rated driver.
Jeannette said the postponement of IMSA’s ‘State of the Sport’ address to Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta in October, where sporting regulations are typically confirmed, may not leave teams with enough time to finalize programs.
“We’re just waiting to see,” he said.
“We would really like to have our direction set before Petit. It’s hard to know what the plan is if we don’t know what the class structure is going to be like, which is disappointing.
“We very much want to continue [in GTD]. We just don’t know in what form that’s going to be right now.”
Fellow Porsche GTD entrant Alan Brynjolffson said his plans are even more up in the air following a disappointing first season in the GTD ranks.
The Bronze-rated driver for the VOLT Lighting-backed Wright Motorsports entry noted IMSA’s reversal of its original plans to require a Bronze driver in GTD entries for this year.
“I’m no longer having hope for anything because [IMSA President] John Doonan told me in the past, twice, things and they didn’t happen,” Brynjolffson told Sportscar365.
“They can say there’s a Bronze mandate and I won’t believe it. It really doesn’t matter until the time comes.”
Brynjolffson, speaking prior to his and co-driver Trent Hindman’s podium finish at last weekend’s FCP Euro Northeast Grand Prix, said he won’t continue in the WeatherTech Championship if the GTD class remains status quo.
“I would not do it,” he said. “It’s been miserable. I would look at either ending my racing or moving to a non-BoP series like Carrera Cup, a single-make series.
“It’s been a difficult year. I’ve kind of lost hope with IMSA.”
Jeannette, meanwhile, said AO Racing has a backup plan of moving into the LMP2 class, which has a Bronze driver mandate, should the GTD remain unchanged for 2024.
The Chicago-area based team currently owns an Oreca 07 Gibson that it recently tested at Road America as part of an exploration of broader racing activities.
“It would potentially be there for us as long as they don’t change the regs on that,” Jeannette said. “It would be nice to have a definitive class structure so we can plan on what class we’re going to run.”
IMSA President John Doonan, meanwhile, indicated that the series continues to hold dialogue with teams for ways to enhance Bronze-rated drivers’ participation but fell short of confirming that any significant changes are in the pipeline.
“IMSA has the utmost respect for the substantial commitment of time and resources that our Bronze-rated drivers have made to the GTD class over the years,” Doonan said.
“At our State of the Sport presentation in 2022, we announced enhancements to further recognize Bronze drivers and the significance of competing for and winning the Bob Akin Award – which brings with it an automatic invitation to the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
“We will continue to discuss the most appropriate ways to put the spotlight on their on-track achievements and any further enhancements will be announced in due course.”
Simmons: Bronze Mandate in GTD Would Be “Borderline Irresponsible”
Paul Miller Racing team manager Mitchell Simmons has urged IMSA not to change the GTD driver requirements, suggesting that it would lead to an influx of more inexperienced drivers to the series.
Simmons runs the No. 1 BMW M4 GT3 of Bryan Sellers and Silver-rated Madison Snow, who currently lead the class standings.
“I think GTD is a class that’s higher than Bronze,” he told Sportscar365. “I think they should keep Silvers in GTD. There’s plenty of other places for Bronze drivers to hone their skills.
“For this level of racing, especially with GTPs and GTP closing speeds, you need a higher bar.
“My belief is that the Bronze drivers will do nothing more than continue the LMP3 trend of problems at the race track. I personally don’t like that.
“We feel like we have a strong lineup and we feel like IMSA should play to the Silver drivers that have the experience and not interfere with the Pro guys and take them out and influence their races.
“There’s a lot of money at stake, there’s people’s careers on the line. To introduce a Bronze element into what I consider a pro atmosphere is borderline irresponsible.”
By: John Dagys
Title: AO Racing Waiting on GTD Bronze Decision for 2024 Plans
Sourced From: sportscar365.com/imsa/iwsc/ao-racing-waiting-on-gtd-bronze-decision-for-2024-plans/
Published Date: Mon, 24 Jul 2023 14:00:40 +0000
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