In 2019, the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) was celebrating its 50th anniversary. IMSA was founded by NASCAR’s Bill France and John Bishop (a former executive director of the Sports Car Club of America) and Bishop’s wife, Peggy. They succeeded in creating their vision which was to build a sanctioning body for professional road racing in North America. From its humble beginnings in 1969 IMSA currently sanctions seven different race series: IMSA WeatherTech SportCar Championship, IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge, IMSA Prototype Challenge, Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge – USA, Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge – Canada, Lamborghini Super Trofeo and the Ferrari Challenge.

In addition to the 50th anniversary celebrations there were a number of changes to the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship:

  • The Prototype category was split into two classes – Daytona Prototype International (DPi) and Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2).
  • In the Grand Touring Daytona and Le Mans Prototype 2 classes the driver lineups will be required to include a mix of amateur and professional competitors. Drivers are graded by the FIA as Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum based on their racing experience and success. Different combinations of these ratings are required for teams to score points in championship events.
  • A multi-year agreement with Michelin means are cars competing in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will be using their Michelin tires.
  • The IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup will be a separate championship that recognises the top-finishers in four events:
    • Rolex 24 at Daytona
    • Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring
    • Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen
    • 10-Hour Motul Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta
  • There will also be the IMSA WeatherTech Sprint Cup championships for the Grand Touring Daytona driver, team and manufacturer scoring the most points in the seven sprint races.

The 2019 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship consisted of twelve race weekends – the schedule mirrored last year’s calendar. The season opened at Daytona International Speedway in January with the traditional Rolex-24. It was followed by the historic 12-Hours of Sebring, Long Beach, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Detroit, Watkins Glen International, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, Lime Rock Park, Road America, Virginia International Raceway, WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca and a 10-hour finale called Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

In 2019, the classes grew from three to four championship categories. The Prototype class was split into Daytona Prototype International (DPi) and Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2):

  • Daytona Prototype International (DPi) – These are purpose-built race cars and the quickest in the series. The DPi category includes the Cadillac DPi-V.R, Nissan Onroak DPi, Acura ARX-05 and Mazda RT24-P. This class uses production-based engines which are associated with the chassis’ nameplate.
  • Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) – These are also purpose-built race cars. The LMP2 cars are powered by a 3.8-liter Gibson V8 engine. Competitors use chassis’ from ORECA, Ligier and Riley Technologies. Unlike the DPi cars, these vehicles are eligible to compete in the FIA World Endurance Championship and the 24-Hours of Le Mans.
  • Grand Touring Le Mans (GTLM) – Cars in this class are highly modified production vehicles from manufacturers such as Ferrari, Porsche, Chevrolet and BMW. As a result, a wide range of engine configurations and displacements are employed. The series technical staff uses a number of methods to ensure that teams are competing on a ‘level playing field.’ Most of the teams racing in this group are receiving factory support. These cars are also eligible to compete in the 24-Hours of Le Mans.
  • Grand Touring Daytona (GTD) – This is also a production-based class but does not allow the same level of technological improvements that can be made to Grand Touring Le Mans cars. Vehicles in the category include Audi R8 LMS GT3, Porsche 911 GT3 R, Ferrari 488 GT3, BMW M6 GT3, Acura NSX GT3, Lamborghini Huracan GT3, Mercedes AMG GT3, Lexus RCF GT3 and Aston Martin Vantage. Similar to Grand Touring Le Mans, the IMSA technical staff uses a number of methods to ensure parity.

Canadian Tire Motorsport Park hosted IMSA’s WeatherTech Sportscar Challenge series on the first weekend in July. Thirty-three entries competed in a two-hour and forty-minute race around the ten-turn 2.459-mile road course in the Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix presented by Acura.

The total time of the event was extended when the race was red flagged and the clock stopped to clean-up an incident at corner two involving the No. 50 Juncos Racing Cadillac Dpi-V.R driven by Victor Franzoni. Eight minutes later the track was ready and racing resumed.

The second fastest qualifier, Helio Castroneves, driving the No. Acura DPi leads the field of thirty-three entrants into Canadian Tire Motorsport Park’s turn one. Castroneves inherited the pole when the CORE autosport team decided that Jon Bennet would start the race rather than Colin Braun who qualified the Nissan. IMSA rules stipulate that a car will be gridded at the rear of the class when there is a change to the starting driver.
Mazda Team Joest scored their first DPi win in style with a one-two finish at Watkins Glen International. A week later at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, they repeated this performance but this time it was the No. 77 Mazda RT24-P capturing the top spot. Oliver Jarvis and Tristan Nunez took first place, which led to the victory when their teammates encountered an air-jack issue during the final pit-stop.
There were four LMP2 entries in round one at Daytona International Speedway. Since then the fields have shrunk even more. At Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, the only teams participating were PR1 Mathiasen Motorsport and Performance Tech Motorsport – they were both using the ORECA LMP2 chassis. With the retirement of the Performance Tech entry, drivers, Matthew McMurry and Dalton Kellett scored the victory.
Porsche set a new IMSA record at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park – five consecutive victories in the GTLM category. Last week at Watkins Glen International, it was Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet capturing the win. In race six, it was Laurens Vanthoor and Earl Bamber who stood on the top stop of the podium. Bamber attributed their victory a different pit-stop strategy. The result also moved the duo to the top of the GTLM standings.
Last year, Colin Braun set a new lap record but with the new year and new car he went even faster - bettering his time by 0.863-seconds. Braun drove the No. 54 CORE autosport Nissan DPi and would be sharing the driving duties with the team owner, Jon Bennett. Although the team qualified on the pole, the decision was made to have Bennett start the race. They were gridded at the back of their class and finished seventh.
The overall and DPi class podium at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. To the left are last weekend’s winners and the runner-ups from Mazda Team Joest, Harry Tincknell and Jonathan Bomarito. On the opposite side of the podium are the points leaders and third-place finishers, Juan Pablo Montoya and Dane Cameron. In the center and scoring, Mazda’s second consecutive DPi victory were Oliver Jarvis and Tristan Nunez.
Robby Foley driving the No. 96 Turner Motorsport prepared BMW M6 GT3 topped the GTD qualifying sheets. Sharing the BMW with Foley was veteran BMW competitor, Bill Auberlen. The pair dominated the event and led the final thirty-five-laps to win by a margin of 2.074-seconds. This was Auberlen’s fifty-ninth IMSA victory and leaves him just one win behind the record holder, Scott Pruett.
It appeared that it would be two in a row for last week’s winners. Drivers, Harry Tincknell and Jonathan Bomarito, were leading their teammates prior to the last pit-stop. Tincknell drove the final stint and stopped for service when there was an issue with the air-jack. He was delayed just enough to allow his teammate, Oliver Jarvis, in the second Mazda take the lead. Tincknell fought back but fell short of the victory by 1.699-seconds.
The GTD points leaders, Trent Hindman and Mario Farnbacher started the Mobil 1 Sportscar Grand Prix twenty-fourth overall and third in class. They were in contention for the two-hour and forty-minute long event but were no match for the Turner BMW and finished in the runner-up spot. Despite the result, the duo increased the championship lead to nineteen-points over the Lexus drivers, Townsend Bell and Frankie Montecalvo.
The GTLM podium for the Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. In the center are the winners, Laurens Vanthoor and Earl Bamber. Their victory established a new IMSA GTLM record for Porsche - five consecutive race wins. On the left are the class pole-sitters and second place finishers from BMW Teal RLL, Jesse Krohn and Jonathan Edwards. Completing the rostrum are Porsche drivers, Earl Bamber and Patrick Pilet.
BMW swept GTLM qualifying with the BMW Team RLL M8 GTE starting first and second. Jesse Krohn, driving the No. 24 BMW won the pole with a time 0.462-seconds quicker than his teammate, Tom Blomqvist. Krohn and his driving partner, Jonathan Edwards led a total of forty-six-laps before surrendering the lead to the No. 912 Porsche. At the checkered flag, they were 1.208-seconds behind the winners.
The No. 12 AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 was driven by Townsend Bell and Frankie Montecalvo. They opened the season with a second-place finish at the Rolex 24 and entered round five third in the GTD standings. Montecalvo qualified the Lexus sixth quickest in class and would be gridded twenty-seventh for the start. He and Bell made good progress during the race and at the checkered flag were third in their category.
The DPi points leaders, Dane Cameron and Juan Pablo Montoya started third. Montoya was fourth quickest in qualifying but when the pole-winning CORE autosport team chose to switch their starting driver, they were moved to the rear of the class. The duo could not maintain the speed of the two Mazdas and finished third overall. However, they were able to increase their lead over Felipe Nasr and Pipo Derani in the title chase.
At Watkins Glen International, Earl Bamber and Patrick Pilet gave Porsche their fourth consecutive GTLM victory. Hoping to capitalize on their momentum, Pilet recorded the fourth quickest time in qualifying driving the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR. The pair moved into contention early and battled with the pole-winning BMW and the second Porsche GT Team entry. Unable to match the pace of the two front runners, they finished third.
The top three teams for the GTD category at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. In the center are the winners, Bill Auberlen and Robby Foley. The victory moved Auberlen and Foley from eighth to third in the championship points battle. On the left side of the rostrum are the current points leaders and second place finishers, Trent Hindman and Mario Farnbacher. Completing the podium are Townsend Bell and Frankie Montecalvo.

1DPiJarvis / NunezMazda RT24-P125-
2DPiBomarito / TincknellMazda RT24-P125-
3DPiCameron / MontoyaAcura ARX-05125-
4DPiNasr / DeraniCadillac DPi-V.R125-
5DPiCastroneves / TaylorAcura ARX-05125-
6DPiTaylor / Van Der ZandeCadillac DPi-V.R125-
7DPiBennett / BraunNissan DPi125-
8DPiTrummer / SimpsonCadillac DPi-V.R124-
9DPiVautier / GoikhbergCadillac DPi-V.R122-
10LMP2McMurry / KellettORECA 07120-
11DPiBarbosa / AlbuquerqueCadillac DPi-V.R119-
12GTLMVanthoor / BamberPorsche 911 RSR116-
13GTLMKrohn / EdwardsBMW M8 GTLE116-
14GTLMPilet / TandyPorsche 911 RSR116-
15GTLMDe Phillippi / BlomqvistBMW M8 GTLE116-
16GTLMBriscoe / WestbrookFord GT116-
17GTLMHand / MuellerFord GT116-
18GTLMMagnussen / GarciaCorvette C7.R116-
19GTLMFassler / GavinCorvette C7.R116-
20GTDAuberlen / FolleyBMW M6 GT3113-
21GTDFarnbacher / HindmanAcura NSX GT3113-
22GTDBell / MontecalvoLexus RC F GT3113-
23GTDLindsey / LongPorsche 911 GT3 R113-
24GTDHargrove / RobichonPorsche 911 GT3 R113
25GTDLegge / FigueiredoAcura NSX GT3113-
26GTDKeating / BleekemolenMercedes-AMG GT3113-
27GTDPotter / LallyLamborghini Huracan GT3113-
28GTDMacNeil / VilanderFerrari 488 GT3113-
29GTDHolton / PlumbMcLaren 720S GT3113-
30GTDRobinson / AschenbachMercedes-AMG GT3112-
31LMP2Masson / CasselsORECA 07101Did Not Finish
32DPiOwen / FranzoniCadillac DPi-V.R100Did Not Finish
33GTDHawksworth / HeistandLexus RC F GT376Did Not Finish
-GTDSellers / HardwickLamborghini Huracan GT30Did Not Start

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