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.

The 57th Rolex 24 at Daytona took place on the weekend of January 26 and 27. There were a total of 47-entries (11-DPi, 4-LMP2, 9-GT Le Mans and 23-GT Daytona). Drivers would compete for twenty-four-hours on the twelve-turn, 3.56-mile track which utilized an infield road course and almost the entire tri-oval.

Weather impacted this year’s event. It started raining on Sunday morning and was relentless. The conditions forced IMSA officials to red flag the race twice while the track personnel attempted to address areas of flooding around the circuit. With the likelihood that the weather would not improve the checkered flag was thrown eleven-minutes before the scheduled finish.

Forty-seven entries receive the green flag for the 57th running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona. Getting a jump on the field is the pole-sitter, Oliver Jarvis driving the No. 55 Mazda RT24-P. Trailing Jarvis is the two Acura Team Penske Acura ARX-05 of the second and third fastest qualifiers, Ricky Taylor and Juan Pablo Montoya. And, behind the Acuras is his teammate, Jonathan Bomarito in the second Mazda Team Joest Mazda RT24-P.
One of the teams attracting a lot of attention was the Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R entered by Wayne Taylor Racing. The driver line-up included Jordan Taylor, Kamui Kobayashi, Renger Van Der Zande and former F1 World Champion, Fernando Alonso. The team started sixth but moved into contention early and took control of the race. The four drivers led 259 of the 593-laps on their way to the team’s third Rolex 24 victory.
The BMW team was competing with ‘heavy hearts’ as Schnitzer’s team principal, Charly Lamm passed away on Thursday. The No. 25 BMW M8 GTE started second last in GTLM and was driven by Connor De Phillippi, Philipp Eng, Colton Herta and Augusto Farfus. In the race, the drivers moved up the lap chart and Farfus took the class lead during the wet conditions. He was able to maintain the position and give the team an emotional win.
Last year’s Rolex 24 GTD champions, GRT Grasser Racing Team were back to defend their title. The driver line-up included Christian Engelhard along with last year’s winners, Rolf Ineichen, Mirko Bortolotti and Rik Breukers. The No. 11 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 was gridded fifth in class. After twelve hours of racing, the team was in ninth place but on the lead lap. They were in first place by Sunday morning and survived the conditions to take the win.
The quickest Cadillac DPi-V.R in qualifying was the Whelen Engineering Racing entry driven by Felipe Nasr. Nasr was fifth quickest in a car that he would share with Pipo Derani and Eric Curran. During the race, the trio was always in contention and led a total of ninety-seven-laps. Nasr drove the final stint and was in the lead when he lost first place in corner one to Fernando Alonso. Unable to retake the position - the team finished second.
There were only four entries in the LMP2 category. Roberto Gonzalez qualified the No. 18 ORECA third in class. The car would also be driven by Pastor Maldonado, Sebastian Saavedra and Ryan Cullen. Late in the event, Saavedra was in first place but he crashed the car causing severe damage. The timing of the second red flag worked in his favour as it prevented the second place car from taking the lead and victory.
Nick Tandy, driving the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR, set a new lap record while capturing the GTLM pole. Tandy’s time was more than half a second quicker than last year’s mark. Joining Tandy for the Rolex 24 were Patrick Pilet and Frederic Makowiecki. The trio was in contention until Makowieki spun during the restart after the first rain delay. Unable to make up the deficit in the very competitive GTLM category, they finished fifth in class.
There was only one Ferrari entered in the GTLM category. Davide Rigon qualified the Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE and was fourth fastest. Also driving the Ferrari were Miguel Molina, Alessandro Pier Guidi and James Calado. Always in contention, the team led the class when the race was halted for the first red flag. During the final stint, Calado was in the lead but, he was passed by the BMW of Augusto Farfus for the win.
The GTD pole-position went to the No. 13 Via Italia Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 piloted by Marcos Gomes. The Via Italia Racing entry would also be driven by Andrea Bertolini, Chico Longo and Victor Franzoni. Over the course of the twenty-four hours, the team could not maintain the pace of the class leaders. At the checkered flag, they were one lap behind the GTD winner – ninth in their category.
Mazda Team Joest gave notice during the practice sessions that they would be the team to beat in qualifying. True to form, Oliver Jarvis driving the No.77 Mazda RT24-P grabbed the pole and in the process set a new lap record. But that is where Mazda’s good fortune ended. Jarvis and his co-drivers, Timo Bernhard, Rene Rast and Tristan Nunez, were the race’s second retirement when the Mazda caught fire.
The second Porsche GT Team entry was driven by Earl Bamber, Laurens Vanthoor and Mathieu Jaminet. This trio started fifth in GTLM. By the twelve-hour mark, the Porsches were first and second but six of the GTLM cars were on the same lap. When the rain came early Sunday morning, it impacted the race order. The No. 912 Porsche lost positions to the winning BMW and lone Ferrari but was able to grab the final spot on the class podium.
The new AIM Vasser Sullivan team had a successful debut with their two Lexus RCF GT3 entries. Guiding the No. 12 Lexus were Frankie Montecalvo, Townsend Bell, Aaron Telitz and Jeff Segal. As the competition encountered difficulties, the team inherited positions. A drive time penalty given to Land Motorsport gave them the runner-up spot in GTD. Their teammates in the No. 14 Lexus finished fifth in class.
Slowest in LMP2 qualifying was the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports ORECA 07 shared by Kyle Masson, Robert Masson, Cameron Cassels and Kris Wright. In the final hours, the No. 18 ORECA led the class but their driver, Sebastian Saavedra had an accident. This gave the Performance Tech team an opportunity to take first place. Unfortunately, the final red flag stoppage prevented them from closing the gap on the class leader.
In qualifying, the No. 7 Acura Team Penske entry was driven by Ricky Taylor. Taylor turned in a great performance and put the Acura ARX-05 on the outside of the front row. Joining Taylor for the race were Helio Castroneves and Alexander Rossi. During the race, the trio maintained contact with the leaders and was in first place for seventy-eight-laps. In the final hours of the event, they could not match the speed of the Cadillacs and finished third.
The Canadian Audi Sport experience WRT Speedstar Audi R8 LMS GT3 was driven by Ian James, Roman DeAngelis, Frederic Vervisch and Kelvin van der Linde. Ian James was forty-third quickest in the qualifying session which gave the team the twentieth spot in GTD. They weren’t in contention until the final hours of the event. At the checker, they were fourth in class but the Land Motorsport penalty gave them the final spot on the podium.
The fastest LMP2 entry was the ORECA 07 prepared by DragonSpeed. James Allen’s time gave the team the tenth starting position. Co-piloting the ORECA with Allen were Henrik Hedman, Ben Hanley and Nicolas Lapierre. The team took control of the class but with two-hours left in the contest, Hedman lost a wheel. Stranded on course, he lost first place and the No. 81 ORECA finished a distant third in class.
After starting fifteenth in GTD, the Montaplast by Land Motorsport Audi R8 LMS GT3 finished second. Unfortunately, shortly after the celebrations it all ‘went south’ for the drivers, Daniel Morad, Christopher Mies, Ricky Feller and Dries Vanthoor. A post-race examination of the results found the team was in violation of the drive time requirements. IMSA officials placed them at the back of the GTD results.

1DPiTaylor / Van Der Zande / Alonzo / KobayashiCadillac DPi-V.R593-
2DPiNasr / Curran / DeraniCadillac DPi-V.R593-
3DPiCastroneves / Taylor / RossiAcura ARX-05593-
4DPiBennett / Braun / Dumas / DuvalNissan DPi589-
5DPiVautier / Barrichello / DeFrancesco / GoikhbergCadillac DPi-V.R586-
6LMP2Maldonado / Saavedra / Cullen / GonzalezORECA 07582-
7LMP2Wright / Masson / Masson / CasselsORECA 07578-
8DPiCameron / Montoya / PagenaudAcura ARX-05576-
9DPiBarbosa / Fittipaldi / AlbuquerqueCadillac DPi-V.R573-
10GTLMHerta / De Phillippi / Eng / FarfusBMW M8 GTLE571-
11GTLMMolina / Guidi / Calado / RigonFerrari 488 GTE571-
12GTLMVanthoor / Bamber / JaminetPorsche 911 RSR570-
13GTLMBriscoe / Westbrook / DixonFord GT570-
14GTLMPilet / Tandy / MakowieckiPorsche 911 RSR569-
15LMP2Hanley / Lapierre / Allen / HedmanORECA 07567-
16GTLMMagnussen / Garcia / RockenfellerCorvette C7.R563-
17GTDBortolotti / Engelhart/ Breukers / IneichenLamborghini Huracan GT3561-
18GTDBell / Telitz / Segal / MontecalvoLexus RC F GT3561-
19GTDVervisch / van der Linde / James / DeAngelisAudi R8 LMS GT3561-
20GTDFarnbacher / Marks / Hindman / AllmendingerAcura NSX GT3561-
21GTDHawksworth / Cindric / Cassidy / HeistandLexus RC F GT3560-
22GTDKeating / Bleekemolen / Fraga / StolzMercedes-AMG GT3560-
23GTDLindsey / Long / Boulle / CampbellPorsche 911 GT3 R560-
24GTDGomes / Bertolini / Longo / FranzoniFerrari 488 GT3560-
25GTDKlingmann / Auberlen / Folley / MachavernBMW M6 GT3560-
26GTDPotter / Lally / Pumpelly / MapelliLamborghini Huracan GT3559-
27GTLMHand / Mueller / BourdaisFord GT559-
28GTLMMilner / Gavin / FasslerCorvette C7.R555-
29DPiCanapino / Kaiser / Owen / BinderCadillac DPi-V.R555-
30GTDWinkelhock / Davis / Riberas / HardemanAudi R8 LMS GT3555-
31GTLMZanardi / Mostert / Krohn / EdwardsBMW M8 GTLE553-
32GTDLegge / De Silvestro / Beatriz / NielsenAcura NSX GT3550-
33GTDPerez Companc / Haase / Chase / DalzielAudi R8 LMS GT3547-
34GTDCairoli / Werner / Pappas / SeefriedPorsche 911 GT3 R545-
35LMP2Guibbert / McMurry / Aubry / KvammeORECA 07512-
36GTDSellers / Hardwick / Caldarelli / LewisLamborghini Huracan GT3491Accident
37GTDOlsen / Hargrove / Robichon / KernPorsche 911 GT3 R470Accident
38GTDAltoe / Busnelli / Babini / ProtoLamborghini Huracan GT3470Did Not Finish
39GTDLundqvist / Pavlovic / Yount / DunnLamborghini Huracan GT3442-
40DPiBomarito / Tincknell / PlaMazda RT24-P440Fuel Leak
41GTDSchiller / Baumann / Buhk / PerezMercedes-AMG GT3431-
42GTDDalla Lana / Lamy / Lauda / SerraFerrari 488 GT3349-
43DPiTrummer / Simpson / Miller / PiedrahitaCadillac DPi-V.R225-
44DPiJarvis / Nunez / Rast / BernhardMazda RT24-P220Exhaust Fire
45GTDRenauer / Haering / Bachler / Muller / GoerigPorsche 911 GT3 R47Engine
46GTDMorad / Vanthoor / Feller / MiesAudi R8 LMS GT3561Penalized
47GTDMacNeil / Farnbacher / Westphal / VilanderFerrari 488 GT3547Penalized

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