IMSA reveals changes for 2019 WeatherTech Championship, returns to two prototype classes

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The rules for the next season of the WeatherTech Championship have been announced by the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA), with the most fundamental change being that the old Prototype class will be split into manufacturer-backed Daytona Prototype international (DPi) race cars and LMP2-spec cars.

DPi cars will no longer need to be balanced against the best LMP2 example, instead shifting to a class-specific balance of performance (BoP) process similar to the GT Le Mans (GTLM) and GT Daytona (GTD) classes. This will all be managed by the IMSA Technical Committee.

The LMP2 class, meanwhile, becomes Pro-Am with no BoP applied, just like it is in the FIA World Endurance Championship and elsewhere around the world.

The reshuffle of the prototypes means that there will once again be four classes in total (as there had been between 2014 and 2017), including Pro-Am classes in both the Prototype (LMP2) and GT (GTD) categories.

Both classes will follow the same rules for driver line-ups: LMP2 and GTD teams will be required to field at least one bronze- or silver-rated driver for every non-endurance race and will be allowed a maximum of one platinum-rated driver per car.

In Michelin Endurance Cup events, IMSA will balance driver combinations for three-, four- and five-driver line-ups with an emphasis on Bronze and Silver drivers. Maximum drive time for Gold and Platinum drivers will now be limited.

The Bronze or Silver drivers finishing the highest in the season-long WeatherTech driver’s championship point standings for the LMP2 and GTD classes will win the Jim Trueman Award or the Bob Akin Award, respectively. In addition, they will earn the opportunity to secure an entry to compete in the following year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans if they can find a team.

Other changes to the GTD regulations include dedicated track time for bronze or silver drivers only prior to qualifying at each event. Also new is the stipulation that Bronze or Silver drivers only will be permitted to participate in qualifying when the qualifying driver also starts the race. Any Bronze or Silver drivers participating in the additional practice session will be allocated one additional set of dry-type (slick) tires.

The WeatherTech Championship will continue to use FIA Driver Ratings to determine driver eligibility in the LMP2 and GTD classes, as it has done since the series’ inception in 2014. For the 2019 season, IMSA has established a new ‘IMSA Driver Evaluation Committee’ chaired by Paul Walter, IMSA director of racing operations.

This committee will review each IMSA driver’s recorded pace based on both the FIA Driver Ratings Committee’s established criteria and the IMSA Technical Committee’s standardized BoP driver’s weighted average lap time distribution.

The results of this analysis then will be shared with the FIA for consideration before the next applicable driver rating period. IMSA retains the right to adjust a driver’s categorization based on the specific nature of its own championship. However, it will not make in-season changes to any driver’s rating.

The amount of testing possible also changes slightly for next season. For the 24 hours of Daytona, the ‘Roar before the Rolex 24 at Daytona’ will be the only sanctioned test. Held on January 4-6, it is mandatory for all participants, although available time for GTD teams will be reduced to Friday and Saturday only.

Private test sessions for the WeatherTech Championship generally follow the same testing regulations as in 2018. DPi and LMP2 teams will be allowed 10 days of testing per entered car, with nine test days for GTLM entries and four test days for GTD cars.

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