GTD PRO Regains Spotlight at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca

By John Oreovicz

IMSA Wire Service

Pit and paddock space limitations for the two street course races on the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship schedule require adjusting the overall size of the fields at those events.

As a result, Grand Touring Daytona (GTD) was the only production car-based class featured at the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach. For the upcoming Detroit Grand Prix (May 31-June 1), GTD PRO will be back on track while the GTD entrants who raced at Long Beach will have the weekend off. Both classes will be in action next week, however, at the Motul Course de Monterey Powered by Hyundai N at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

Nearly two months will have passed since Ben Barnicoat, Jack Hawksworth and Kyle Kirkwood scored the GTD PRO class victory in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Cadillac in the No. 14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 on March 16. So, here’s a quick reset of the GTD PRO season to date following the two endurance races that opened the 2024 campaign.

Risi Competizione came hot out of the box, as James Calado, Davide Rigon, Daniel Serra and Alessandro Pier Guidi won the Rolex 24 At Daytona in the No. 62 Ferrari 296 GT3. Calado, Rigon and Serra followed up by finishing second to the No. 14 Lexus at Sebring. That currently gives them a 98-point lead over Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow (No. 1 Paul Miller Racing BMW M4 GT3).

But the Risi Ferrari won’t be running at WeatherTech Raceway; the team has committed only to the five races in the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup, the next being the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen in late June. In essence, that means that the No. 1 BMW leads the season standings heading to California next week.

It also means that four other teams are lurking within 32 points of the Paul Miller entry, and three of those chasing the No. 1 are also in for the full season. The No. 14 Lexus, with Barnicoat and Hawksworth the full-season co-pilots, is just seven points behind the No. 1 BMW. The No. 77 AO Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R is another 12 points back and the No. 23 Heart of Racing Team Aston Martin Vantage GT3 a further 13 points in arrears.

Sellers, Snow and the PMR BMW moved to GTD PRO this season after winning the 2023 GTD championship. There have been some growing pains. A miscue involving the safety car put them a lap behind at Sebring, forcing them into comeback mode. In that sense, the fourth place they achieved was as satisfying as their GTD PRO debut at Daytona that produced a visit to the podium with third place.

“We’re still learning in GTD PRO, this class is difficult and we all sat there on the pit stand and made a mistake today,” Sellers said at Sebring. “But I’m proud of how this team bounced back. They never gave up. When you zoom out and look at it, for all the ups and downs we had, the best we probably could have finished was third and we ended up fourth.”

The win at Sebring was a huge relief for Vasser Sullivan, which saw both the No. 14 GTD PRO entry and its No. 12 that competes in the GTD class fail to make the finish at Daytona.

Barnicoat, Hawksworth, Vasser Sullivan and Lexus are the defending GTD PRO class champions. Barnicoat is also coming off a victory in the GTD class No. 89 Lexus that Vasser Sullivan entered in the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach in the absence of the GTD PRO class at that event.

“We’re on a bit of a roll at the moment, but we had a fantastic season last year,” Barnicoat said. “Very lucky to be part of this team, with all the work they put in, with the hours of dedication to excellence. I don’t believe there’s any other GT team operating, pushing as hard as we are. The results aren’t a shock. You get out what you put in, right? I’ve put so much into this and I’m just happy I can deliver the results for them.”

The top two in the season-long GTD PRO standings should probably cast a wary eye behind them, because “Rexy” lies in waiting. Of course, that’s the dinosaur-liveried No. 77 AO Racing Porsche shared by Laurin Heinrich and Sebastian Priaulx.

In a nod to the parity of the GTD PRO class, the current top eight teams each represent a different manufacturer: Ferrari, Lexus, BMW, Porsche, Lamborghini, Aston Martin, Ford and Chevrolet. All but Ferrari and Lamborghini are in for the full season.

All in all, it’s shaping up as a vintage year for GTD PRO. The action resumes May 10-12 with the Motul Course de Monterey. The race airs live at 3 p.m. ET Sunday, May 12 on NBC and Peacock.

Speedway Digest Staff
Follow Me