IMSA Showing Again that It Is Home to Great Manufacturer Competition

By Mark Robinson
IMSA Wire Service
 IMSA is where manufacturers from around the globe come to go head to head in some of the most competitive motorsports platforms anywhere. That will be the case again in 2021 as 18 manufacturers are set to participate across the spectrum of IMSA-sanctioned series.
The flagship IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, which opens its season with the 59th Rolex 24 At Daytona on Jan. 30-31, will have a total of 12 manufacturers competing. The IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge, which kicks off with the four-hour BMW Endurance Challenge at Daytona on Friday, also will feature a dozen manufacturers – some of whom also compete in the WeatherTech Championship – with Toyota the latest to join the Pilot Challenge fray. In addition, IMSA sanctions four single-make series, including a pair of highly anticipated new development series utilizing Porsche and Mazda vehicles.
IMSA’s participating manufacturers and programs for 2021, in alphabetical order, are:
Acura – Fields two ARX-05 Daytona Prototype international (DPi) cars in the WeatherTech Championship, one each for Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian and Wayne Taylor Racing. Also represented by a Magnus with Archangel’s Acura NSX GT3 entry in the GT Daytona (GTD) class. Acura won the DPi (Team Penske) and GTD (Meyer Shank Racing) championships in 2020.
Alfa Romeo – Continues in the Pilot Challenge Touring Car (TCR) class with one Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce TCR car entered at Daytona.
Aston Martin – Has a pair of Aston Martin Vantage GT3s entered in WeatherTech Championship GTD (one each for Heart of Racing Team and TF Sport) and two Vantage GT4 cars entered in the Grand Sport (GS) class for the Pilot Challenge race.
Audi – Competes in the WeatherTech Championship GTD class and both classes of the Pilot Challenge. TF Sport is the GTD entrant for the Rolex 24 At Daytona with an Audi R8 LMS GT3. There are two Audi R8 GT4s in the Pilot Challenge GS class and one Audi RS3 LMS DSG in TCR.
BMW – A longtime IMSA competitor with entries in both the WeatherTech Championship and Pilot Challenge. The manufacturer’s WeatherTech Championship GT Le Mans (GTLM) program has won the past two Rolex 24s with BMW Team RLL BMW M8 GTE cars. Turner Motorsport will mark its 400th race with the manufacturer when it runs a BMW M6 GT3 in GTD at the Rolex 24. There are five BMW M4 GT4 entries in the Pilot Challenge GS class.
Cadillac – The premium brand from General Motors has the most entries of any WeatherTech Championship DPi manufacturer, with four Cadillac DPi-V.R machines set to compete in the Rolex 24. Three are scheduled to run the entire season. Cadillac has won the last four Rolex 24 events.
Chevrolet – Races two of its most popular makes, one in the WeatherTech Championship and one in the Pilot Challenge. The Corvette Racing Corvette C8.R is the reigning WeatherTech Championship GTLM champion and again has two full-season entries. There are three Camaro GT4.Rs entered in the Pilot Challenge GS class.
Ferrari – A staple of sports car racing for decades, the Italian brand is represented in the GTLM and GTD WeatherTech Championship classes at the Rolex 24. The No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE is the GTLM entry, with the No. 21 AF Corse and No. 63 Scuderia Corsa running Ferrari 488 GT3s in GTD. IMSA also sanctions the single-make Ferrari Challenge North America series that uses Ferrari Challenge 488 EVO machines.
Ford – The “blue oval” has two Ford Mustang GT4s entered for the Pilot Challenge GS class opener.
Honda – Returns to Pilot Challenge in 2021 with a trio of Honda Civic FK7 TCR entries for Daytona.
Hyundai – Fresh off capturing the past two Pilot Challenge TCR driver and team championships with Bryan Herta Autosport, the manufacturer’s entry list for the Daytona opener has swelled to eight cars this year, consisting of six Veloster N TCRs and two of the new Elantra N TCRs.
Lamborghini – The Italian manufacturer is the reigning Rolex 24 GTD champion with Paul Miller Racing, which returns in a Lamborghini Huracán GT3 along with two GTR Grasser Race Team entries. IMSA also sanctions the single-make Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America series, with all entrants using Huracán Super Trofeo Evos.
Lexus – The WeatherTech Championship GTD class has included a pair of Lexus RC F GT3 machines since 2017. This year, the two GTD entries will be fielded by Vasser Sullivan Racing. The No. 14 Lexus won the IMSA WeatherTech Sprint Cup last season.
Mazda – The manufacturer with a rich motorsport heritage has one entry in the DPi class of the WeatherTech Championship and sees sanctioning of its entry-level Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BF Goodrich move under the IMSA umbrella in 2021. The MX-5 cars start as road cars produced in Hiroshima, Japan, before being transformed into race cars by Flis Performance in Daytona Beach, Florida, just down the road from Daytona International Speedway.
McLaren – The British marque continues its Pilot Challenge program with a pair of McLaren GT4 entries in the GS class at Daytona.
Mercedes-AMG – There are three Mercedes-AMG GT3 cars competing in the WeatherTech GTD class at the Rolex 24, one each with Alegra Motorsorts, Sun Energy 1 and Winward Racing. Add to that four Mercedes-AMG GT GT4 Pilot Challenge GS entries for Daytona and it gives the premium German brand a robust presence.
Porsche – The winningest manufacturer in IMSA will be well represented again in 2021. WeatherTech Racing has taken on a GTLM program in the WeatherTech Championship using a Porsche 911 RSR-19, with Pfaff Motorsports, Wright Motorsports, Team Hardpoint EBM and Team TGM each fielding a Porsche 911 GT3R in GTD. Two Pilot Challenge teams have Porsche power in the GS class, Wright Motorsports with a Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport and BGB Motorsports with a Porsche Cayman GT4. The manufacturer ups its investment by introducing the Porsche Carrera Cup North America series in 2021, sanctioned by IMSA and using identical Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars for all competitors.
Toyota – The latest addition to the esteemed list of IMSA’s participating manufacturers, the Japanese marque joins Pilot Challenge competition this year with a single Toyota Supra GT4 entry operated by respected Riley Motorsports in the GS class.
During the 2020 season, nine of the 13 manufacturers competing in the WeatherTech Championship won at least one race, and a dozen had at least one podium finish. In the Michelin Pilot Challenge, eight of 12 manufacturers won races during the year and each manufacturer recorded at least two podium results. It showed yet again that there’s no place better for an auto manufacturer to compete with the best than at IMSA.
Adam Sinclair