The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship hits the starter button again this weekend for the Michelin Endurance Challenge Weekend, at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta for series’ sixth race of the 2020 season.
First came the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the coronavirus month of January, then returned to Daytona for the second race—the WeatherTech 240, as in two hours and 40 minutes, on the evening of July 4, more than five months after the Rolex 24. The Speedway sold a small amount of tickets to Florida residents only, which included a temperature check at the gate, and mandatory mask-wearing. That’s the procedure parent company NASCAR has been using, and it was adopted by IMSA.
Next came a two hour, 40-minute race at Sebring International Raceway, which was not a replacement for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring—that comes as IMSA’s season-ender, unless plans change. After Sebring came Road America in Wisconsin, followed by the Michelin GT Challenge at Virginia International Raceway which, as the name suggests, featured only the GT classes—the factory-backed GT Le Mans cars, and the primarily privateer GT Daytona class.
So this is the first time all four classes—Daytona Prototype international, the Le Mans Prototype 2 class, and the two GT classes—will run together since Road America, which was on August 2. With a six-hour length, it’s also the first endurance race since the Rolex 24, which ran on January 25.
At this point in the season, the points leader in the DPi class is Ryan Briscoe and Renger van der Zande, who are paired in the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Konica-Minolta Cadillac. They have 124 points, with Joao Barbosa and Sebastien Bourdais close behind with 118 points, earned in their No. 5 JDC Miller Cadillac. Just one point behind in third is the No. 77 Mazda of Oliver Jarvis and Tristan Nunez.
In GT Le Mans, Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor rule with 165 points in their No. 3 Chevrolet Corvette C8.R, well ahead of second-place Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor in a Porsche 911 RSR with 146 points. Right behind is the other Corvette, driven by Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner with 145 points. In fourth is the other Porsche, with the two Team RLL BMW GTEs in fifth and six, but still in striking distance.
The Porsches, in their final year of IMSA GTLM competition, have yet to win a race, as they’ve been plagued by some bad luck that belies their outright speed. Porsche usually does well in long races, so they should be a factor at the six-hour Road Atlanta event.
In GT Daytona, three drivers are tied at the top—AIM Sullivan Lexus GT3 driver Jack Hawksworth, and Matt McMurry and teammate Mario Farnbacher in the Meyer Shank Acura NSX GT3—with 115 points, with Lexus driver Aaron Telitz close behind with 112 points. Don’t take any of that to the bank, as despite the speed of the Acura and Lexus, there are some fast BMWs, Porsches, Lamborghinis and Ferraris capable of winning.
A BMW did indeed win at VIR, with Robbie Foley helping teammate Bill Auberlen to his 61st IMSA victory, breaking the tie for most wins with the now-retired Scott Pruett.
The race starts Saturday at 11:35 a.m. ET, and will air partly on NBCSN, but will be live flag-to-flag with Track Pass on NBC Sports Gold.