2017 IMSA silly season update: Prototype and Prototype Challenge

Prototype and Prototype Challenge cars compete during the IMSA WeatherTech Series race at Circuit of The Americas on Sept. 17, 2016 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Brian Cleary/Getty Images)
Brian Cleary/Getty Images

While the 2016 season is less than a month in the books, IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship teams are full throttle ahead in planning for next year, particularly in the new-look Prototype class, which will combine DPi and LMP2 machinery.

In the first “Silly Season” update, we take a look at the confirmed and likely entries for both the Prototype and Prototype challenge classes.

PROTOTYPE

Confirmed Full-Season (10 cars):

Action Express Racing – The three-time and defending P class champions will return with a pair of brand-new Dallara-chassied Cadillac DPis, with an expected unchanged full-season driver lineup of Dane Cameron/Eric Curran and Joao Barbosa/Christian Fittipaldi. Testing for the Gary Nelson-led team is set to begin shortly, having received its first two of four total Dallara chassis, two of them being planned spares. (2 cars)

Wayne Taylor Racing – Brothers Ricky and Jordan Taylor will return to their family run team, but spearheading Cadillac’s new DPi program. The team has already completed testing at Putnam Park and NCM Motorsports Park with the new Dallara-chassised car. Having purchased two chassis, a second partial season entry is possible, should funding materialize. (1 car)

Mazda Motorsports – The factory SpeedSource-run squad is set to debut two Riley Mk. 30-based Mazda DPis, utilizing an evolution of its existing Mazda MZ-2.0T engines. Testing is expected to begin later this month, with its core driver lineup of Jonathan Bomarito/Tristan Nunez and Joel Miller/Tom Long expected to remain intact. (2 cars)

Visit Florida Racing – With potential DPi efforts from both AMG and Ford falling through, not of the team’s doing, it appears the Troy Flis-owned squad has opted for Mazda power and bodywork for its Riley Mk. 30 chassis. Look for at least one driver change, with Ryan Dalziel departing for his returning full-season effort with Tequila Patron ESM. The status of Marc Goossens, a longtime Riley development driver, remains unclear. (1 car)

Tequila Patron ESM – The Scott Sharp and Ed Brown-led operation will field two Nissan-powered Ligier DPis, which will debut in December, potentially in time for the mandatory IMSA-sanctioned test at Daytona. While the driver lineup has not yet been announced, look for team regulars Dalziel, Sharp, Brown and Johannes van Overbeek as full-season pilots, with the potential of Ligier JS P217 development drivers Pipo Derani and Olivier Pla in for the endurance races. (2 cars)

PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports – A Gibson-engined Ligier JS P217 LMP2 car will be in the hands of the Bobby Oergel-led PR1/Mathiasen squad for the full season, having confirmed its chassis choice during the Petit Le Mans weekend. Its driver lineup has yet to be finalized but has the potential for some familiar, and new, faces to the California-based team, including Tom Kimber-Smith, Jose Gutierrez and Matt McMurry. (1 car)

JDC/Miller Motorsports – With a confirmed Oreca 07 Gibson, the Minnesota-based team will step up to the P class next year for a full season effort. Drivers are expected to be announced by the end of the month and could include a combination of its existing pilots, including Stephen Simpson, Mikhail Goikhberg and Chris Miller. (1 car)

Likely Entries (1-2 cars):

Starworks Motorsport – The Peter Baron-led squad expects to take delivery of its Riley-Gibson in December, with a planned full-season effort around a single car and a chance of a second car appearing beginning with the third round of the season at Long Beach. Newly crowned Prototype Challenge champion Renger van der Zande is in the frame for a drive, with the team talking with other funded pro drivers. (1-2 cars)

Possible Entries:

Rebellion Racing – With a move to LMP2 machinery, the two-time Petit Le Mans winners are evaluating a potential full-season or Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup program next year. The team’s chassis choice has not yet been announced but all signs are pointing towards the Oreca 07, with the Gibson engine. (1-2 cars)

Team Penske – Back in the rumor mill, the championship-winning organization has been tipped for a full-season Oreca 07 Gibson effort next year, ahead of a planned DPi effort with the car in 2018. Penske had evaluated an Oreca 05 effort for Daytona last year, which did not materialize. (1-2 cars?)

ViperExchange.com – While the Ben Keating-led operation will focus its efforts on a new factory-backed GT Daytona program, there’s a possibility of seeing its Riley-Gibson in selected WeatherTech Championship races as well. (1 car?)

Daytona-only Entries:

Panoz DeltaWing Racing – The Don Panoz-owned team has been given a one-race lifeline for its DeltaWing DWC13 Elan, which will take part in its final WeatherTech Championship race in January’s Rolex 24 at Daytona. No word on driver lineup, amid team manager Tim Keene’s departure to Michael Shank Racing’s new Acura GTD program. (1 car)

DragonSpeed – A possibility exists for the Elton Julian-owned team to debut its upgraded Oreca 07 Gibson at Daytona, although confirmation has yet to come and will depend on finding a funded driver. It’s understood the team’s principal backer, Henrik Hedman, is not interested in Daytona. (1 car?)

PROTOTYPE CHALLENGE

Confirmed Full-Season (4-6 cars):

Starworks Motorsport – The Peter Baron-led squad will defend its class championship with at least one full-season Oreca FLM09, and potentially two, depending if its second Riley Mk. 30 Gibson materializes for the Prototype class. Driver lineups for Starworks’ PC effort have yet to be announced but will likely feature some familiar names. (1-2 cars)

Performance Tech – Series stalwarts Performance Tech will return with its PC entry for the final season. The Brent O’Neill-led squad is working on a deal to keep James French in one of the season-long seats for a fourth season. (1 car)

JDC/Miller Motorsports –  While stepping up to the Prototype class with an Oreca 07 Gibson, the Minnesota-based team will keep its PC entry in action as well for the full season, with a to-be-confirmed driver lineup. Look for a combination of its existing drivers, including Mikhail Goikhberg, Stephen Simpson and Chris Miller, to be a part of the effort, depending on which of the drivers gradate to the P class. (1 car)

BAR1 Motorsports – The Brian Alder-led team will return with at least one Oreca FLM09 for the year, while working on a second full-season entry. Two cars are already confirmed for the season-opener at Daytona. Drivers have yet to be announced but will feature a mix of current and new drivers, amid Johnny Mowlem’s retirement from professional racing. (1-2 cars)

2017 IMSA silly season update: GTLM and GTD