The shift to the GTD PRO class in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship this year was expected to narrow the speed gap with the returning GT Daytona (GTD) class. After one day of Roar Before the Rolex 24 testing at Daytona International Speedway, it looks like it did even more than that.
Jan Heylen, co-driver of the No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3R in the GTD class, posted the fastest lap among all GT entrants in Friday’s two sessions. Heylen’s top lap of 1 minute, 46.483 seconds (120.357 mph) came in the first practice and held up by 0.033 seconds over the second-session lap turned in by GTD PRO driver Mirko Bortolotti in the No. 63 TR3 Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3.
“Today was a good day. No better way to start the Roar than where we finished,” said Heylen, who won the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge driver championship last year for Wright and helped the team to the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup crown in the WeatherTech Championship. “The car felt good. We had good top speed and I think very similar to some of the other cars out there. But as we know, everybody’s feeling out the track and the drivers, and so everybody’s being very cautious and so are we. But certainly a good start.”
GTD PRO replaced the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class that ran to different technical specifications specifications and allowed teams to use Michelin tires developed specifically for each manufacturer. GTD PRO and GTD now fall under identical specs aligning to the FIA GT3 format, and both classes race on the same Michelin tires. GTD, however, requires at least FIA Bronze- or Silver-rated drivers as part of every driver lineup, whereas nearly all GTD PRO teams feature all Gold- and Platinum-rated pilots.
Heylen is enjoying the change that’s seen the GTD PRO car count at 13 for the Roar and next week’s Rolex 24 At Daytona and the GTD count swell to 22 entries. How tight are the two classes? The fastest 21 GT cars – 13 in GTD and eight in GTD PRO – were separated by less than a second on Friday.
“For me, the announcement that we’re going to be racing under the same set of rules was good news,” Heylen said. “I think the more cars, the better – better racing. I’m really excited about that. It’s a busy track out there; it reminds me much of my younger years where some of the fields were much bigger.”
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