IMSA: 6 things you need to know ahead of rollercoaster Road America
It's all getting tight at America's Cathedral of speed...
Three rounds in to the resurgent 2020 IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship and it's time to leave the Floridian speedways of Daytona and Sebring for a circuit heralded by drivers and fans alike; Road America.
Although it might have felt odd being at Sebring for a race a fraction of the length of the iconic 12 hours, Road America is synonymous with the fast paced sprint action that the IMSA series has come to define.
The Wisconsin circuit is fast, real fast. Around 70% of the 4.048 mi (6.515 km) circuit at Elkhart Lake is flat out, pedal to the metal, a statistic not to dissimilar to Monza the home of the Italian Grand Prix.
With the top DPi class reaching some of the highest speeds of the season, and with GT cars locked in bumper-to-bumper slipstream trains, the circuit at Elkhart Lake truly is America's Cathedral of speed.
Before we get started, why not treat yourself to an onboard lap courtesy of GTD ace Cooper MacNeil in the #63 Scuderia Corsa.
Mazda look to bounce back at winning circuit
Rewind to the summer of 2019 and Mazda had ignited a string of victories that marked a real elevation in the RT24-P's speed, and the team's ability to get the job done. When the series visited Road America, this was only emphasised as the team emerged victorious from a heavyweight bout with Acura that lasted every single second of the 160 minute race.
This season and the Japanese marque has become a consistent threat at the front, and with the team looking to bounce back from a difficult Sebring weekend, expect the #55 and #77 cars to be force to be reckoned with in the DPi category.
Critical BOP breaks
Following the Sebring round two weeks ago, IMSA revealed their next round of Balance Of Performance measures which is likely to level the playing field in each of the four classes.
Notably, the Acura and Cadillac DPi cars have received power increases, despite Cadillac dominating in the hands of Derani/Nasr last time out, whilst in GTLM the two RLL BMW M8s have received power increases.
In GTD the seemingly unstoppable Lexus RC F's run by Aim-Vasser Sullivan have been on the receiving end of a power reduction after dominating the both rounds since the return to racing.
Expect a reversal in fortunes for a number of cars this weekend. We'll save the BOP debate for another time...
The high-speed nature of Road America places fuel mileage as the limiting factor in stint length. Despite corners like the famed Carousel offering high-loads to the Michelin rubber, the emphasis is on drivers being able to make a single tank last as long as possible.
This has, in the past, lead to some of the most exciting races in endurance racing as teams try to eek out as many laps as possible, and often end up with engines spluttering their way over the line.
Check out the finish from the American Le Mans Series race in 2012, when it all came down to that final lap.
Golden Gavin's golden chance
If there's a driver that should receive your attention this weekend then it's Corvette's Oliver Gavin. The British ace is quite simply the best there is when it comes to success at Road America.
Gavin has more wins (4) and poles (5) at the Elkhart Lake circuit than any other IMSA driver, and with the bar set high by a truly international field, this isn't something to ignore. Why does he go so well here? Well, as a long time servant to the Corvette team, besides Gavin being one of the most gifted drivers of his generation, the 47-year-old has found himself in some of the best sportscar machinery on the track, and this weekend will be much the same with the fledgling C8.R the car to beat in the GTLM class.
With the #4 Corvette of Gavin and teammate Tommy Milner coming off the back of their Sebring triumph, victory at Road America might launch the duo into championship contention, and end that four year wait for another GTLM title.
Saying 'Au revoir' to DragonSpeed
LMP2 challengers DragonSpeed will compete in their final IMSA race for two months before returning to North American racing for the Sebring 12h in November. The Floridian outfit are turning their focus towards a two-car LMP2 effort for the delayed 2020 Le Mans 24h in September, and see time away from the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship as crucial to their goal of victory at Le Mans.
In the hands of Henrik Hedman and Rebellion LMP1 regular Gustavo Menezes the #81 car took victory on the road at Sebring, before being handed a penalty for the former failing to complete his driver time.
The team will want to end this three race stint with a winners trophy and some champagne to go with it.
After a two-race absence due to the pandemic, fan-favourites Heart Of Racing return to the GTD field as the sole entrant of an Aston Martin Vantage. A difficult Daytona 24h in January left them with a damaged car, and with the pandemic taking hold in the US, the Seattle hospital-linked team were forced to sit out the return to racing in July. 2019 IMSA GT3 Cup champion Roman De Angelis will join team owner Ian James for this weekend's event.
Also returning to the GTD field is a brace of Acura NSX GT3s, as the #57 Heinricher Racing machine of Alvaro Parente and Misha Goikhberg and the #86 Meyer Shank Racing car of Mario Farnbacher and Matt McMurry will be in action at Road America after having chosen to sit out the Sebring round which only scored towards the IMSA Sprint Cup.
QUALIFYING: SATURDAY 1450 ET - 1950 BST
RACE: SUNDAY 1205 ET - 1705 BST
Both qualifying and race will be free to view on IMSA.TV in eligible territories.