DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – McLaren is stepping up its sports car program by inking a deal to compete in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship later this year.
After competing in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge Grand Sport class the past two seasons with its GT4 model, the British high-performance sports car and supercar manufacturer has confirmed plans to bring the McLaren 720S GT3 into the seven-race WeatherTech Sprint Cup series.
The seven-race series for GT Daytona cars within the overall IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship debuts on May 5 with the Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio. The race will mark the debut for the 720S GT3 race car in the hands of Compass Racing and co-drivers Paul Holton and Matt Plumb.
“The popularity of GT3 racing in North America has dramatically grown over recent seasons, and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is one of the most competitive GT series in the world,” said McLaren Automotive Motorsport Director Dan Walmsley. “With the North American market the largest for McLaren Automotive in respect of road car sales, it is great to have customer teams racing with the 720S in such an exciting and well-supported championship.
“We are proud to partner with IMSA and having McLaren cars competing in the GTD class from 2019 is an important and significant moment for McLaren Customer Racing.”
McLaren already was one of IMSA’s 19 official automotive partners through its Pilot Challenge program. The expansion into Sprint Cup means that the starting grid will now include 14 different manufacturers; the most for a WeatherTech Championship race since there also were 14 in the 2017 Rolex 24 At Daytona.
“We are honored and humbled that McLaren has chosen our race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course as the venue for the North American debut of the 720S GT3 race car,” said IMSA President Scott Atherton. “It’s fantastic to see McLaren doubling down on its commitment by bringing this program onto one of our biggest stages. It also reaffirms that IMSA’s platforms continue to provide an unmatched ROI and an attractive target-rich environment for manufacturers and their customer racing programs.”
McLaren already has an IMSA victory this season, as Holton and co-driver Kuno Wittmer combined to win the four-hour Pilot Challenge season-opening BMW Endurance Challenge at Daytona Int’l Speedway in January. It was McLaren’s third series victory amid stiff competition that included eight world-class manufacturers in the GT4 class.
It won’t be any easier in Sprint Cup. GTD is the largest class, and the addition of McLaren runs the total number of manufacturers in the class to nine.
“We’re honored and excited to formally announce our GTD McLaren program with the new 720S GT3,” remarked Compass Racing Team Principal Karl Thomson. “The new WeatherTech Sprint Cup is a logical next step for our IMSA effort, which celebrates its sixteenth-consecutive season this year. We’ve been very successful in the Michelin Pilot Challenge, but know how hard-fought the battles are in GTD and are looking forward to the challenge.”