IMSA President John Doonan said it’s their “intention” for the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship to return to Detroit by as early as 2024, citing scheduling issues that will prevent its premier series from competing next year.
Announced during Friday’s ‘State of the Sport’ address at Road America, the Michelin Pilot Challenge GS class will take the WeatherTech Championship’s place on the event’s bill, in what’s understood to be currently a one-year deal for the series.
The 2023 event will move from the longstanding Belle Isle circuit to a new 10-turn, 1.7-mile street course in the heart of downtown.
When asked by Sportscar365 on whether the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the proximity of the Le Mans test day had an impact on the decision for the WeatherTech Championship to skip Detroit next year, Doonan said it was one of the leading factors.
Next year’s Le Mans event will again feature a compact two-weekend format, with the test day on Sun. June 4, prior to scrutineering on Friday and Saturday that directly conflicts with on-track activity in Detroit.
“We’re trying to be respectful for people that want to do Le Mans,” Doonan said. “We’re respectful of the centenary celebration they have planned and the requirement to be there on Saturday, it just takes a little pressure off for this one year slot to put GS there.
“Chevrolet was supportive of having the Camaro in the field and clearly the Motor City’s sampling of the best of the best in the auto industry. We’re excited to see what the GT4 cars can do there.”
The length of the GS-only Pilot Challenge race has not yet been determined.
Looking ahead, Doonan said that the WeatherTech Championship will likely be part of the event in 2024 but wouldn’t go into any further details.
“Certainly that’s our intention,” he said. “Just given the motorsports calendar we wanted to take the championship that we had been bringing to Belle Isle for so many years. That’s our intent, yes.”
Doonan said it’s “hard to tell” if the new-for-2023 GTP class could face a challenge on the Detroit city layout but indicated that it’s likely feasible given the tight confines of other temporary street circuits such as Long Beach.
“They have a great downtown venue but until we get there and see cars run on it, it’s hard to tell,” he said. “But the Long Beach hairpin is pretty tight in my book, so we’ll see what we can do down the road with GTP cars in that market.”