Simpler is better. That’s the general consensus of Grand Touring Daytona (GTD) drivers headed to this week’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.

For the first and only time in the 2024 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season, the GTD cars will race without their GTD PRO class counterparts. Both classes of cars adhere to identical global GT3 specifications, the only difference being that GTD lineups must include a Bronze- or Silver-rated driver while GTD PRO cars are usually filled with all-pro lineups including manufacturer-supported drivers.

The equality of the cars themselves and the fact that both classes – when racing together – qualify as one often results in a starting lineup that’s a mash-up of interspersed GTD PRO and GTD cars. That typically continues throughout the race, with a driver from one class trying to maneuver past a driver from the other class to get closer to another same-class car or create a buffer from a pursuing same-class car.

All of that goes out the window at Long Beach, however. With only GTD on the docket (along with the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class), there will be 17 GT3 cars battling for the same prize and points. Those involved like the cut-and-dried nature of it all.

“It simplifies it,” said Frankie Montecalvo, co-driver of the No. 12 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3. “Everyone in your mirrors is for position.”

Montecalvo is paired this week with Jack Hawksworth, who normally shares a ride with Ben Barnicoat in Vasser Sullivan’s No. 14 Lexus in GTD PRO. The team opted to run two GTD cars at Long Beach, but to satisfy driver rating requirements teamed Montecalvo and Hawksworth in the No. 12 while Barnicoat joins Parker Thompson in the No. 89 Lexus.

“We’re going to be racing everybody around us,” Hawksworth said. “That keeps it quite simple.”

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Robby Foley is co-driver of the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M4 GT3 with Patrick Gallagher. Foley said the Long Beach race will be “a little bit more old school” since there won’t be the constant jockeying for position between GTD PRO and GTD cars that can wreak havoc on a tight street circuit.

“You’ll still be aggressive racing,” Foley said, “but you won’t have a GTD PRO car trying to pass a GTD to get to his next GTD PRO car, so less desperation for sure.”

Misha Goikhberg concurs. The Silver-rated driver of the No. 78 Forte Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO2 that he shares with Loris Spinelli appreciates that he won’t need to check the color of the differentiating windshield decals, mirrors and number plates of the cars around him to know what class they’re in. At Long Beach they’ll all be GTD green, with no GTD PRO red in sight.

“You’ll never have to wonder or try to take a look which sticker’s on the car to understand if it’s directly for position,” Goikhberg explained. “You just know it’s for position, so from that perspective it’s almost easier because every car in your visibility is for position.”

Besides, he added, racing with the GTP cars on a street course could pose more threat when the much faster prototypes are looking to overtake the GTD cars.

“Because the track is quite short, the GTP traffic is going to be a factor,” Goikhberg said. “You have to be very cognizant of where they’ll try to pass you and how they’re going to go about it. I think that could ruin a race.”

Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach practice and qualifying are scheduled for Friday. The 100-minute race airs live starting at 4:30 p.m. ET Saturday on USA Network, Peacock and IMSA Radio.


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