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VIR Preview: GTLM & GTD Title Battles Head South

Risi returns to the GTLM grid

The second and final GT-only showdown takes the series to the fast and undulating Virginia International Raceway. The Michelin GT Challenge will feature just the GTLM and GTD classes but will retain the normal two hours and forty minute race length of the standard four class IMSA races.

Prototype and Prototype Challenge will return to the track the weekend of September 24 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca before the penultimate round leading into the finale at Petit Le Mans in Road Atlanta.

GTLM

GTLM sees the return of Houston-based Risi Competizione’s Ferrari 488 GTE, set to get back on track after a hiatus, the team’s last race in IMSA was round four of the season at CoTA. That race however ended before the team could complete a lap. A chain reaction crash saw its Ferrari bounce off both Ford GTs and into a Corvette that was then rammed by a Porsche. Risi got the absolute worst of that incident with Giancarlo Fisichella retiring the car.

For VIR Fisichella will be joined by usual IMSA teammate Toni Vilander, the pairing is currently 96 points behind the #4 Corvette.

At the top of the standings however is the #4’s teammates, the #3 with Antonia Garcia and Jan Magnussen who won this race last year and will look to find the top step of the podium again and hold back a charging #66 Ford, fresh off a win in the most recent round at Road America. Dirk Mueller and Joey Hand in the #66 are just eight points behind the championship leaders, but the Ford boys should perhaps look in their mirrors before looking ahead.

The Watkins Glen-winning #25 RLL BMW with Alexander Sims and Bill Auberlin are just one point behind the #66 and will look to advance their position in the title fight and put themselves within striking distance of the top step before the last two races of the season.

For the Balance of Performance, the Ferrari and Porsche remain the same with Corvette getting the only power boost from a 0.5mm larger air restrictor. They also have a larger fueling restrictor, tank size remains the same but now the team should be able to refuel their pair of Corvette’s faster and should see an increase in overall pace with the new restrictor.

The Ford and BMW both saw slashes to their refueling restrictor, down 0.5mm, with the Ford also having their tank size cut down 3.0L, this comes after the team was getting good fuel milage at Road America and at Lime Rock.

GTD

The top of the standings it’s a little more spread out with Scuderia Corsa holding onto a 15 point lead over the #33 Riley AMG, who are still riding off the backs of a very successful first half of the year. Wins at Sebring, and at CoTA combined with a second place at Long Beach have put the #33 in good position for the championship.

This will be the team’s second race as the lone Mercedes AMG GT3 in the field with the #50 Weathertech sponsored Riley Motorsports car sticking with their Porsche after dropping the AMG before Road America.

Contrary to the #33 the #57 Stevenson Motorsports Audi have heated up in the second half of the season after a slow start. They are 14 points behind second place and hold onto a five point advantage over the #93 Michael Shank Racing Acura. The #57 finished last year’s race in second place and will, like Corvette, look to repeat success for the benefit of their own championship battle going into Laguna Seca, and Petit Le Mans.

Last year’s winners Madison Snow and Bryan Sellers will take on VIR in the same Lamborghini Huracan GT3 that brought them to victory last season. The Paul Miller Racing duo sit in eighth in the championship with a moderate lead over the #86, and are just five points behind the #28 Alegra Motorsports car. They performed well in the first GT-only event with a Pole and a second place finish at Lime Rock Park, the team’s best result of the year.

No power changes have been made in GTD, however a few cars have been hit with changes to their fueling restrictors. The Audi will now run a 2.0mm smaller fueling restrictor, with the Acura losing 1.5mm off of their restrictor, and also having 3.0L cut from their fuel tank size. Ferrari is the only buff in GTD with IMSA now allowing them to run a restrictor 1.5mm larger than at Road America.

The Michelin GT Challenge begins from Virginia International Raceway on Sunday at 13:35 local time.