Atherton: IMSA LMP3 Debut “A Home Run”

Photo: Jake Galstad/IMSA

Photo: Jake Galstad/IMSA

IMSA President Scott Atherton has declared the debut of the LMP3 platform in the new-look Prototype Challenge presented by Mazda series to have been an overwhelming success, with further growth expected later this year.

Last weekend’s season-opener at Sebring featured a field of 13 LMP3 cars, including the competition debuts of both the Norma M30 and Ave-Riley AR-2, which alongside ten Ligier JS P3s and a single Ginetta made it the most diverse LMP3 race seen to date worldwide.

While Mazda Road to Indy star Nico Jamin dominated the weekend with his ANSA Motorsports Ligier, the Norma notched a podium finish in Race 2 in the hands of Colin Thompson of Kelly-Moss Road and Race.

“For a debut, it really couldn’t have gone better,” Atherton said. “I’ve yet to speak to anyone who doesn’t speak in all positives about what they saw. Even team owners who were a bit naive to it, suddenly now, have expressed an interest.

“When you see them on track, it’s a home run. I think you’ll see a steady increase in car counts in what we believe will be many teams that are already in our paddock adding Prototype Challenge content their existing platforms.”

Atherton expects the LMP3 grid to swell into the high-teens to low-20s by the end of the year, admitting it could trigger maximum capacity grids at some races, based on available paddock space.

“There’s 24-25 LMP3 cars in the U.S. right now,” Atherton said. “Some have been purchased specifically for track day activities; they don’t intend to race, at least in the IMSA environment.

“But as the season goes on, I think more of the existing cars will join. And I also think there will be some new additions.”

While currently featuring single-driver sprint races, in what Atherton believes is the “ideal format” for the platform, he hasn’t ruled out the addition of an endurance race or two in the future.

“The early feedback we’ve had from existing competitors, and this applies to both in LMP3 and MPC examples, they would like to see an opportunity for a longer race, so they could join forces with another driver, experience pit stops, refueling, etc,” he said.

“That’s on the radar. There’s nothing planned but we’re always open minded and have an ear for what our stakeholders are asking for.”

Atherton said the possible race may or may not be part of IMSA’s exploration towards an end-of-year, non-points event at Sebring that could feature many of the sanctioning body’s global-spec Pro-Am class platforms.

However, he’s ruled out seeing the LMP3 platform expanding outside of the PC series, other than the already discussed potential standalone event.

As for the future of the aging MPC platform, the IMSA boss said a decision has yet to be made beyond this year.

“Nothing’s finalized,” Atherton said. “But by virtue of the age of the car, I think it’s natural, useful life… it’s got fewer years ahead of it than it has behind it for sure.

“We’re in dialogue with our partners at Mazda regarding how that is addressed going forward but final confirmation to come.”

14 Comments

  1. jason

    March 23, 2017 at 9:50 am

    I think the decision to make LMP3 its own series has proven to be a good idea.

  2. seth

    March 23, 2017 at 10:06 am

    I think a few 2 to 3 hour races with 2 drivers would be awesome

    • Anon

      March 23, 2017 at 2:19 pm

      They talked about that non-points race at the end of the year, but I agree for some of the points races. This series would actually really work well with a CTSC style format.

  3. Mark Twain

    March 23, 2017 at 10:37 am

    How old is the Elan DP02 now anyways?

    • George Orwell

      March 23, 2017 at 10:49 am

      We talking the bodywork or the tub. Because the tub afaik is the star / pro mazda tub; and that’s been around since what, ’04, 05? The car itself probably a few years newer than that so roughly from ’07/08 onwards?

      • Mark Twain

        March 23, 2017 at 11:24 am

        I mean, how long has it been running in the series?

  4. Sol Shine

    March 23, 2017 at 1:18 pm

    Just what we need, another rich kid racer class. Set price for one of these things is 222,000USD. I can easily see costs hitting a million bucks to run a season. This is entry level LMP racing? No wonder the racing gene pool is so thin, only the rich need apply.

    • Kurt

      March 23, 2017 at 2:16 pm

      Pro sports car racing has always been a rich man’s game. Factory efforts come and go but rich, gentlemen, drivers have always been the back-bone of endurance racing.

      • duh

        March 23, 2017 at 5:33 pm

        All racing is like that… You’re not getting out of karts without money, you aren’t getting into or out of super late models or sprints without money, and you’re not getting out of super comp dragsters without money. You wont be pro in any of those without a great deal of money and some luck. Very very few make it any other way.

        • RLL_335

          March 23, 2017 at 5:53 pm

          Your best bet is try to win Solo Nationals as I’ve known some folks to get chances with drives from there. Knowing people helps but you get to meet some people doing those national tours.

    • Harry Manback

      March 23, 2017 at 5:42 pm

      If it cost Twenty-five Grand to race a season of anything at even a semi-national level, I’d do it. But I’m a horrible driver and would inevitably spin every third lap and most likely wreck my car in every race… mostly because I can’t afford to figuratively live at a track to constantly be testing and gaining experience, nor did I have parents who could afford to have me in a go-cart from the day I was old enough to hold my own head up. What are you expecting? If it was easily obtainable – we’d all do it.

      {Not saying that entry-level-rich-kid-national-racing is all that much better some days, but you get what I’m getting at}

    • Not poor

      March 23, 2017 at 9:58 pm

      Oh, go be poor somewhere else with your “rich man” whining.

    • Avery

      March 23, 2017 at 11:59 pm

      Just be thankful these cars aren’t in the Weathertech Championship.

  5. Troll Me

    March 23, 2017 at 11:59 pm

    Scott Atherton with his Borat impersonation.

    LMP3 Great Success!

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