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.”