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LMP3 in IMSA Prototype Lites Replacement for 2017

LMP3 to make mainstream North American debut in 2017…

Photo: Vision Sport Agency

Photo: Vision Sport Agency

The LMP3 formula will make its mainstream North American race debut next year in IMSA competition, in the repositioned IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda.

The newly named series evolves from the IMSA Mazda Prototype Lites Presented by Cooper Tires for 2017, and will feature two classes of cars, mixing new and existing IMSA platforms.

LMP3 chassis from up to six manufacturers will compete in PC1, with the global Nissan-based V8 engine, while the PC2 class will consist of the existing Elan DP02 cars, running with Mazda engines.

The latter is currently used in the Lites L1 class of the Mazda Prototype Lites series, from which the new IMSA Prototype Challenge championship is created.

The existing Lites L2 cars will no longer be eligible from after 2016.

Furthermore, no Balance of Performance will be utilized to either category.

“IMSA Prototype Challenge presented by Mazda will provide great racing for our fans and an ideal platform for young talent and seasoned drivers to compete in a two-class competition environment,” said IMSA President Scott Atherton.

“[This makes] it an ideal training ground for advancement into the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

“We have sought feedback from and worked closely with our competitors, manufacturers and other constituents to define and create this attractive new pathway to prototypes.”

The series will feature a 13-round calendar for 2017, starting at Sebring in mid-March and finishing in early October.

Nine of these rounds will take place during WeatherTech Championship weekends. Most rounds will have two races at 45 minutes each, in a single-driver format.

“Mazda is committed to providing development opportunities for drivers, teams and crews,” said Mazda Motorsports director John Doonan.

“The IMSA Prototype Challenge presented by Mazda is a perfect step for those wanting to move up the ladder in our Mazda Road to 24 program.

“The #MRT24 is designed to help sports car racers go from grassroots racing all the way to the top level of North American road racing.”

IMSA Prototype Challenge races will be broadcast live on IMSA.tv, as well as tape-delayed coverage on an as-yet-unannounced cable network.

2017 IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda Schedule:

March 17-18 – Sebring International Raceway, Sebring, Florida*
April 21-23 – Barber Motorsports Park, Birmingham, Alabama
June 30-July 2 – Watkins Glen International, Watkins Glen, New York*
July 7-9 – Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, Bowmanville, Ontario*
July 21-22 – Lime Rock Park, Lakeville, Connecticut* **
Aug. 11-13 – Grand Prix of Trois-Rivières, Trois-Rivières, Quebec
Oct. 5-7 – Road Atlanta, Braselton, Georgia*

* — In conjunction with IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship events
** — Will feature a single, 45-minute race

Jake Kilshaw is a UK-based journalist focusing on European series for Sportscar365. Kilshaw was the founder of WorldSportsCar.co.uk and is a member of the Autosport Academy. Contact Jake

15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Bakkster

    August 5, 2016 at 1:16 pm

    Seems like the right move to me.

    • B96v6

      August 5, 2016 at 4:09 pm

      I think two 45 minute sprint races is a gross under-utilization of that kind of machinery. Would love to see some longer endurance races. If the class is meant as a training platform for future DPi and LMP2 drivers, why not make the races as long as 2 stints? Schedule permitting, obviously.

      • Slow

        August 5, 2016 at 4:17 pm

        They aren’t ment to run for more than four hours….

        • B96v6

          August 5, 2016 at 4:24 pm

          I ran IMSA Lites from 2006 to 2015. The 30 and 45 minute races create a lot of desperation, which yields some pretty idiotic moves. There’s also no strategy involved. That doesn’t create a very good training ground for drivers looking to move up the ladder. And without PC to continue this development, the options for advancement will be about nil. You’ll see a lot of driver careers stall in this series very soon.

          • NorthSask

            August 6, 2016 at 1:16 pm

            Yeah, it sure seems like a massive leap in every way from a sprint LMP3 series to DPi.

        • NorthSask

          August 6, 2016 at 1:17 pm

          45 minutes is A LOT shorter than 4 hours…

  2. Matt

    August 5, 2016 at 1:28 pm

    So wait, Mazda is going to back a series in which the top class all runs…Nissans?

    • Crosmai'n

      August 5, 2016 at 8:39 pm

      Second that, I’m just as confused as you are.

  3. Jc

    August 5, 2016 at 1:41 pm

    Good to see trois-rivieres get some business again.

    • 996corsa

      August 5, 2016 at 3:13 pm

      IMSA Prototype Lights is running at the Trois Rivieres GP3R event this year, Aug.12-14.

  4. Forrest

    August 5, 2016 at 2:08 pm

    Now I know at least one of the support series at the Barber Indycar race, now that PWC has left. Nice to have the dates confirmed too.

    • King Hiro

      August 6, 2016 at 9:54 pm

      I’m also pleased to see this come on board in place of PWC although I’m not sure it’ll be quite as good. Always enjoyed the added variety from PWC. Maybe I’ll head up to VIR for PWC the following weekend

  5. D.O.G

    August 6, 2016 at 9:08 am

    I’d dangle this carrot: a Mazda DPi program for next year. NAEC or a limited sprint program for PC1 champion. PC2 will get a DPi testing program.

    • jeromet

      August 11, 2016 at 1:44 pm

      Why not add 2 endurance race ? They could run the lmp3 with the CTSC in the Daytona & Laguna Seca 4 hours events

  6. DonInYYC

    September 9, 2016 at 3:38 pm

    Is refuelling allowed or is the 45 minute race duration determined by fuel capacity?

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