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Prototype Challenge

PC Series Moves to Endurance Format; Roar to Open 2018 Season

Prototype Challenge series moves to 1 hour 45-minute races…

Photo: Jake Galstad/IMSA

The IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda takes a bold new step in 2018 with the adoption of an endurance racing format for a six-race season that opens with the series’ inaugural race at Daytona in early January.

The 2018 IMSA Prototype Challenge again will include both the LMP3 class for closed-cockpit race cars from a variety of chassis constructors, which began competing in the series this year, along with the MPC class, which features Mazda engines powering open-cockpit Elan race cars.

The series will shift from its longtime “sprint race” format of two 45-minute races per event to a single 1-hour, 45-minute endurance race per weekend for both classes starting next season.

Teams will have the option of using single or two-driver lineups for each race. In the LMP3 class, all drivers will be required to have an FIA Driver Rating and must be either Bronze or Silver-rated to be eligible to compete, with a maximum of one Silver-rated driver eligible per car.

Driver ratings are not required for the MPC class. However, drivers with a Platinum rating by the FIA are prohibited from competition. Drivers with Gold ratings also are typically prohibited, but may be considered at the discretion of the race director.

No driver may compete in more than one race car per weekend. The qualifying driver must start the race on the tires used in qualifying, and each competing driver will be required to meet a 40-minute minimum drive time.

Each pit stop also will have a minimum-time requirement, as team personnel and pit lane equipment will be limited. Drivers and tires may be changed at the same time during pit stops, but the driver must be out of the car and no other work may be performed on the car during refueling.

During any full-course caution periods, pass-arounds and class splits for restarts will be used, similar to the current “short yellow” procedures used in the WeatherTech Championship and Continental Tire Challenge. The pits will be closed for all full-course cautions and will reopen at the end of the first green-flag lap following a restart.

As is currently the case in the IMSA Prototype Challenge, LMP3 and MPC class winners and podium finishers each will be recognized individually. All drivers entered in the same car will receive the same amount of points for the car’s finishing position in each race.

“The feedback we’ve received consistently from IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda competitors – especially since the introduction of LMP3 race cars to the series this year – is that they had a strong desire to participate in longer races with the option of having two drivers,” said IMSA President Scott Atherton.

“This is an example of IMSA listening and responding. We expect that this substantial change to the format will be extremely well received, not only by the competitors and series stakeholders, but also by IMSA race fans.”

The 2018 season begins the weekend of Jan. 5-7 on the 3.56-mile Daytona road course as part of the annual Roar Before the Rolex 24 At Daytona, which also includes preseason test sessions for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge.

“The addition of a race at Daytona, with its rich sports car racing history and iconic status, presents another intriguing element for the competitors,” Atherton said. “It also will offer compelling content with a first-ever race for the growing number of fans that join us annually at the Roar Before the Rolex 24.”

Like the WeatherTech Championship and Continental Tire Challenge, the IMSA Prototype Challenge moves next to Sebring International Raceway, which has served as the season-opener for the series for the past several years,  for Round 2 of the season March 14-16.

From there it’s on to Barber Motorsports Park for the third round as part of the Verizon IndyCar Series weekend at the picturesque circuit in Birmingham, Ala., the weekend of April 21-22.

Five of the series’ six races will run as a companion to the WeatherTech Championship and Continental Tire Challenge, including the lone 2018 trip to Canada for Round 4 of the season at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, July 6-8.

Virginia International Raceway will host the penultimate round of the season the weekend of Aug. 17-19, followed by the season finale as part of Motul Petit Le Mans festivities at Road Atlanta on Oct. 10-12.

2018 Prototype Challenge presented by Mazda Schedule:

Jan. 5-7 — Daytona
March 14-16 — Sebring
April 21-22 — Barber Motorsports Park
July 6-8 — Canadian Tire Motorsport Park
Aug. 17-19 — Virginia International Raceway
Oct. 10-12 — Road Atlanta

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27 Comments

27 Comments

  1. Denz

    August 24, 2017 at 5:26 pm

    No Watkins Glen… booo

    • Gaucherie

      August 25, 2017 at 12:06 am

      Agree. Lame to not be able to see the lmp3s next year.

    • JeffB

      August 25, 2017 at 7:14 am

      No Road America… booo

      That seems like an awfully short schedule, but that must be something the competitors wanted. Still, to have off all of May and June plus September sure seems like they could have added another couple of rounds to get to at least 8.

  2. Merlot Brougham

    August 24, 2017 at 5:35 pm

    LOL, they should name it the Southeast Prototype Championship + Canada.

    • David Chaste

      August 24, 2017 at 6:40 pm

      It might have been done purposely to save costs so teams wont drive trailers too far. And Canada was added just to please their Canadian drivers and sponsors.

  3. Kyle

    August 24, 2017 at 5:51 pm

    Interesting, one more reason to check out the Roar next year.

  4. Joe

    August 24, 2017 at 6:39 pm

    Um…sure hope more than just CTSC is supporting the 24 this yeast then…no Ferrari Cup last year made for a slow Saturday morning. I was hoping PC would fill the morning. Oh well.

    • Joe

      August 24, 2017 at 6:55 pm

      Year. Not yeast. …friggen autocorrect

    • Larry

      August 24, 2017 at 10:14 pm

      As a corner worker, a little time off on Saturday morning before the race starts is a welcome relief.

      • Joe

        August 25, 2017 at 7:07 am

        …her maybewe should put breaks in the 24 for you huh? Or just shorten the race to 18 hours.

  5. Noel

    August 24, 2017 at 7:30 pm

    Shame to lose Watkins Glen, but an endurance format for these cars just makes too much sense. Great move by IMSA. Hell, 1 hour 45 still seems kinda short for what these cars are built to do.

    • Max

      August 24, 2017 at 8:47 pm

      My guess is this has the smallest effect on budgets. A 15 minute difference in run time won’t stretch their consumables budget by much.

      How long can the MPCs run for though? Maybe they’d break down more often if they were run for 3 hours straight.

      • B96v6

        August 25, 2017 at 7:54 am

        The DP02’s can run for about 80-85 minutes on fuel. The series ran 75 minute enduros from 2009 to 2012 once per season. Moving PC’s to only 6 races is going to create an interesting series dynamic. In the past, with the sprint races, you saw a lot of desperate moves coming from the drivers to gain positions. Now, there will be the opportunity to make up for mistakes, but not as often during the year. And I wonder how the one or two driver format will have an effect on the point paying structure…

  6. Matt

    August 24, 2017 at 11:00 pm

    This is for me in my world 🙂

    IWTC: P2/DPi, P3, GTLM (and still have some standalone GT races with GT3/GTD included)
    Bring back IMSA GT Championship: GT3/GTD, GT4 (2×1 hr races with driver changes)
    Conti Series: TCR, ST

    Thoughts? XD

    • Issac

      August 24, 2017 at 11:26 pm

      Several problems. The first is P3 cars are barely able to keep ahead of AM driven and privately run GTE cars, so all Pro GTE cars would be in a similar situation to PC now problem worse as they have less power.
      Second, your IMSA GT championship is Pirelli World Challenge SprintX. If you want that then just go there and do it.
      Third, I doubt many of those GTD teams would like to be relegated to a support race, which is what it would be.

      • David Chaste

        August 25, 2017 at 4:11 am

        For LMP3 cars all they need to do is adjust their restrictor size. Despite that there will be gentlemen in P3 cars still not able to keep ahead of a bleekemolen or Balzan in a GT3 car but they can curb that by having minimum race lap time deltas. Maybe 110 percent of the fastest race laps.

    • Thomas

      August 24, 2017 at 11:28 pm

      What they already have is fiine and the changes to protochallenge for 2018 make sense. No real need to do anything else

      • tracer

        August 25, 2017 at 8:53 am

        Agreed.

  7. David Chaste

    August 25, 2017 at 4:04 am

    Lmp3 should run in the flagship series, and leave the MPC cars to rule prototype lites once more.

    It will groom the next generation of teams for the big time.

    The old FLM09 cars only became a hit in the U.S because of access to the big races. While in europe no one wanted to buy a ride.

    • Psychlops924

      August 25, 2017 at 4:33 am

      I disagree. As has been stated, P3’s run lap times way to similar to GTE. You notice that ELMS doesn’t have any factory GTE teams? That’s because the P3’s would get in the way, just like the PC’s have for years now.
      Also, look at the P class for next year: 3 Caddy’s, 2 Mazdas, 2 Nissans, 2 Acuras, and at least 4 global P2’s, maybe more. That’s at least 13 cars in the top class, plus nine or so in GTE and upwards of 20 in GTD. Do we really want more than 45 cars on track, especially at places like Mosport or Laguna Seca? I don’t think so. P3’s are fine where they are now

      • Kurt

        August 25, 2017 at 7:48 am

        Agreed, On top of this, pit lane space becomes a serious issue. Also, these rules allow the teams to run multiple cars without buying fuel rigs/pit guns/over-the-wall crew for every car. Quite a good call I think.

      • Mike S.

        September 6, 2017 at 4:19 pm

        Agreed but would like to hear more NA V-8s in prototypes since they sound better than most of the DPi’s and P2’s

    • B96v6

      August 25, 2017 at 8:06 am

      I agree and disagree with you at the same time. LMPC was a great class for drivers and teams from Lites to graduate into. The budgets were reasonable and allowed the teams to run against others of the same caliber as themselves (at least at the beginning of the class). There is still a need for such a class. The budget for a P3 car in PC is somewhere around $350k-400k for the season. You graduate from the class and go where? A ride in a P car will cost at least twice that, and when you’re a burgeoning driver, that’s a lot of money to come by. There’s too big of a gap between PC and IWSC.

      PC could fill that role as a standalone series and this move by IMSA is a good first step, in my opinion. I personally think it should more closely mimic CTSC by running 2 hour races with 2 drivers. Limit the classification of the drivers to no more than silver and you have the opportunity to have 2 funded drivers. That eases the budgets A LOT and could allow the series to move to 8 race weekends.

  8. jason

    August 25, 2017 at 8:35 am

    On the idea of putting GTLM and LMP3 cars on the same track. NO WAY NO HOW. Never Never. The Weathertech series moves to 3 classes in 2018. That is fine. Lets keep it that way.

  9. Sir Skidsalot

    August 25, 2017 at 9:37 am

    How about putting the LMP3 cars in with the GT4 cars for a mini version of the big show. The TCR cars will probably have enough cars to go it alone in a couple years anyway.

    • Slicks in the wet

      August 25, 2017 at 8:10 pm

      They might float this once ST fully dies out in a year or two and it’s only GS and TCR.

      Unless the LMP3 teams poach some top CTSCC talent, you’re still inviting amateur drivers in a performance car in multi-class racing. In other words, slow and dangerous LMP3 drivers don’t need to clog up the generally great racing in CTSCC.

  10. Slicks in the wet

    August 25, 2017 at 12:24 pm

    Easy way for teams to double income off pay drivers. The spirit of PC lives on…

    I hated this series concept. But..It’s been cool to watch on the YT channel.

    This crow tastes just like chicken.

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