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Positive Reactions to LMP3 in New-Look IMSA Prototype Series

IMSA paddock upbeat on integration of LMP3 into new-look PC series…

Photo: Mike Levitt/IMSA

Photo: Mike Levitt/IMSA

IMSA’s decision to restructure the newly re-named Prototype Challenge presented by Mazda series with LMP3 machinery came after direct competitor and stakeholder input, according to series boss Scott Atherton.

The entry-level prototype platform, which was initially poised to be added into the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge as a third class, was vetoed by the majority of the series paddock, leading to the overhaul within the Mazda-backed prototype development series instead.

“I think it’s a material example of that process not being a charade but actually having some substance behind it,” Atherton told Sportscar365.

“It’s one of two or three examples that I can specifically point to say what we originally expected to do and what we ultimately decided to do was affected by feedback from our stakeholders.”

The shakeup sees the current Mazda-powered Elan DP02 prototypes moved to the PC2 class and LMP3 machinery from all of the six ACO-approved constructors eligible for the PC1 category.

While admitting the introduction of the P3 platform, with turn-key cars cost-capped to 206,000 Euros ($228,000), comes as a price increase over the current Lites cars, Atherton believes the car’s performance and ability will outweigh the initial investment.

“It’s a radical step up from what is currently embodied in that category,” he said. “But if you talk with the teams that are currently participating in Prototype Lites, they are eager to add this to their mix.

“They have customers that are ready to go and are just waiting on the word.

“None of these decisions are ever guaranteed. The best we can do is research, make a call and do the best we can do deliver.”

With confirmation of the first North American championship, the interest level in LMP3 is expected to rise significantly over the coming months, according to Onroak Automotive North American representative Ethan Bregman.

A total of six Ligier JS P3s are already in the U.S., including a car that was on display Friday at Road America during IMSA’s future platform and schedule announcement.

Numerous Ginetta LMP3s are also Stateside and have taken part in club racing, while ANSA Motorsports recently announced a partnership with ADESS AG for North American distribution of the ADESS 03.

“We expect to have plenty of cars on the grid next year,” Bregman told Sportscar365.

“I understand IMSA’s roadmap with the WeatherTech [Championship] in trying to make it accessible for fans and reduce the number of classes. It makes sense.

“There’s benefits to having it in all different places. But to be honest, we’re just ecstatic to have a place to race the car within IMSA in this country.”

Bregman noted the significance of the P3 cars remaining with the ACO global spec Nissan-based V8 engine in IMSA competition, instead of opting for a series-specific engine package.

“It’s valuable for a lot of our customers to have one single package that they can race in Europe, race in Asia and race at a premier level here in the U.S.,” he said.

“That means no changes to the car. It gives them a much greater value for the money they are spending.”

The platform’s global nature could also bring some international teams to IMSA, with United Autosports among the European-based squads that’s keeping a close eye on the latest developments.

The Anglo-American team, which currently leads the European Le Mans Series LMP3 championship with its Ligier JS P3, could expand into an IMSA program next year, according to team co-owner/managing director Richard Dean, who is on-site at Road America this weekend.

It’s such a great [platform] and we’ve already sold a car here into the U.S., and there hasn’t been a series [yet]. I think it will be popular,” Dean told Sportscar365.

“Today was probably the first time, when they pulled the cover off that [at the announcement], that anyone has seen one here in the flesh.

“These cars are filling half the grid for ELMS and they’re turning people away for full-series entries. If it follows the same trend, it’s going to be a very popular series.”

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365 as well as the recently launched e-racing365 Web site for electric racing. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for FOXSports.com/SPEED Channel, and contributes to other publications worldwide. Contact John

12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. PhilH

    August 5, 2016 at 5:02 pm

    Expect you’ll see 15-20 P3’s racing within 18 months.

  2. Mike S.

    August 5, 2016 at 5:42 pm

    Sweet booted out a class in WT. Not sure how I feel about that. Saw it coming but despite the PC issues there will be a hole in the series I think.

    • Christian

      August 5, 2016 at 6:13 pm

      No.

    • guest

      August 5, 2016 at 11:35 pm

      Those things caused so much mayhem and added nothing to the show. Great move by IMSA. Now if we could just get Porsche North America to run in Prototype Challenge series, it’d be a destruction derby.

    • NorthSask

      August 6, 2016 at 12:20 pm

      I agree. PC hasn’t worked that well lately, but whether some people like it or not, Am drivers -not manufacturers- are who keep sports car grids full in many years. The lack of a real Pro-Am Prototype class of some kind does leave a hole in the WTSC lineup.

  3. Andy

    August 5, 2016 at 6:34 pm

    I don’t feel itself be sorely missed I’d expect to see more GTD cars. With hopefully Acura and whenever the Lexus gets off the ground

  4. morningview66

    August 5, 2016 at 6:37 pm

    Probably wise to keep LMP3 out of Conti.
    Itroducing them to the French GT series completly killed that off this year, as the GT guys were no longer racing for wins so didnt want to be there.

  5. Jenner

    August 5, 2016 at 11:18 pm

    Funny that the entry-level prototype car is safer and more high tech than IMSA’s top P class.

    • SGG

      August 6, 2016 at 10:37 am

      When it debuts in 2017 it won’t be.

    • NorthSask

      August 6, 2016 at 12:22 pm

      If that was true, than it would be true of all LMP2 eligible classes. But it’s not. LMP3s are in some ways, lower tech than PC cars (brakes, for example).

  6. Sultan Bob

    August 6, 2016 at 8:59 am

    I have NOT heard much about Riley’s P 3 Car in a while . Any updates or news lately ?

  7. GridS2Plaza

    August 8, 2016 at 12:28 pm

    Utilizing LMP3 cars with the current prototype lights cars sounds good, but the races should be extended to 1.5-2 hours in length with 2 driver lineups. Keeping the current 2-45 minute races seems like a waste of the LMP3 cars. They seem to be working fine in the ELMS 4 hour races.
    Though more expensive it would be better training for stepping up to the top series.
    At least run some of the races longer.

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