IMSA is working on integrating the burgeoning LMP3 platform into one of its existing championships, as part of a cross-series evaluation the sanctioning body has initiated with its stakeholders.
The new entry level prototype class, which has helped deliver record grids in Europe this year, could be an option for three of its series, according to IMSA President and COO Scott Atherton and IMSA CEO Ed Bennett.
“The ACO did a very good job of defining not only the technical specifications but all of the details that surround that,” Atherton told Sportscar365.
“The cost-cap, the longevity of the parts, the ability to run a season without a rebuild. It has proven to be a very viable, sustainable category.
“Where it properly fits within the IMSA landscape is the process we’re going through.”
Atherton and Bennett said that P3 remains an option as a replacement for the current Prototype Challenge car, which is confirmed through the end of the 2017 season in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
The platform, meanwhile, could also find a home in Mazda Prototype Lites, or even added as a new category to the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, according to the series bosses.
Atherton said that he doesn’t see the current Oreca FLM09s continuing in PC beyond 2017 and admitted the class could even be eliminated altogether.
“There’s a number of combinations,” Atherton said. “You could re-cast it in a different form or you could… eliminate it.
“If it was eliminated and there was no other alternative, I think that would be a mistake.
“You have some great teams that have made long-term commitments to us and the last thing we’d want to do is leave a void there.
“But that class was introduced to us at a different time for a different purpose that doesn’t currently align with what this championship is focused on.
“It just means that one of the critical decisions to be made.”
The decision-making process will include feedback from stakeholders, Atherton and Bennett said, following the release of a memo to competitors on Saturday outlining IMSA’s future strategy.
The fate of the PC class beyond 2017, GS and ST classes in Continental Tire Challenge, as well as the Mazda Prototype Lites series, is under evaluation, with IMSA taking the current LMP3, GT4 and TCR platforms into consideration for the future.
The series bosses stressed that no decisions have been made, but Bennett admitted the P3 platform, at least in its current configuration, may not be well-suited for the WeatherTech Championship, which is largely endurance-based.
“The car really wasn’t necessarily designed to be a 24-hour car,” Bennett told Sportscar365. “This idea of trying to be honest about what the car was designed to do…
“You might ask it to do things it wasn’t designed to do, the further you get away from it’s original intention… There’s pros and cons to everything but that becomes one of the cons.”
Bennett said it could instead be an option in Continental Tire Challenge, which is currently a GT-only series but has a dwindling car count in its top GS class.
“Philosophically, [with] the GRAND-AM and ALMS merger, there was a formula approach that we believe the best sports car racing formula — from our standpoint — is both GTs and Prototypes,” Bennett said.
“If that’s the formula we’re trying to embrace… That’s where it gets a little more complex.
“You look at each one of those things and you say, ‘Is there any possibility that could fit in any of those places?’ We’re open to any combination. We for sure have our theory.”
While the current PC platform is locked in through the end of 2017, Atherton said that changes are expected to be made to Continental Tire Challenge for next year, but not until getting feedback from the paddock.
“The purpose of the memo is to begin the dialogue with, not just the competitors, but the stakeholders at large with the eye to define what those categories we’ve listed as being under review will be going forward,” Atherton said.
“Just as we sat back and took a hard look at the ALMS class structure… for completely different reasons, I would put us in a similar mode right now in looking at the landscape and saying, ‘Where is the best fit for what we currently have as well as what we could potentially add or even take away.”