Mazda’s John Doonan believes the addition of LMP3 cars to the newly renamed IMSA Prototype Challenge powered by Mazda series will help raise the profile of the prototype development series, despite no involvement from the Japanese manufacturer in the PC1 class.
LMP3 machinery will remain with the ACO’s global-spec Nissan-based V8 engine, although unbranded, with Mazda’s MZR engine continuing to power the Elan DP02 cars, which will compete under the PC2 class beginning next year.
“I think Mazda’s involvement in Prototype Lites and now Prototype Challenge is being aligned for our strategy,” Doonan told Sportscar365. “Having Mazda power in the PC2 cars, we have a very successful package there. All of the teams that are in PC2 have built a nice little business around it.
“The LMP3 formula is actually quite good. We haven’t been able to play there because of the spec engine globally. But I do think it will raise the professionalism of that series.”
Doonan, who initially proposed utilizing Mazda’s 2.0-liter turbocharged MZR-R Indy Lights engine for the LMP3 platform in IMSA, said there was no consideration of badging the global LMP3 engine for the series as a Mazda.
“Not just because it’s officially another manufacturer’s engine,” he said. “Some could say the prototype we run in the WeatherTech [Championship] is a badging exercise.
“But we said for sure, from the beginning back in ’07 when we launched that [engine] program that it was not a badging exercise because we’ve had Mazda engineers working with AER engineers. It’s a different deal.
“We didn’t want to go that route [for LMP3]. I had hoped to put the Indy Lights motor in that car but it just didn’t work out from a costs standpoint.”
While under a new name, the PC2 class will continue to receive the same level of support from Mazda, which currently features its scholarship program as part of the “Mazda Road to 24” program that has put Prototype Lites champions into the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
“It’s been a talent factory, when you look at Kenton Koch, Mikhail Goikhberg or Tristan Nunez or now Austin Versteeg and Clark Toppe, these kids that some day, and want to be in the WeatherTech Championship or top-level sports cars,” Doonan said of Mazda Prototype Lites.
“That’s why we make that investment. As long as we can maintain Mazda power, we’ll stay there.”
While currently averaging 20 L1 cars, the series is expected to grow in car count thanks due to the new LMP3 machinery.
Multiple teams, including Prototype Lites stalwarts JDC-Miller Motorsports have already confirmed orders for next year, with new and existing teams evaluating the purchase of LMP3 cars as well.