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.”