It’s officially go time for championship contenders in the IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda.
With only two races remaining, the series makes its penultimate stop this weekend at Virginia International Raceway, the only prototype racing on a jam-packed weekend schedule that includes the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s GT classes.
A total of 22 cars are entered, including 14 in the LMP3 class. The one hour, 45 minute race can be streamed live on IMSA.com on Saturday, Aug. 18 at 5:55 p.m. EDT with an FS2 telecast on Thursday, Sept. 6 at 8 p.m. EDT.
Points Leader Wright Adds Co-Driver Simpson For VIR
A runner-up finish at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park increased Kris Wright’s points lead in the LMP3 class to 13 with just two races remaining.
It’s been an impressive season for the driver of the No. 30 Extreme Speed Motorsports Ligier JS P3 with podiums in all four races – the only IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda driver this season to do so – but as he looks to close out a championship he will get a helping hand from one of the hottest drivers in IMSA in Stephen Simpson.
Simpson has been on fire this summer with a WeatherTech Championship win at Watkins Glen in the No. 99 GAINSCO “Red Dragon” ORECA LMP2 and a Continental Tire Challenge win at Lime Rock Park in the No. 54 JDC-Miller Audi RS3 LMS alongside Michael Johnson. Used to pulling double-duty between the WeatherTech Championship and Continental Tire Challenge, he will double up again at VIR driving in the Continental Tire Challenge race in addition to IPC.
Can McCusker Close The Gap?
As impressive as Wright has been this season, the No. 47 Forty7 Motorsports Norma M30 team has been equally, if not more impressive.
With three finishes of second or better, including a win at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, the only hiccup has been a 16th-place finish at Barber Motorsports Park when driver Austin McCusker was running second with five minutes remaining before an incident with an MPC class car ended his race.
McCusker will again be joined by co-driver TJ Fischer this weekend as the duo looks to gain ground on the points leader, but will undoubtedly need a slip up from Wright to do so.
Historically Close MPC Points Battle Will Come Down To Wire
Think “historically close” may be an overstatement? Think again. With two races remaining in the MPC class, the top seven teams in the standings are separated by only seven points, with the top five separated by three points.
Every point counts from here on in with Jon Brownson leading the way in the No. 34 Eurosport Racing entry. Dr. Robert Masson and Dave House are tied for second, one point back, while co-drivers Tazio Ottis and Bart Wolf are fourth, two points back.
Paul LaHaye and Stephen Dawes are tied for fifth three points back while Canadian Tire Motorsport Park winner Howard Jacobs rounds out the pack seven points back.
Massons Looking To Rebound From Drive Time Penalty
The debut race for father-son pairing Dr. Robert Masson and son Kyle at CTMP appeared to work to perfection with the duo crossing the stripe first.
But upon post-race analysis of drive time requirements, it was concluded that Kyle did not record the minimum 40 minutes of drive time and the No. 11 Masson Spine Institute Elan DP02 was moved to the back of the MPC results.
Dr. Robert Masson lost the class points lead with the penalty, but still only sits one point behind Brownson.
Putting the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park race behind them, the Masson’s are still in a great position to secure Dr. Masson his first IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda title.
Performance Tech Racing With Heavy Hearts
Performance Tech Motorsports is dedicating the VIR weekend to crew member Frankie Parzych who passed away unexpectedly on Aug. 6 at the age of 58.
Parzych was embedded into Performance Tech Motorsports as crew chief and mechanic since the team’s beginning. He joined friend and Team Principal Brent O’Neill in the early 1990s as a Performance Tech customer but stayed on as help for the race shop that became an IMSA sports car racing mainstay.
New Faces Join LMP3
There will be a new entry in the LMP3 class this weekend with Wulver Racing campaigning the No. 60 Ligier for drivers Tonis Kasemets and Bruce Hamilton.
Kasemets is a familiar name to many with a successful career in sports car and open-wheel competition, while Hamilton is the 2017 Atlantic Championship Series Masters Class champion.
In addition to the debut of Wulver Racing, a couple of drivers new to the series will join existing teams this weekend.
Andrew Evans, a 20-year-old driver with a background in karting, formula cars, and sports cars will team up with Leo Lamelas in the No. 7 Charles Wicht Racing Ligier, while Daniel Swanbeck, who has raced through the formula car ladder system including F1600 and F2000, and most recently raced in the Pro Mazda Championship, will co-drive with Hanna Zellers in the No. 87 Five Miles Out Racing Norma.
“I couldn’t be more excited to join FMO Racing,” said Swanbeck. “I am also very honored to be representing Sigora Solar and grateful for our partnership. I hope to make Sigora Solar, my team and our fans proud of my performance at the IMSA Prototype Challenge race at VIR.”