Additional LMP2 cars are likely to be on the grid of the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship next year, with multiple teams evaluating new and expanded programs, although expressing mixed views on the platform’s future direction.
Prototype Challenge squads BAR1 Motorsports and Performance Tech Motorsports could move up to the Prototype class, while JDC-Miller Motorsports, which made the jump from PC ranks this year, is targeting an expansion into a two-car LMP2 program.
Other teams, including Starworks Motorsport, are also working on potential efforts, which could lead to significant growth over the current three full-season Gibson-powered cars taking part this year.
The influx of prospective LMP2 entries has been largely driven by the demise of the spec prototype class at the end of the year, which has left teams such as Brian Alder’s BAR1 organization looking for a new place to race.
Alder said they’re currently evaluating options in both the Prototype and GT Daytona classes, although the team has already had discussions with two LMP2 constructors during the recent Watkins Glen event.
“We’re definitely looking at where we’re going to land next year,” Alder told Sportscar365.
“Obviously the Ligier and Oreca are very strong cars. Whichever way we go we’d be happy. We just have to see what the best deal is out there and what the makes the most sense for our program long-term.”
The longtime PC entrant is in favor of having a separate LMP2 class, which has been a hot topic in the paddock in recent weeks.
While IMSA President Scott Atherton has downplayed the prospects of split DPi and LMP2 classes in the short-term, Alder said it would go a long way in helping secure customers for 2018.
“Having a separate class would help us with the decision because we’d have a chance, rather than running around and fighting for fifth place, you could actually fight for [class] wins,” he said.
“I feel it’s a no-brainer and they should have immediately gone to that for next year. It’s a very logical next step.
“They have a home for the LMP3s right now and this gives [them] another Pro-Am category, which is always what IMSA has been about.
“To lose a Pro-Am class at the top level, I feel it would hurt the series.”
JDC-Miller team owner John Church, however, strongly disagrees, stressing that DPis and LMP2s should remain under a single class as is the case this season.
“We came here to race for the overall [win], we don’t want another PC class,” Church told Sportscar365. “We want to be recognized with the top class.
“I don’t know why anybody would want to split. Nobody liked the PC class anyway. Why would we go back to that? It seems pretty dumb.
“I think if those guys come into this class they’ll see it differently once they’re here. I think it’s perfect the way it is.”
The Minnesota-based team has been the top-performing LMP2 team this season, with its Oreca 07 Gibson having posted a pair of second place finishes after leading both at Watkins Glen and Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
However, fellow LMP2 teams haven’t tasted as much success, with Visit Florida Racing’s third place result in the Rolex 24 at Daytona having been the only other podium finish for a global-spec prototype so far this year.
While having outlined ambitions of competing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans next year, and also looking to add a second Oreca LMP2 car to its lineup, JDC’s Church said he’s been pleased with the current situation in the top class.
“I think we’re getting closer [in the balance],” he said. “Honestly I give [IMSA] a lot of credit. I don’t have a lot of complaints with the BoP. I think they’re doing a good job.”
Visit Florida Racing team owner Troy Flis, however, doesn’t feel every LMP2 car has an equal shot of mixing it up for the overall win, with his Riley Mk. 30 Gibson having struggled to match the pace of the Oreca all season.
Per IMSA’s agreement with the ACO, LMP2 cars serve as the performance baseline in the class, with no Balance of Performance adjustments permitted to be made to the global-spec prototypes.
“It will be tough to race for an overall championship with a LMP2 car in my opinion,” Flis told Sportscar365.
“We saw that the first race of the season. We were hoping that maybe IMSA would be able to do some BoP and get that in control but it doesn’t look like it’s gotten there yet.
“With the rules, we can’t do much to our cars. It’s not like the DP where we can go back and work on it a little bit and change some things around. These cars you have to run to the rulebook.”
Flis, who is weighing his options for next year, including a move to a DPi car, said the future makeup of the category is in IMSA’s hands.
“I know there’s a lot of rumors going around the paddock about what they could do and what they should do,” he said. “They’re the sanctioning body and they’ve got to make the decision.”