Jarett Andretti says Andretti Autosport’s sooner-than-expected step up to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was made possible due to a number of factors, including the prospects of potentially seeing Marco Andretti at the wheel later this season.
The LMP3 operation, which was originally slated to compete in a full season of IMSA Prototype Challenge, has moved into full-time WeatherTech Championship competition with its Ligier JS P320 Nissan beginning with this weekend’s round at Mid-Ohio.
Andretti, the son of the late John Andretti and grand-nephew of Mario, is making his series debut in the team’s No. 36 entry alongside open-wheel rising star Oliver Askew.
It comes after two previous prototype starts, in the first two IPC races of the season at Daytona and Sebring.
“We planned to do IPC for a while and then move into WeatherTech,” Andretti told Sportscar365. “Obviously that’s where everybody wants to be.
“We just went to work with a lot of partners, Gallant in particular, to get moved up to the WeatherTech Championship. We worked on some activation and some other things and this got us to this point.
“We also wanted to make the step [because] of Marco’s announcement. Hopefully we can do something together later in the season. We’ll see what happens.
“We’re just excited to be here and have the chance to compete with everybody at Mid-Ohio.”
Andretti, who contested Pirelli GT4 America for the last two years, admits the move to LMP3 machinery has provided a steep learning curve, particularly with the car’s level of downforce.
Mid-Ohio will also add a new dynamic for the 28-year-old third-generation racer, who is set to experience multi-class racing for the first time.
He tested at the 2.258-mile 13-turn circuit last month but when the program was still earmarked for IPC competition.
“The downforce is something I’ve continued to get used to,” he said. “With the GT car, it’s basically all mechanical grip. I was in a GT4 car so I took a couple of steps [up].
“Just getting used to trusting the downforce and everything it has to offer. You have more tools to use like engine maps. I’m just trying to get used to that.
“This weekend it will be about longer races and traffic.
“The difference seems to be here, between these cars and the GTD cars, is the same difference between these cars and the DPi cars.
“It’s going to be where you’re ending up catching GTD cars at the same time DPis are catching you. It will be all happening at one point.
“I’ll be interested to see how that goes. I think this place isn’t the easiest place to pass on. It’s not like a Daytona where they can go around you on the banking. I think traffic management will be key.
“I try to think about when you’re in sprint car racing, if you have lap traffic or something like that, you’re having to go as quickly as you can.
“You can easily lose a couple of seconds in traffic so you try to minimize that as much as possible.”
Seamless Step From IPC to WeatherTech Championship
Andretti said it hasn’t taken much for the team to move into the WeatherTech Championship paddock, with Andretti Autosport utilizing the same car, crew and equipment this weekend.
Jarett, however, has admitted they’ve placed an order for a larger timing stand and plan to bring on board additional staff for the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen next month.
Apart from a few series-specific technical items, the only thing that’s changed on the car from IPC trim has been the placement of the Gallant logo, which moves to the shark fin because of the location of IMSA’s leader lights.
“It’s fantastic what you can do,” Andretti said. “You can go back and forth if you want to. You can run the big races and then run Prototype Challenge if you want to, whatever makes sense.
“We want to race as much as possible so we would love to run some Prototype Challenge races as well. It’s just a matter of getting another car. It would be tough to do with one car.
“Who knows where it will go but we’re excited to start here in WeatherTech and go from there.”
Team Taking Driver Lineup “One Race at a Time”
When asked if Marco Andretti could join the team later in the WeatherTech Championship season, Jarett said they’re going to take it “one step at a time.”
Marco, who has stepped back from full-time NTT IndyCar Series racing this year, tested the team’s Ligier LMP3 car at Sebring earlier this year.
“I know I’m going to be racing in all of those races but I just don’t know who my co-driver will be yet,” said Jarett.
“We’re letting [Marco] focus on Indy right now then we can revisit it for the remainder of the year.
“This all happened so quickly. We were like, ‘Let’s get to Mid-Ohio regroup and see where we’re at and get through to the next one.'”
Marco’s commitment to Tony Stewart and Ray Evernham’s new Superstar Racing Experience is likely to preclude him from contesting the next two rounds at Watkins Glen, with SRX having scheduled events at Eldora Speedway and Lucas Oil Raceway on June 26 and July 3, respectively.
“It’s all about schedules and what happens,” said Jarett. “We have to look at his other commitments and whatever schedules fit together.”