IMSA is looking at placing a limit on the number of entries in the LMP3 class next year following a “super positive” initial response to the category’s launch into the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship next year according to series president John Doonan.
Announced earlier this month, new-generation LMP3 models will be eligible to compete in IMSA’s top series for a six-race championship as well as eligibility in the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
The new-for-2021 class, which is expected to fit between LMP2 and GT Le Mans in level of performance, will likely be capped at yet-to-be-determined number of entries in order to not flood the overall grid.
A similar strategy was enforced in 2010 with the introduction of LMPC into the American Le Mans Series, which capped the class at ten cars.
“I think we’re all taking a very calculated set of steps,” Doonan told Sportscar365. “We have to make sure that the constructors, first of all, can deliver cars in time.
“Second [is] the number of teams in total and the right teams that understand the level of professionalism that’s in WeatherTech.
“We’ve talked about a cap so I suspect there probably will be a cap.
“The exact cap size, we’re wanting to wait and see how much interest we ultimately get to make sure that we have enough or not too many.”
Doonan said the other element of LMP3 they are taking feedback from are permitted driver combinations, having floated two different options for consideration.
One is a mandate of a Bronze-rated driver with either a Silver or Gold, or a Bronze/Silver that’s under the age of 25 paired with a Silver/Gold over the age of 25.
Platinum-rated drivers will prohibited in the class regardless.
“We have to make sure we put forth driver pairings that make sense for the teams from a commercial standpoint, and for the competition on track,” Doonan said.
“We need to make sure when we insert another class into the WeatherTech Championship that it’s done in the right manner.”
The only officially confirmed LMP3 entry so far is a Riley Motorsports Ligier JS P320 Nissan for Bronze-rated gentleman driver Jim Cox and 20-year-old Dylan Murry, who is currently classified as a Silver.
Doonan said he would have a hard time allowing both driver combination options, with a decision likely to be made on one or the other.
IMSA’s technical department is also currently at work evaluating the performance of the LMP3 car, with Doonan citing data from both stateside and overseas.
There are currently no on-track tests scheduled to help validate the planned class separations.
“Most recently we had an event like the Michelin Encore where we saw GT3 cars out there with current generation LMP3 cars — not the Evo. I think we have a pretty good sense,” Doonan said.
“With our partnership with the ACO, we’ve also been looking at the ELMS and what they’ve done with including those cars. There’s been some good benchmarks.
“The next couple of weeks are critically important to make decisions on the driver pairing as well as on the class separation — in terms of performance — to make sure we do make the decisions that are in a good place for everybody.”
As announced in the ‘State of the Sport’ address, LMP3 cars have been confirmed the next two years in the WeatherTech Championship, in what Doonan has labeled as a “short-term possibility” in the series.
He hasn’t, however, ruled out extending the category’s eligibility beyond 2022.
LMP2 Still a “Big Commitment” for IMSA
Doonan stressed that IMSA has not given up on the LMP2 class, despite LMP3’s arrival, stating that he expects the category to rebound back to pre-COVID-19 numbers from this year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, which featured five cars.
“The four constructors [in LMP2] are critically important for LMDh so we want to continue to make sure that platform is relevant,” he said.
“Without the pandemic, I think we had a good four to five cars committed for the season.
“Clearly people had to make business decisions and things like that which weren’t planned at the time.
“We have a lot of interest from new teams wanting to come into the WeatherTech Championship in LMP2.
“I think all of us at IMSA are bullish on the possibility of increasing that field size by 2-3 cars hopefully.”