The LMP2 class in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship faces an unclear future, with its only two season-long entrants, PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports and Performance Tech Motorsports, having differing prospects for 2020.
While PR1/Mathiasen has expressed plans to expand into a two-car operation, the Brent O’Neill-led Performance Tech operation is exploring its options for next year, which could result in a switch to the European Le Mans Series.
O’Neill has described the current situation as a “struggle for everybody” in the IMSA LMP2 ranks.
“From my vantage point, I don’t know what’s going to happen,” O’Neill told Sportscar365.
“When you’re spending this kind of money, you’re one of [only] the guys here. It’s IMSA’s direction and I get it. But it’s a struggle for anybody looking to come over here, with what the budget is to run over here.
“We’re more than halfway through the season and there’s still just me and Bobby [Oergel, PR1/Mathiasen]. Nobody else.
“And [JDC] still has two cars sitting in his shop. Bobby has a brand-new car sitting in his shop.”
Oergel, meanwhile, has a more positive outlook of the class, and has suggested that further changes to the calendar be made for 2020 that would see the Rolex 24 at Daytona become a non-points race for LMP2 teams.
It would thus create a seven-race season for LMP2 teams at an estimated budget of $1.5 million, according to the longtime Prototype Challenge entrant.
“It makes all the sense in the world,” Oergel told Sportscar365.
“You’re going to have three-quarters more mileage, if not double, of what the ELMS is right now for the same money, and maybe even a little less depending on the team you talk to.”
Oergel said it would allow different driving crews for Daytona and help with the current front-loaded season budget constraints that teams are faced with.
“To me it becomes a bit more of a crown jewel like Le Mans is for the U.S,” he said.
“Because let’s say you’re chasing a points championship and only one of your guys can afford to do Daytona, and his sponsors and partners want it.
“All of a sudden that hurts your dynamic for the season if you can’t fulfill their need.
“When you can cut that piece out of it and be from the middle of December to the end of January on a Daytona project that’s going to be subsidized already, I don’t have to equate it into my full season budget, it’s a big chunk.”
O’Neill, meanwhile, said his drivers are indifferent about making Daytona a non-points race.
“I think there’s a lot more important things to figure out in this class and setting than just saying is Daytona going to be a points race or not,” he said.
Atherton: Plan to Keep LMP2 “As Is” for 2020
IMSA President Scott Atherton told Sportscar365 that the current plan is to keep LMP2 “as is” for next year, although they continue to talk with current and prospective teams to the Pro-Am-enforced class.
“We’ve followed exactly the requests of the competitors last year when we made the decision to split the class and remove the street circuits, etc,” Atherton said.
“All of those things were the byproduct of a lot of good dialogue. But there’s no wavering on our part as far as keeping the platform intact.”
When asked if an adjusted schedule, to make Daytona a non-points race for LMP2 teams, could be an option, Atherton said he’d need to be “convinced” that making such a change would have a positive result on the car count.
“We would be more cautious moving forward of making changes to our schedule based on how things have played out with the changes that have already been implemented,” he said.
Performance Tech Decision by August
O’Neill said a decision on his team’s LMP2 future will likely be made by next month, although admitted he’s already had discussions with his current drivers on the prospects of an ELMS program.
“I’m hoping that IMSA has some clarity on what their direction is, because really, they haven’t given us any direction,” he said.
“They say they are invested in this and want to make it work. I get it.
“I want to see it work because I rather not pack up my stuff and go to Europe. But you have to do something. How do you let a $500,000 [car] sit around and do nothing?
“I’m a realist. I’m not looking at this thinking it’s all rosy and beautiful and great.
“It’s not, from my vantage point. If there was, there would be all the guys from Europe wanting to come over and doing this.”