Longtime Prototype Challenge entrant PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports will step up to the Prototype class in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship next year with a LMP2 car, as part of its eventual goal to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Team owner Bobby Oergel confirmed to Sportscar365 late Friday that his California-based squad will be on the grid with a to-be-determined 2017-spec Gibson-engined LMP2 car next year.
Oergel said he’s in final discussions between two of the four approved LMP2 constructors, with a decision to be made in the next week.
The team’s full-season driver lineup, meanwhile, is nearly finalized, with an announcement also forthcoming.
“I think it’s the right time for the team to move,” Oergel told Sportscar365. “I think it’s the right time to put the driver combination that’s involved to move up. I see it as the right move for our business to be in the beginning stage of what’s to come in Prototype racing.”
The team, which claimed the 2015 Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup in PC with class wins at Daytona, Sebring and Petit Le Mans, came close to entering the P class this year with a HPD ARX-04b, but the deal fell through at the last minute.
Instead, PR1 returned to the PC ranks with Tom Kimber-Smith and Mazda Prototype Lites graduate Robert Alon. The pairing currently sit second in the championship, with class victories at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and Road America.
Oergel is hopeful its commitment to the top class can lead to a DPi program with his team, as well an eventual Le Mans debut.
“Our definite goal is to become part of a manufacturer program and be at an arms-hold with any manufacturer that’s capable and willing and the right partner to be,” he said.
PR1’s commitment marks the first formal full-season confirmation of a LMP2 car for next year’s WeatherTech Championship, with both Ben Keating and Starworks Motorsport yet to detail potential race plans for their Riley Mk. 30 LMP2 cars in North America.
The move also casts further questions over the car count of the PC class, in its final year in 2017. CORE autosport is understood to be preparing for a move to the GT Daytona class with a Porsche 911 GT3 R, which could debut as early as next month’s season-ending Petit Le Mans.