PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports will head into the 2016 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with a revised driver lineup, as the Bobby Oergel-led team looks to defend its Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup title and Prototype Challenge class victories at Daytona, Sebring and Petit Le Mans.
Tom Kimber-Smith will be joined by IMSA Prototype Lites driver Robert Alon for the full season, with Jose Gutierrez joining the duo for the Patron Endurance Cup races, and Nick Boulle completing the lineup for next month’s season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona.
The California-based team had come close to making a step up to the Prototype class with team veteran Mike Guasch in a HPD ARX-04b, but has refocused its efforts in PC, although without 2013 class champion Guasch or Andrew Palmer, who also played a large part in PR1’s storybook year.
“We’ve had a really busy off season testing a lot of really good, young talent,” Oergel said. “The group that we’ve assembled is going to be a lot of fun to work with.
“We’re blessed to be able to have a group of guys who are extremely talented and all have a common goal which is to defend our win at Daytona and hopefully add another championship.”
“We’re very pleased to have Tom return to the team, and excited to add a lot of fresh blood to the program as well.
“Robert Alon, who we’ve seen progress through the Cooper Tire Prototype Lites, will join Tom for the full season in the WeatherTech Championship, and Jose Gutierrez will help us at all of the long races.
“Nick Boulle will be a great addition to the team in Daytona, and now we’re ready to get to the Roar and have all the guys together in one place and see what they can really do.”
Three-time Le Mans class winner Kimber-Smith returns to the team for the second consecutive season after steering the team’s Oreca FLM09 to four class victories in 2015.
“Going into 2016, it’s going to be very hard to replicate how successful we were in 2015,” he said. “Ideally we want to win that main championship, but right now we’re focused on repeating a win at the 24.
“I think the new drivers are going to have some big shoes to fill, but looking at all they’ve done previously, having met them and seeing what they can do on track, I think we’re in a really good position.”
Alon, meanwhile, steps up to top-level IMSA competition for the first time, having raced competitively for the past five years.
“This will be my first season in the big leagues, and I’m honored to have the privilege of driving with PR1,” Alon said. “This year will be a big challenge for me stepping up from the Cooper Prototype Lites to the PC car, especially with the added weight, downforce and overall performance from the Lites car to the PC.
“I’m definitely up for the challenge, and I’m beyond ready to race at the Rolex 24. We have a really great group of drivers for the 24, and I think we’re going to bring some tough competition to Daytona in January.”
Guasch, who had driven for Oergel’s squad for the last three seasons, is understood to be finalizing a deal to race in Europe, with Palmer having signed with Bentley Team Absoulte for the 2016 Pirelli World Challenge season.