United Autosports is expected to expand its IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship involvement beyond this month’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, with the Anglo-Swiss squad planning an entry for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in March.
Sportscar365 has learned that a single Ligier JS P217 Gibson is set to be entered for the second round of the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup, and would thus become the first European-based team to commit to IMSA’s “36 Hours of Florida” initiative.
While the driver lineup has yet to be determined, it’s understood it will not feature any super star drivers such as Fernando Alonso, Paul Di Resta and Lando Norris, who have all been confirmed in the team’s two-car effort for Daytona.
When asked by Sportscar365, team co-owner and managing director Richard Dean denied claims that a deal for Sebring has already been reached but admitted it’s high on their radar screen.
“We’re asking about it, we’d like to do it but we haven’t made an official entry or announcement on it,” Dean said. “A lot will depend on what happens this weekend here.”
It’s understood the close proximity of Sebring to the European Le Mans Series pre-season test at Paul Ricard in early April could pose a logistical challenge, with the team having already committed a two-car ELMS LMP2 effort for 2018.
United So Far Only Florida 36H Participant
Should United officially commit to Sebring, it would become the first, and only, confirmed participant in IMSA’s new-for-2018 “36 Hours of Florida” initiative.
The team incentive program, open to new international teams in the Prototype and GT Daytona classes running at both Daytona and Sebring with Pro-Am lineups, provides discounted entry fees, fuel credit, free tires and an additional benefits.
United and the all-pro Jackie Chan DCR JOTA entries are the only European-based teams that are making its WeatherTech Championship debuts at Daytona.
IMSA President Scott Atherton admitted they expected an increased entry, although has vowed to not give up on the concept.
“Of course you would always want more,” he told Sportscar365. “The initial level of interest was at a very high level. As it turns out, budgets, timing, logistics, the impact it has on their core seasons elsewhere.
“It was a good idea that we still believe has merit. It won’t be a one-and-done. I think we’ll come back and do it again.”
Atherton praised United Autosports’ commitment to Daytona, stating the program has been a success, even with the single team.
“It’s always been the coin of the phrase, the ’36 Hours of Florida’ that had nothing else connected to it,” he said.
“This year, we tried to add some benefit, which we did. The United Autosports guys have brought so much to the party here. If they were the only ones that participated versus another example, I’d say we won.
“If there had to be one, it was the right one.”