While discussions continue on the future of the Prototype Challenge platform, the existing spec Oreca FLM09 cars could receive a series of updates for next year’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season.
The possible updates, ranging from a 30-50 horsepower increase, to a new ECU that includes traction control and telemetry, and minor aero changes have been proposed by teams as a cost-effective, stop-gap measure for the aging French prototype until the introduction of an all-new platform for as early as 2017.
IMSA met with PC team owners last weekend at Circuit of The Americas to discuss various options for the future.
“IMSA continues to evaluate the future of the Prototype Challenge class through 2016 and beyond,” said Simon Hodgson, IMSA managing director, racing operations.
“As part of this process, IMSA has ongoing dialog with current PC competitors, as well as ORECA and Katech, the current single-specification suppliers, in addition to considering other options.
“IMSA will ensure our loyal PC stakeholders – and any future stakeholders – are kept fully informed as we near a conclusion to this evaluation process.”
While PC team owners had previously been split on the category’s future direction, the majority appear to be in agreement of rolling out updates to the existing car for 2016, prior to a complete new platform the following year.
“We’ve been working pretty hard with IMSA since Laguna on this project, everything from the future of the class to trying to bring in the LMP3 car,” Starworks Motorsport team owner Peter Baron told Sportscar365.
“I think the series has done a good job with trying to be financially reasonable and responsible for what the class needs and not go crazy with it. LMP3 didn’t work out, so now the future is to upgrade the PC car.”
IMSA hosted an open test with a Ginetta-Nissan LMP3 car at Watkins Glen in June, which saw a number of drivers walk away less-than-impressed with the low power output and handling of the British-built entry level prototype.
While further LMP3 examples have come online since, including the highly regarded Ligier JS P3, current PC teams have expressed interest in developing an all-new platform for 2017 that’s largely based off of a new-spec P2 car.
The latest proposal differs from ORECA’s proposed upgrade kit, which would have resulted in an entirely new set of bodywork.
“From my perspective, there’s only really two viable paths,” CORE autosport Chief Operating Officer Morgan Brady told Sportscar365. “The one that we’re discussing are the smaller technical updates as a stop-gap measure.
“The one I’m interested in and excited about would be basically a P2-derived spec chassis as a replacement for the LMPC car. That would certainly be interesting for me.
“As far as LMP3, I don’t think it’s really an option based on outright performance. And if the LMPC car has a short lifecycle left, it doesn’t make sense to do a large, excessive update.”
While IMSA has yet to make a final decision on possible updates to the existing FLM09s, Brady feels the proposed changes, estimated to cost between $30,000-50,000 in total, would be a step forward for next year.
“When we started looking at options for the PC car, there’s not a whole lot of things wrong with it but there are some key aspects missing,” he said.
“I think with a cost-effective update that brings some additional technology and drivability to the car, it would create a lot of interest and potentially increase the car count for next year.”
Baron, meanwhile, agrees that interest in the class could go up, particularly as operating costs are expected to rise in other categories.
“With the costs of the GTD packages all going up, I think there’s a lot more activity and interest for the PC class,” he said.
A final decision on what upgrades will be used in 2016 is expected to be made in the coming weeks, possibly during the Petit Le Mans weekend.
“Time is of the essence, and it’s of paramount importance that any decision provides clear direction for stakeholders and reflects IMSA’s continued goal of providing our competitors with a platform that is cost effective, stable and speaks to the Pro-Am nature of the class,” Hodgson added.