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JOTA to Skip GT3 Season as Hypercar Program Comes Online

McLaren team set for “short-term” pause of GT3 program as Porsche LMDh project ramps up…

Photo: Kevin Pecks/SRO

JOTA will not contest this year’s Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS season as it focuses on activating its new Hypercar program with a Porsche 963.

The British squad has fielded a McLaren 720S GT3 in the Pro class of the SRO Motorsports Group series for the last two seasons, running it alongside a long-standing LMP2 operation in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

However, this year JOTA is set to concentrate fully on its prototype racing exploits in LMP2 with an Oreca 07 Gibson and Hypercar as a Porsche LMDh customer outfit.

Co-owner Sam Hignett told Sportscar365 that the team is not permanently closing the door on GTWC Europe and described its 2023 absence as a “short-term” measure.

JOTA is awaiting delivery of a new Hertz-backed Porsche 963 which it plans to run in the WEC’s top category. It is also seeking to defend its LMP2 title with a single-car effort.

“We are not competing in GT3 in 2023 because we’re putting all the resources into LMP2 and LMDh,” Hignett said.

“It’s a short-term thing to cover off the additional resources needed in LMDh. That’s the reason for it. We’d very much like to return to GT racing in the future.”

Hignett explained that the staff who have worked on the McLaren are needed in JOTA’s diversifying prototype venture, while the decision to complement Hypercar with an LMP2 entry marked the point at which the GT3 program became untenable for this year.

He added that it was “never an issue” for JOTA to run the GT3 McLaren alongside the LMDh Porsche from a brand loyalty perspective.

“We’ve got a championship and Le Mans to win in LMP2, as well as in LMDh with our new car and new project,” Hignett said.

“With an increase in complexity, we’re better off just pooling our resources into those two programs.

“[The GT3 staff] originally came from the LMP2 team. Then the LMP2 team has grown and they’re coming back in.

“Resource-wise, we’ve effectively got a three-car LMP2 team running one LMP2 and one LMDh.”

JOTA joined the Endurance Cup grid in 2018 when it operated R-Motorsport’s Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3s in partnership with Arden International.

That program ran for two seasons and was on course for a third until R-Motorsport stepped away during the COVID-19 pandemic. JOTA then filed an independent entry in 2021 with a factory-driven McLaren for Rob Bell, Ben Barnicoat and Oliver Wilkinson.

Marvin Kirchhofer replaced a Lexus-bound Barnicoat in the lineup for JOTA’s second season with the 720S GT3 last year.

Hignett described the team’s recent GTWC Europe spell as a “good learning experience”.

JOTA finished seventh and eighth in the last two 24 Hours of Spa editions and was one of five cars to score overall points in every Endurance Cup race that it finished last season, although it fell short of claiming a podium.

The McLaren also appeared in GTWC Europe Sprint Cup but that program ended prematurely this year after a Pre-Qualifying accident during round two at Magny-Cours.

“When you look at races finished, we were quite high in what we achieved,” Hignett reflected. “Spa was always good. I think we were the best single-car team.

“There is a lot to be said for having a second car. It’s less a resource or efficiency thing: it’s more about controlling your own destiny in the pit lane. We were always having trouble with our competitors on either side.

“Whereas when you’ve got a second car, you’ve got a lot more control over when you box and making sure you don’t get boxed in. It was very difficult doing it with one car.

“It was a good learning experience. We started in 2018 with R-Motorsport. It’s been great, but we’re just going to park it for a year and get on top of this [LMDh] program.

“And then, who knows, maybe come back.”

JOTA’s absence from the GTWC Europe grid raises the question of whether McLaren will have a car fighting for overall honors in the Endurance Cup this year.

JP Motorsport, which fielded a Pro McLaren last season, is currently only confirmed for the Sprint Cup while 2016 Endurance Cup teams’ champion Garage 59 has expressed interest in returning to the top division.

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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