LMP3 teams, drivers eager to build on a solid first season of WeatherTech
After nearly a year of LMP3 machine racing in the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship, stakeholders believe the class is well positioned to continue to grow in 2022.
A number of people who spoke to RACER have expressed their great appreciation to IMSA for bringing the class to the WeatherTech Series and giving smaller budget teams the opportunity to compete in the top of the line series. organizing body.
“If it hadn’t been for an LMP3, I probably wouldn’t be in the WeatherTech series,” Brent O’Neill, owner of Performance Tech Motorsports told RACER. “I would probably just focus on the IMSA Prototype Challenge stuff.”
O’Neill was one of the early supporters of LMP3 in the WeatherTech series when the class was announced. Although he initially feared the change might cause short-term challenges for his team, he was optimistic it would work in the long term.
“Change is good sometimes,” O’Neill said. “We got into it with Andreas Gutierrez [in 2017] and we haven’t looked back. I mean, I have five in my shop right now. Our phones are ringing nonstop for next year. We have four or five days of testing, with European drivers coming to test with us. I think LMP3 surprised a lot of people, even on the IMSA side.
The class has also been attractive to pilots for a number of reasons: the cost is much lower than the GT Daytona, and the spec class prevents the balance of performance from interfering with track battles.
Gar Robinson, who runs the LMP3 Drivers’ Championship with Riley Motorsports (pictured above) considered racing in LMP2 this season, but decided not to do so after it became clear that there would be not so many registrations. Seeing more potential for better races and growth in the category, Robinson chose to enter LMP3.
“I think all the numbers and all the driver ratings and everything with LMP3 line up really well, and I think that makes for a really good and competitive group,” said Robinson. The class is a different animal because in LMP3 you don’t have to play the BoP game. You just showed up and you race and the best teams climb to the top. I prefer that kind of racing than playing BoP games and having to deal with all that stuff. “
After spending the 2020 season in GT Daytona, Robinson and Riley Motorsports were considering their options for 2021 when the news that LMP3 would be in the WeatherTech series fell.
“Last year was a lot more expensive for us and we were definitely looking for options for 2021,” said Robinson. “When it was announced that the LMP3 was going to be introduced in the WeatherTech series, it was a perfect match.”
After growing up watching his father’s racing prototypes, including racing with Bill Riley, having the chance to switch from expensive GT machines to the cheaper prototype racing style his father raced made the choice even easier.
“I think the car seemed, at least, a lot more fun to drive than the GT cars,” said Robinson. “I think GT cars are great, but driving a prototype car is on another level, it’s crazy. I grew up watching my dad drive prototype cars and that was always something I wanted to do.
Jarett Andretti has also been pushed into the category by its attractive cost level and the prospects for driver and team development as he hopes to make the jump to European sports car racing.
“I’ve always wanted to enter the prototype arena and LMP3 makes a lot of sense for a number of reasons,” said Andretti.
In addition to the cost, the class fits in a nice place in the best IMSA series. Not being the fastest class means you have cars overtaking you and not being the slowest class means you have to deal with traffic.
“You’re right in the middle of class so it teaches you a lot about traffic,” Andretti said. “You have to deal with slower traffic, but you also have to deal with faster traffic and that puts you in a tough spot, so I think it’s really, really, a great place to learn.”
Perhaps the strangest thing about the current state of LMP3s in IMSA is that no one is complaining – aside from Andretti’s wish for a simpler driver’s license rule set, a theme in all of them. motorsport factions.
“Leave him alone and he will grow up,” O’Neill said.
Robinson added: “I’m pretty happy with how it’s gone this year. I think IMSA should leave him alone.
Naturally, Andretti, Robinson and O’Neill are all working on plans to return to LMP3 next year.
” We hope. We’re working on it right now, ”Andretti said. “I think it’s a great class.