After nearly a year of LMP3 machinery racing in the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship, the stakeholders think the class is well-positioned to continue growing in 2022.
A number of individuals that spoke to RACER expressed a great deal of appreciation towards IMSA for bringing the class to the WeatherTech series and giving smaller-budget teams an opportunity to compete in the organizing body’s top-line series.
“If it wasn’t for LMP3, I probably wouldn’t be in the WeatherTech series,” Brent O’Neill, the owner of Performance Tech Motorsports told RACER. “I would probably be just concentrating 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 initially he was worried that the change might bring short-term challenges for his team, he was optimistic that it would work out in the long-term.
“Change is good sometimes,” O’Neill said. “We jumped into it with Andreas Gutierrez [in 2017] and we haven’t looked back. I mean, I’ve got five of them in my shop right now. Our phones are ringing off the hook for next year. We’ve got four or five test days, with drivers from Europe coming over to test with us. I think LMP3 has surprised a lot of people, even on the IMSA side.”
The class has also been attractive for drivers for a number of reasons: the cost is much lower than even GT Daytona and the spec class prevents balance of performance from interfering with the on-track battles.
Gar Robinson, who leads the LMP3 driver’s championship with Riley Motorsports (shown above) considered racing in LMP2 this season, but decided against it after it became clear there wouldn’t be that many entries. Seeing more potential for better racing and growth in the class, Robinson opted to enter LMP3.
“All the numbers and all of the driver ratings and everything with LMP3 I think lines up really well, and I think it yields a really good and competitive group,” Robinson said. The class is a different animal because in LMP3 you don’t have to play the BoP game. You just show up and you race and the best teams rise to the top. I prefer that kind of racing rather than playing BoP games and having to deal with all that sort of stuff.”
After spending the 2020 season in GT Daytona, Robinson and Riley Motorsports were looking at their options for 2021 when the announcement that LMP3 would be in the WeatherTech Series came down.
“Last year was a lot more expensive for us and we were definitely looking at options for 2021,” Robinson said. “When it was announced that LMP3 was going to be introduced into the WeatherTech series it was a perfect match.”
After growing up watching his dad race prototypes, including racing with Bill Riley, getting a chance to switch from the expensive GT machinery to the cheaper prototype-style of racing that his dad raced made the choice even easier.
“I think the car seemed, to me at least, a lot more fun to drive than the GT cars,” Robinson said. “I think the GT cars are great but driving a prototype car is on another level, it’s insane. I grew up watching my dad drive prototype cars and it’s just always been something that I’ve wanted to do.”
Jarett Andretti was also driven to the class 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 get into the prototype arena and LMP3 makes a lot of sense for a number of reasons,” Andretti said.
In addition to the cost, the class fits into a nice place in IMSA’s top series. Not being the fastest class means you have cars passing you and not being the slowest class means you have to deal with traffic.
“You’re right in the middle of the classes so it teaches you a lot about traffic,” Andretti said. “You have to deal with slower traffic but you also have to deal with quicker traffic and it puts you in a tough situation so I think it’s a really, really, good place to learn.”
Perhaps the strangest thing about the current state of LMP3 in IMSA is that no one has any complaints — apart from Andretti’s wish for a simpler driver license rules package, a theme in every faction of motorsports.
“Just leave it alone and it’ll grow,” O’Neill said.
Robinson added, “I’m pretty happy with the way it played out this year. I think IMSA needs to leave it alone.”
Naturally, Andretti, Robinson, and O’Neill are all working on plans to return to LMP3 next year.
“We’re hoping for it. We’re working for it right now,” Andretti said. “I think it’s a great class.”