IMSA: Early introduction for LMP3?

IMSA: Early introduction for LMP3?

IMSA

IMSA: Early introduction for LMP3?

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IMSA’s aged ORECA FLM09-Chevy LMPC car has one more year of life before it is replaced by a new and undetermined chassis, but it appears a solid direction could already be forming on where the LMPC class is headed.

As RACER revealed in April, IMSA has been leaning toward reducing the number of classes in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship once the current LMPC chassis is parked at the end of 2017. In addition to the LMPC cars being mothballed, the deletion of LMPC class altogether appears to be little more than formality in 2018 as LMPC-style cars move down to IMSA’s Continental Tire Series. That change would reduce the WeatherTech Championship from four classes to three, and increase the Continental Tire Series from two classes to three.

The new and increasingly popular LMP3 cars are expected to supersede the ORECA FLM09s, and in a possible new twist, it’s believed the LMP3s could enter the Continental Tire Series next year – at the same time LMPCs complete their tour of duty in the WeatherTech Championship.

Considerable backlash followed the LMP3-to-Continental idea when it was broached at the beginning of May. But despite the negative feedback at the time, it has not necessarily diminished IMSA’s desire to consolidate Pro-Am LMP3 prototypes and the tin-top Pro-Am Grand Sport and Street Tuner cars in the same series. If all of the unconfirmed plans come to fruition, 2017 would see an old class embark on a farewell tour while ushering in a new class in a new home.

Speaking with IMSA president Scott Atherton, he reconfirmed plans for LMPC to complete the 2017 season, but stopped short on clarifying if, when, or where LMP3 would compete.

“We are actively working on an LMP3 strategy,” Atherton told RACER. “I don’t see that becoming part of the WeatherTech Championship in ’17. We have already announced long ago and have been consistent that our class configuration that includes prototype challenge will remain rock solid through the ’17 season. I think with all of the new content that’s coming in both the DPi example and the ACO spec LMP2 cars, we consider that’s enough new content to not want to add another variable to the mix.”

Like many things related to IMSA’s future, including the possible introduction of a Pro-Am championship within WeatherTech’s Prototype class, Atherton says collective decisions, made with its entrants and partners, must be completed before a definitive answer on LMP3 can be provided.

“The strategic options related to LMP3, and there are many different approaches, are under consideration,” he added. “And it’s part of the same fact-finding town hall discussion process that I referenced [in Tuesday’s Pro-Am story].”

By 2018, with three WeatherTech and three Continental classes in action, and a more defined prototype ladder from LMP3 in IMSA’s Pro-Am series to LMP2 in the big show, American sports car racing could have a less confusing structure in place as the decade draws to a close.

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