With the start of a new racing season – and an entirely new format – on the horizon, IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda drivers and teams ventured onto the banks of Daytona International Speedway, some of them for the first time, this week in preparation for what is no doubt going to be an exciting new “challenge.”
Eleven entries tested during two one-hour sessions Dec. 5 on the 3.56-mile speedway road course in preparation for the first race of the 2018 season, which will take place in just a few weeks at the Roar Before the Rolex 24, Jan. 5-7.
The series will launch an entirely new endurance racing format that allows for single- or dual-driver line-ups competing in a single one-hour, 45-minute race per event weekend for both MPC and LMP3 car classes.
Five teams tested two-driver line-ups, with P1 Motorsports and Eurosport Racing featuring the highest participating number of entries with three each in both LMP3 and MPC classes, respectively.
New to series competition in 2017, P1 Motorsports expands its line-up to a three-car effort, with multiple driver combinations in their LMP3 entries. Matthew Dicken, who is fresh off his rookie season in the series, is joined by sports car veteran Corey Lewis, who is also expected to compete in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship as well, in the No. 17 Ligier JS P3.
Returning P1 Motorsports driver Kenton Koch (pictured) will be joined by Joel Janco, who has participated in the series in the MPC division for many years. The two will be sharing the No. 25 entry.
Jim Garrett, who returns after a few years’ hiatus, will be joined by Robby Foley in the No. 42. Foley, who got his start with P1 Motorsports at Watkins Glen International last season only participated in three events, but proved his skill by accruing two podium finishes in his debut season.
Rounding out the LMP3 entries was the No. 4 of ANSA Motorsports piloted by 2017 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada Gold Champion Roman De Angelis, and the returning Ave-Riley AR2 chassis of Ave Motorsports, with Tony Ave and another series newcomer, Josh Hurley, sharing the No. 44 entry.
In MPC competition, Eurosport returns veterans Tim George, Michal Chlumecky and Jon Brownson. All three drivers have participated in at least two seasons of racing and have plenty of experience in the Elan DP02 MPC chassis, powered by Mazda engines.
“It’s going to bring a whole new flavor to it, that’s for sure,” Brownson saaid of the neww series format. “We did one practice pit stop this morning and we improved exponentially by the second one, so we will have to practice some back in the race shop to get that right.
“It’s going to be fun. There are a lot of drivers that are trying to decide, do they do the whole race themselves? Or do they split? It’s going to make it quite interesting. It brings a whole new dynamic. I’ll probably run it myself. I’ll try the first one myself and see what happens after that.”
MPC Masters champion Stuart Rettie will be returning with ODU Motorsports in the No. 21 Lion Rampant Motorsports entry and he will be joined by his rival Gary Gibson in the Team Perfect Pedal No. 13 entry. The pair shared spirited and friendly competition throughout the 2017 season, often swapping positions on the podium at each venue.
Bart Wolf joined the series at the last race of the season at Road Atlanta in the MPC class, and will be continuing in 2018 in the No. 28 Wolf Motorsports entry.