Performance Tech Motorsports could step away from IMSA’s LMP2 class after the Rolex 24 At Daytona and run in the European Le Mans Series.
Four cars are currently confirmed for the LMP2 class at Daytona, although two of them are being fielded by ELMS and WEC (and soon to be IndyCar) regular DragonSpeed. That team isn’t expected to compete in IMSA beyond Daytona, though adding Sebring to its program alongside its WEC commitments is a possibility.
“We’re still in the early stages of planning [an ELMS program],” O’Neill told RACER. “Our biggest concern is what we do if something happens to IMSA P2 — I know IMSA is working hard to try and get three cars in the championship, but it’s hard to sustain it. The business model doesn’t work. You can’t really run a championship with two cars.”
IMSA recently moved to make a P2 program more viable for teams by reducing the class schedule through the elimination of Long Beach and Detroit; a move that O’Neill recognizes is helpful — to a point.
“I give IMSA credit for trying to help us out by moving the calendar to eight races, it helps us sell the program, but at the end of the day, there are only two cars,” he said. “That might be a shock to IMSA, but it shouldn’t have been a shock that Jon Bennett [CORE] wanted to do DPi, there’s no secret there.
“When the opportunity presented itself they went for it, and JDC was the same, as their partners wanted to race in the top class. It’s a double-edged sword – it doesn’t look good with two cars.”
Another factor is the difference in budget required to run in ELMS over IMSA. Even with the logistical challenges of racing in Europe with a U.S.-based team, O’Neill said that it’s still significantly cheaper to run a program in the ELMS than it is to run in the shortened eight-race LMP2 IMSA schedule.
“The budget for ELMS without Le Mans is $1.4 million; if you do testing, $1.5 million. Eight races here, it’s almost two million dollars. That includes moving everything back and forth from the USA to Europe, and it’s only six races instead of eight. There’s a big difference in the number of hours you put on the car, but the competition is there – it’s a huge LMP2 grid.
“The entry fee for ELMS is what the entry fee is for Daytona. It’s difficult, because I’ve been in this paddock a long time, but we bought it last year to do LMP2. Look at how many there were last year — it was awesome. And if you look at what’s happened, it’s almost all DPi [now].”