IMSA’s Pro-Am prototype training class is being replicated in the big series as LMP3 has been added to the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2021. In the midst of a regulation change, only brand-new LMP3s, and updated EVO models, will be permitted in the class.
Independent of the new WeatherTech Championship LMP3 class, IMSA’s existing Prototype Challenge series, which uses LMP3 cars, will continue in 2021 for those who prefer to compete in the standalone training series.
The brave decision to adopt LMP3, which comes after three of the WeatherTech Championship’s four categories have faced single-digit entries this season, is meant to bolster overall car counts by as many as 12 LMP3s at six of the 12 rounds on next year’s calendar. It’s believed the selection of 10-12 entries will be based on performances demonstrated in the current Prototype Challenge series.
Prototype Challenge grids featuring between 13 and 18 LMP3s have been seen so far in 2020, which could offer a significant boost to WeatherTech Championship entry lists. Last weekend’s six-hour event at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta featured one of IMSA’s smaller offerings with 27 cars spread across DPi (eight), GT Le Mans (six), LMP2 (two), and GT Daytona (11). With the upcoming departure of the two-car Porsche GT Team from GTLM, the known need for entries to expand the footprint of IMSA’s top series made the inclusion of LMP3 a simple idea to formalize.
Rumored for more than a month, the call to include LMP3 comes with significant questions regarding cost and speed.
Using IMSA’s July visit to Sebring for lap time comparisons against the best LMP3 lap time (1m57s), DPi was nearly 12 seconds ahead (1m46s); LMP2 was well clear (1m51s), and even the factory GTLM entries (1m55s) were faster around the sprawling road course.
Only the Pro-Am GTD class (2m01s) fell behind LMP3, giving IMSA’s technical department some work to do on integrating a new class that could have more cars than any other, and could also pose a few headaches with the formula’s ability to brake late and corner quickly.
Outside of on-track performance, the steep rise in track time will bring an equal hike in costs. With the longest LMP3 race of 2020 scheduled for four hours, the 2021 WeatherTech Championship calendar — if completed with the Daytona invitational — would see an increase from 14 hours of racing to more than 60. Without Daytona, the new LMP3 class will call for 36 hours of action — nearly triple of that found in Prototype Challenge.
Driver regulations for LMP3 offer two options. With a full-time pairing of two drivers, teams can choose to use one Pro with silver or gold rating and one bronze-rated Am or, in recognition of the many young drivers who compete in LMP3, teams can opt for an Am who is either bronze or silver, with the silver driver being under the age of 25 at the start of the season, and a silver or gold Pro, provided the silver is over 25 when the season begins. Platinum-rated drivers are not permitted, and details on endurance driver ratings will be announced at a later date.
IMSA has set a two-year timeline for LMP3 in the main series, and confirmed four constructors will be permitted, represented by Adess, Duqueine Engineering, Ginetta, and Ligier.
2021 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, LMP3
- Roar Before The 24, January 22-24
- Rolex 24 At Daytona, January 28-31 (invitational)
- Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, March 17-20
- Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, May 14-16
- Sahlen’s Six Hours at The Glen, June 24-27
- Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, July 2-4 (DPi, GTLM, GTD, LMP3)
- Road America, August 6-8
- Motul Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta, October 6-9