IMSA WeatherTech Championship season preview: LMP3

Jake Galstad/Motorsport Image

IMSA WeatherTech Championship season preview: LMP3


IMSA WeatherTech Championship season preview: LMP3


In its third year as a class in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, LMP3 has proven a worthy addition to the series. The lower cost of running has allowed more drivers to participate, and the pros in the class are quality racers, as evidenced by last year’s champ Colin Braun being pulled into duty for Meyer Shank Racing’s Acura ARX-06 in GTP.

With Braun exiting, his co-champion Jon Bennett has called time on CORE Autosport, leaving the championship open as its six-race schedule begins this weekend at Sebring International Raceway. It would be easy to think that the team that won the championship in 2021 and finished second to CORE last season would once again ascend to the top of the class. The No. 74 Riley Motorsports squad with core driver Gar Robinson has been reliably in the LMP3 fight, particularly when Felipe Fraga joins him in the car. But several teams have stepped up their game and the championship could be quite a fight.

One of those teams is the No. 36 Andretti Autosport Ligier with Jarett Andretti, Gabby Chavez and, for the endurance races, Glenn van Berlo who put the No. 36 (pictured above) on the Sebring pole with authority. The team finished last year on a high note by wining Petit Le Mans, and has potential to be a championship contender.

“I think we’ve been really strong,” says Andretti. “I think at Sebring we were pretty good; we didn’t get to show our potential. I think we’ve had a really good car at Watkins though as well. I love going to Watkins Glen for a number of reasons. Personally, I think it’s the best road course in North America. That one’s circled on my calendar and would really like to win the Six Hour this year.”

Andretti says he expects the field to be very competitive this year, and hopes to be in that mix.

“There are a lot of good teams here. Riley is the first that comes to mind. They have a great program over there. Obviously, their results speak for themselves. And then you have Creech who have a a really nice program, winning at Sebring last year. Jr III will be back. And there’s a number of other really solid teams, I think the field is really competitive. And there’s been a lot of guys that have been in these cars for a long time and working on these cars. So in some ways, it feels still feels like we’re learning every time because we haven’t had as much time as a lot of these other guys,” he said.

Lance Willsey and Joao Barbosa are back for a full season in the No. 33 Sean Creech Motorsports Ligier, and hoping to build upon a fourth-place finish in the championship last year, including that Sebring victory. Nico Pino is campaigning the endurance races with the team.

“We have improved our knowledge of the Ligier each year, and I think we’ll be even more competitive this year than the past two years,” said Barbosa. “With two years of experience, the team knows exactly what to do.”

Billy Glavin’s Jr. III Racing has proven itself a force in LMP3, and Ari Balogh and Garret Grist finished third in the championship last year on the back of consistent finishes. The team has been working during the offseason and feels they’re ready to contend in the No. 30 Ligier.

“We are ready to be back at the track,” said Grist. “We have been lucky to have some time testing at Sebring before the Twelve Hour. It seems like it has been such a long off-season since we didn’t compete in Daytona for the 24 Hour, but I think that time has been used to our advantage because we’ve had more time to prepare for the season ahead. We’ve made many improvements during the offseason, and I can’t wait to see how the season plays out.”

AWA has made good strides in its two-car Duqueine program, and the No. 13 with Orey Fidani and the No. 17 with Anthony Mantella could make a mark in some races.

The six-race LMP3 schedule includes an equal number of sprint and endurance races. After the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, LMP3 will be included at the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen, Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, Road America, Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.