IMSA proposes IPC replacement with LMP3 and GT4 cars – Sportscar365

Photos: IMSA

IMSA has proposed replacing its Prototype Challenge series with a combined grid of LMP3 and GT4 machines, with a possible shake-up in the race format as well.

Sportscar365 has learned that the sanctioning authority will be abandoning its LMP3-only series in favor of introducing a multi-class championship with a new name from next year.

IMSA President John Doonan acknowledged that discussions are ongoing with teams and stakeholders to make a formal announcement of future direction at the annual State of the Sport speech at Road America in August.

Elements under consideration include creating a sprint series with two 45-minute races during each event, versus the current IPC format of individual 90-minute races plus a three-hour endurance race at Daytona International Speedway.

According to Bill Riley, who runs both LMP3 and GT4 machines in IMSA-sanctioned series, the potential move to a sprint format would offer a number of advantages for the successor to IPC.

“I think it would be great for a lot of reasons,” he told Sportscar365.

“It would be a great place for a Sprint GT4 program because it’s ongoing [Michelin Pilot Challenge] GS is pretty expensive with all the pit stops and crew you need.

“I think it fits that bill pretty well. Also, there is a good highlight for the LMP3 cars as well. It might be cheaper to run the cars.

“If they do the race format where you don’t pit, it would save a lot of money for the teams.”

Riley said one of his Toyota GR Supra GT4 customers would be looking to contest both the Michelin Pilot Challenge – which will remain in the same GS (GT4) and TCR class format next year – and the newly proposed LMP3/GT4 series.

“We have a reserve car, so we would use a reserve car in the sprint [series] and use a primary in GS,” Riley said. “In our case, it could work out quite well for us.”

Jr III Racing Team Principal Billy Glavin also supports the proposed LMP3/GT4 combination, which has not been seen in mainstream sportscar racing competition outside of several one-off endurance races.

However, Glavin has reservations about a potential sprint format, particularly for LMP3 cars.

“There are a lot of lap times between the two classes so sharing a track isn’t a problem,” he told Sportscar365.

“In terms of its sprint format, the LMP3 was built as a long-distance car.

“The current IPC format of 90 minutes is not long enough to be an endurance race as it is just a pit stop for driver changes, fuel and tyres.

“There’s not a lot of strategy in the 90 minute races, but you still need all the pit crew and equipment to make a stop, which increases the budget.

“It will also put the LMP3 in direct competition with the other pure sprint racing series such as MX-5, Carrera Cup, Super Trofeo and Ferrari Challenge, but without the support and pedigree of the manufacturer.”

IPC and WeatherTech Championship LMP3 competitor Sean Creech agrees with Glavin

“A sprint format with no pit stops takes away that competitive aspect as the crews do their job just like the drivers do theirs,” Creech told Sportscar365.

“And a sprint format means only one rider, so the series would lose another rider – and when you have two riders in that type of series it means they can share the cost, which makes it more affordable.

“Then you have the time difference. The GT4 cars are quite fast in a straight line, but the LMP3 cars are fast both in the corners and in a straight line.

“The question would also be the number of individual classes.”

Performance Tech Motorsports team owner Brent O’Neill has recognized the cost-effectiveness of moving to a sprint format for LMP3, which would differentiate it from the current eligibility of LMP3 and GT4 in the WeatherTech Championship and Pilot Challenge, respectively.

However, like Glavin and Creech, he agrees that reducing race length could be a problem, especially for bronze-rated drivers.

“Obviously the budget would go down with fewer hours in the car, but a lot of the Bronze drivers pay attention to how much it costs and how much time they spend in the car,” O’Neill told Sportscar365.

“If you look at Mid-Ohio, most Bronze drivers in IPC who fund the weekend get about 30 minutes of practice time, a 15 minute qualifying session, and then the minimum driver time in the race (about 45 minutes).

“The Silver drivers get most of the driving time on weekends and usually don’t pay anything, so the price per lap for the Bronze drivers in the IPC is quite high at the moment.

“That’s why a lot of drivers are switching to WeatherTech.”

Doonan, meanwhile, would not confirm LMP3’s suitability for the WeatherTech Championship beyond this year, stating that all class and race structure announcements will be made at Road America.

As with the proposed LMP3/GT4 series, Sportscar365 understands that the continued suitability of LMP3 in the top series has been a point of discussion.

John Dagys is the founder and editor-in-chief of Sportscar365. Dagys was a motorsport correspondent for and SPEED Channel for eight years and has contributed to numerous other motorsport publications worldwide. Contact John

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