Year in and year out, some of the best racing takes place in the two days leading up to the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
This year, a brand-new class debuts that has never before competed in North America—the LM P3 series, a closed-cockpit car powered by a muscular 420-horsepower, 5.0-liter V-8, connected to a sophisticated sequential gearbox.
Born in Europe, the LM P3 cars are sanctioned there by the French Automobile Club de l’Ouest, or ACO, which governs the cars that race in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. A total of six manufacturers have been approved by the ACO to build the cars, and models from four of those manufacturers will be represented in the two Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda races, with the second one taking place on March 17 at 10:45 a.m.
Since 2018 is the final season for the Prototype Challenge class that races on Saturday in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours, IMSA saw the need to develop a new series that will give racers some experience in prototype cars similar to the ones that race in the top class of the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, and even use tires from the same manufacturer, Continental.
The LM P3 cars share the same configuration with the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Prototypes, which will be battling for the overall win at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours on Saturday.
The existing Mazda Prototype Challenge class has sent plenty of graduates to the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship series, and that number will only grow as the LM P3 class takes root.
The brand-new LM P3 class will be sharing the track with the Mazda Prototype Challenge series, formerly the Lites 1 class. That class has graduated multiple drivers to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship series, including Tristan Nunez, Misha Goikberg, Sean Rayhall, Kenton Koch and Ed Brown.
The entry list for the LM P3 class, along with details on the entrants, are below.
Among the entrants is Paul Fix, who will move over from the top class in the Trans-Am Series, where he missed the season championship by a few points in the past two seasons. Fix will be the only entry racing the Ave-Riley AR-2, which is the only American-built LM P3 car. It was designed by sports car legend Bill Riley and is being manufactured under the leadership of Tony Ave.
Entrant Doug Peterson also has years of experience in the Trans-Am Series, winning two championships. He’ll be driving an HP-Tech Ligier JS P3 for 3-Dimensional Services.
Entrant Colin Thompson is also a familiar name to sports car racing fans. Thompson competed in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge, winning championships both in IMSA competition and World Challenge. His brand new Norma M30—the only one in the field—will be prepared by Kelly-Moss Road and Race, the 2016 champions in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA.
“Having the only Norma M30 in the world, we are taking a pretty big risk,” said team owner Jeff Stone, “but even though this car is newest to market, I believe it will rise to the top quickly, and possibly even be an advantage.”
Lonnie Pechnik is another entrant with a long resume in sports car racing, having raced with teams that include Flying Lizard, The Racers’ Group and Speedsource. He’ll be behind the wheel of the P1 Motorsports Ligier JS P3.
Entrant Alan Wilzig won a couple of titles in the Mazda Prototype Challenge series and, several years ago, made the news for building his own personal 1.1-mile race track in his front yard in New York state. He will be driving the only Ginetta LMP3 car in the field, backed by Wilzig Racing Manor and fielded by Performance Tech Motorsports.
The rest of the 12-car LM P3 field includes Naj Husain, driving under the Extreme Speed Motorsports banner—the same team that won the 2016 Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. He’ll be in a Ligier JS P3.
Matthew Dicken, who has multiple Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge races under his belt, will be racing a Ligier JS P3 fielded by ANSA Motorsports and backed by the company he founded, Strategic Wealth.
Another entrant, Andrew Guiterrez, will be driving a Performance Tech Motorsports-prepared Ligier JS P3.
Veteran racer Joel Janco is entered for a Ligier JS P3 with JDC Motorsports. He has raced in the Mazda Prototype Challenge Series since 2013, and he also plans to race the LM P3 in Europe this season.
Rob Hodes is in the K2R Motorsports Ligier JS P3 and is moving up from the Ferrari Challenge series.
Gerry Kraut is in the Dougherty & Company Ligier JS P3, as a teammate to Joel Janco. Kraut, who has raced in the Lamborghini Super Trofeo series as well as the Mazda Prototype Challenge series, was the first to buy a new LM P3 car after IMSA made the announcement about the 2017 season.
Juan Perez rounds out the roster. He’ll be in the P1 Motorsports/Sonic Tools Jigier JS P3.