Double wins come in newly renamed class in IMSA Prototype Challenge, which has added LMP3 cars to the mix
The IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda has undergone some huge changes for 2017, with the introduction of the LMP3 cars. The Mazda-powered Elan DP02s remain, however, as their own class, now known as Mazda Prototype Challenge (MPC).
The LMP3 cars are very much like IMSA’s Daytona Prototype International cars, such as the Mazda RT24-Ps – featuring closed cockpits, although each is powered by a spec V8. It’s a proven international formula that attracted a lot of up-and-coming drivers – Mazda Road to Indy star and Indy Lights competitor Nico Jamin won LMP3 in both races. However, the Mazda Prototype Challenge drivers proved themselves quick, with Sebring International Raceway double winner Kyle Masson of Performance Tech Motorsports finishing fourth and fifth overall in the pair of races that led up to the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
“The start of the race was very interesting with the LMP3s mixed in with the MPCs,” Masson said after the first race. “Obviously, all the P3 cars passed us at the start and it was frustrating because some of them had slower lap times than us [MPC]. I spent the first five or six laps stuck behind the LMP3s and pitted against a JDC car. I had to do my best to get around the LMP3 cars so I could pull away from my competition. Once I made the pass I was able to pull away because he was stuck behind the LMP3 car.”
Masson not only won both races in the Prototype Challenge races in the MPC class, but he also took the Twelve Hours of Sebring victory in the Prototype Challenge class, driving with Indy Lights racer Pato O’Ward and James French. Going back and forth between the two wasn’t easy.
“I would say the most difficult part of the race was coming out of the PC car in WeatherTech practice and going into my No. 18 MPC. I went from trying to figure things out in the PC practice session and then hopping back in the MPC car and trying to remember the momentum and the limit. Everything was just really off for a while; I was running 2:01 lap times. Once I figured it out, I was running lap times around two-minutes flat. I also want to say thanks to Piloti – they’re great driving shoes and I’m honored to be a spokesperson for them this year. I put them to good use this weekend being in both series,” he said.
Kris Wright finished second in Race 1, with Gary Gibson third. Brian Alder was second in Race 2, with Formula Mazda standout Tazio Ottis coming home third. The IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda races at Barber Motorsports Park next, accompanying the Verizon IndyCar Series, Idemitsu MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich® Tires, Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda on April 21-23.