“The appeal of LMP3 is shining through”
Anybody who is friends with me on Facebook or follows me on Twitter would have been very bored of me by 1100hours last Wednesday.
After months of anticipation I finally got to fulfil one of my boyhood dreams and sample a full-blooded Le Mans Prototype, with huge thanks to Onroak Automotive and Ligier’s UK agent United Autosport.
The test day at Snetterton was designed to allow prospective LMP3 customers the chance to have a go in one of the five-litre V8-powered beasts on a virtually empty track. For drivers looking to do the European Le Mans Series, or even those just curious about the formula.
Not only was it the culmination of a dream for me, it was also probably the most nerve-wracking thing I’ve ever done. Although it could have been a toss-up as to who was actually more nervous when I went out for my first run in soaking wet conditions – me or team boss Richard Dean on the pit wall.
The car was sublime and, not wanting to give too much away due to a forthcoming full track test in the Ligier JS P3 in these pages, proved a surprise.
But the day also served to highlight one of the most exciting new concepts in British motorsport – the Prototype Cup.
The class is designed to be a British domestic LMP3 series and has a varied target audience already. It can cater for budding Le Mans drivers making their first step on the prototype ladder, and equally to established LMP3 teams and drivers across the world looking for some extra mileage between either ELMS or Asian LMS rounds.
I was a sceptic of LMP3 when it was introduced. It looked expensive, unnecessary and – considering the cars didn’t even race at Le Mans – rather pointless in truth.
Nearly two years down the line since the first Ginetta LMP3 rolled out, and how the class, and opinions of it, have changed.
Now it does race at Le Mans, courtesy of the Road to Le Mans support event, and LMP3 has almost single-handedly saved the fortunes of the previously struggling ELMS, with half of the 38-car grid now saddled in P3s.
But can a Uk-based series work? Dean tells me P3 powertrains are guaranteed for 10,000km – way over a total season in ELMS – and that because the spares are price-capped, budgets are actually rivalling, or undercutting, GT3.
OK, LMP3 cars may not be as all-round versatile as GT3, which you can literally race every weekend of the year somewhere, but the appeal and value for money of LMP3 is starting to shine through.
Just as British GT has thrived as the feeder to Blancpain GT, the scope is there for Britain to have another powerhouse series a few seasons down the line if the LMP3 growth spurt continues.
Our man tried Ligier Lmp3,and has been converted