The rise of LMP3, should GT3 be wor­ried about it?

Motor Sport News - - Feature: Track Test Lmp3 - Pho­tos: Richard Styles

While cur­rently the ma­jor­ity of LMP3 crews are made up of sin­gle-seater grad­u­ates as­pir­ing to­ward a fresh ca­reer di­rec­tion in sportscars, there’s a shift to­ward pro­to­type rac­ing among other driv­ers too, mainly from GT3.

GT rac­ing has long been seen as the first step on the path to Le Mans, but as the cars have be­come faster, more tech­no­log­i­cally ad­vanced and the rac­ing more pro­fes­sional, the bud­gets have grad­u­ally risen. GT3 now finds it­self stand­ing on the precipice.

It is thriv­ing in Europe in the Blanc­pain classes, but that’s mainly due to fac­tory teams and paid driv­ers, the am­a­teur driver el­e­ment of GT3 rac­ing – some­thing the class has al­ways de­pended upon – is dy­ing, or rather, be­ing priced out.

United Au­tosports was a big player in GT3, hav­ing run Audis and Mclarens in Bri­tish, Euro­pean, Asian and Amer­i­can classes.

That has now largely stopped due to the hike in cost of run­ning GT3 ma­chin­ery, as team head Richard Dean ex­plains.

“The new gen­er­a­tion GT3 cars are stun­ning things, but they don’t make much busi­ness sense for a team,” says Dean. “They’ve got­ten so fast now and so com­plex that bud­gets are too high in my opin­ion.

“Part of the dif­fi­culty is the Bal­ance of Per­for­mance [equal­i­sa­tion mea­sures]. It means that pick­ing the best car is near im­pos­si­ble as the best car on one cir­cuit isn’t the best on an­other, and if by chance you do get the best car then you can’t ex­pect it for long as a BOP change is prob­a­bly im­mi­nent. That’s a frus­tra­tion.

“The ma­jor­ity of en­quiries we’re hav­ing for LMP3 now are com­ing from GT3 teams and driv­ers. LMP3 is fixed ho­molo­ga­tion, no BOP, and cost-capped, which seems to be a win­ning mix­ture.

“It’s only in its sec­ond year and there are al­ready 20 cars in the Euro­pean Le Mans Series, it’s in the Asian Le Mans Series and looks likely to be adopted by IMSA in Amer­ica, so it’s spread­ing in the same way GT3 did.

“The Au­to­mo­bile Club de l’ouest [ACO] doesn’t al­low man­u­fac­tur­ers to come in and de­velop the cars, and there are strict cost caps sur­round­ing them. Cars can­not be sold for more than 205,000 euro (roughly £175,000), which is a third of the price of the new Fer­rari 488 GT3, and spares pack­ages can­not ex­ceed 150 per cent of that fig­ure. Driv­ers like the fact they can turn up to any cir­cuit and know they have a car that’s on a par with ev­ery­one else and they won’t sud­denly have to tow a car­a­van for a week­end.

“If driv­ers want the Le Mans ex­pe­ri­ence LMP3 is the best pos­si­ble start­ing point now. It’s cheaper than GT3 and by do­ing the Road to Le Mans sup­port race at the 24 Hours you get the full ex­pe­ri­ence – from be­ing in­volved with scru­ti­neer­ing and night qual­i­fy­ing to rac­ing in front of 250,000 peo­ple on race day.”

United ran Audi GT3 ma­chin­ery

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