Jr III’s Glavin prepares for a future without LMP3 in IMSA’s WeatherTech Series
As IMSA wrestles with how to handle increased grid sizes as the GTP class grows, it has chosen to limit the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship to four classes, with LMP3 returning to IMSA’s VP Racing SportsCar Challenge, which was its home until 2021. Most of those affected by the decision weren’t shocked, and are trying to figure out their next move.
“The announcement did not come as a surprise, and I appreciate that John [Doonan, IMSA president] called to confirm the news with me before it was made public,” says Jr III Racing owner Billy Glavin.
“Starting with our program in IMSA Prototype Challenge, the LMP3 platform has been a fantastic way for Jr III Racing to grow within IMSA to now compete in both VP Racing as well as in WeatherTech. Ligier has been a great partner to us over the course of the years and we look to finish the year on a high note. We are working to continue to race in WeatherTech in the future, and appreciate the clarity that this announcement is creating for everyone in the paddock.”
Glavin’s participation in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship has been centered on LMP3 – he also runs LMP3 cars in IMSA’s VP Racing SportsCar Challenge. He has enjoyed running the car for customers in the WeatherTech Championship not only because it’s the cheapest avenue to entry into the series, but because it’s a great platform.
“It’s a racer’s car, so it doesn’t have a lot of electronics to lean on,” he explains of the class’s appeal. “It’s a very safe package. You get a car that’s faster than a GT3 car for the price of a GT4 car – if not even a little cheaper, depending on which cars. And you just can’t beat that package. It’s relatively easy to run and relatively easy to fix. So in my opinion it makes great sense for the gentleman driver or the customer racer that just wants to drive something on track that is fun, safe and relatively easy to drive and something that you can fix regularly and pretty easily.”
While Glavin and other LMP3 teams had held hope that the class had a future in WeatherTech, they were also preparing for a future without it. Andretti Autosport and Jarett Andretti, a competitor in the class since 2021, is adding an Aston Martin Vantage GT3 to the stable to compete in the GTD class with Gabby Chaves, beginning with the Laguna Seca round next weekend. And Glavin is looking at GT3 options as well as LMP2.
“We’re excited about what we have for the rest of this year,” he says. “But after that, I really have no plans. I’ve certainly started looking at P2 programs or or GT3 programs. LMP2 is more in line with what we’ve been doing, right? It’s a prototype; a lot of similarities between the two classes. It’s a very sophisticated and expensive machine, especially coming from a P3 world. So that that makes things a little challenging to line up, because it’s just a different level of operating budget, both for the teams as well as the customer.
“But I feel like it’d be a relatively easy transition. We would be fighting against teams that have been running these cars for multiple years now, so we would definitely be at a little bit of a disadvantage from that standpoint.
“And then a GT3 machine… for me that would just be tied to whether whatever customer we found that would want to do it. The GT3 machines are great packages for customers that have come up through the ranks of an OEM like Porsche or BMW; they eventually work their way up and ultimately end up at the top of the manufacturer’s list, which is the GT3 car. So I feel like there are a lot of opportunities there. And those cars are constantly getting renewed and constantly have new ones coming out.”
A move up to LMP2 is one of the options on the table for JR III Racing as it prepares for LMP3’s exit from IMSA’s WeatherTech Championship. Jake Galstad/Motosport Images
LMP2 is secure for another two years with the current chassis. But all the LMDh manufacturers participating in GTP also have to make the backbone of their cars the basis for the next generation of LMP2 racers, so the grid will be full of all-new machinery in the not-too-distant future; any investment in an LMP2 car now will not be long-term one. From an operational standpoint, Glavin says the car’s take about the same manpower and effort. But the initial equipment costs going from LMP3 to LMP2 are much higher, and the engine service life is shorter. Glavin says Nissan P3 engines are owned and have a rebuild interval of 10,000km. The Gibson engines used in P2 are leased, and have a life of 30 hours between rebuilds.
Likewise, initial costs for a GT3 program are much higher than P3, but operationally not incredibly different. GT3 cars are a little more difficult to work on and repair, and like LMP2 a little more complicated. There are pros and cons to both. But whatever avenue he chooses, Glavin hopes that Jr III Racing can remain a part of the WeatherTech Championship.
“I think it’s a it’s a great time for IMSA,” Glavin says. “IMSA’s paddocks are full, they’re having to turn people away. That’s all great stuff. And I understand where LMP3 falls in the order and it’s been a great time to be a part of it. It’s a little bittersweet, but it’s still been a lot of fun to get to this level and hopefully we can find a way to stay at it and and keep racing at that level, or at least working our hardest to get back to it at some point down the road.”
In the meantime, he has a wishlist as a fan of endurance racing and LMP3 as the perfect entry point to the sport: While the VP Racing SportsCar Challenge fills a niche, he’d like LMP3 competitors to have the option of longer races with pit stops and driver changes, noting that the length of Michelin Pilot Challenge races seems pretty ideal.
“From a time perspective, I think that’s a two or a four hour race, or anywhere in between, it’s where an LMP3 car really excels,” he says.
“The longer races, some of the cost efficiencies of a P3 go away just because of the sheer logistical costs of running a longer race. And then the shorter races, you can’t share the car and you can’t do some of the stuff that’s really appealing to a lot of drivers – the strategy, the pitstops, the driver changes. So you take out some of that when you go to a sprint format, like you have in VP. So somewhere in between would be ideal for a customer racing program.
“Looking to Europe, you have Le Mans Cup-style race, which is two hours, two drivers; or ELMS-style race, which is four hours. Those fields are packed, those grids are packed, and that’s all customer racing. So there seems to be a strong market for that. It’s just a matter of finding a North American home for that.”
The removal of LMP3 as a class in the WeatherTech Championship was not at all unexpected, but that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t met with some disappointment for those participating in the class. But LMP3 seems to have a bright future in the VP Racing SportsCar Challenge, where drivers still get the experience of multi-class racing mixing it up with GT4 cars; Glavin and others just want a place to exercise their endurance racing chops with the cars.