Share, , Google Plus, Pinterest,

Print

Posted in:

2021 IMSA/ Rolex 24 Entry List Unpicked: Part 4, LMP3

By Ryan Kish

The addition of the new-for-2021 LMP3 class returning the second generation of LMP3 cars for a short season in IMSA, plus a bolt-on opportunity to contest the Rolex 24 Hours was part of IMSA’s response to a dip in entry numbers.

The seven car entry is perhaps a disappointment when double figures were long predicted.  In part that came as a result of a decision to place significant controls on the driver line-ups with no Platinum rather drivers and only one Gold-ranked driver for the endurance rounds.

That said the entry is an intriguing one with a mix of teams and drivers both with and without LMP3 experience.

There’s another question here too, just how will the little prototypes deal with the challenge of 24-hour racing, even with the insertion of a mandatory 8 minute ‘technical’ pit stop, It’s an almost complete unknown.

#6 Muehlner Motorsports America – Duqueine M30-D08 – Moritz Kranz, Laurents Hörr, Kenton Koch

Muehlner Motorsports had initially targeted a two-car operation for this season, but only one car is listed for the team. However, the team does have two Duqueine M30-D08 cars at their North American base in DeLand, Florida, one of which is a chassis they used in the Michelin Le Mans Cup in Europe.

Regular Le Mans Cup customer Moritz Krantz is the first of two drivers listed alongside now two-time Michelin Le Mans Cup Champion Laurents Hörr who took the title in 2019 and 2020 with DKR Engineering and should be quick in the Muehlner car too.

A later addition is multi-title winning racer Kenton Koch who has race-winning form in IMSA Prototype Challenge having finished as Championship runner-up in 2017.

The intention from Bernhard Muehlner was to field a full season entry but we’ll have to wait and see whether that emerges.

#7 Forty7 Motorsports – Duqueine M30-D08 – Mark Kvamme, Ryan Norman, Gabby Chaves, Charles Finelli (Update Trenton Estep replaces Charles Finelli)

Forty7 Motorsports ran three Duqueine M30’s in last years IMSA Prototype Challenge. The team had one win and two additional podiums on the year with one of their wins coming at Daytona.

The team took the IMSA Prototype Challenge title in 2019 with Austin McCusker and Rodrigo Pflucker after taking the runner-up spot in 2018, again with McCusker.

57-year-old Charles Finelli gets his first Sportscar outing after a recent racing cv in single-seaters.

Reigning Michelin Pilot Challenge TCR Drivers Champion, 22-year-old Ryan Norman gets a first Sportscar drive too after his title last year in a Bryan Herta Hyundai.

Mark Kvamme will start his eighth Rolex 24 Hours with a best result of an LMPC class podium in 2017. He has LMP3 experience too with starts at the Road to Le Mans support race at the Le Mans 24 Hours in both 2017 and 2018.

2014 Indy Lights Champion, Columbian/ American Gabby Chaves shared the Michelin Pilot Challenge TCR Championship with his team-mate here Ryan Norman. The 27-year-old has a pair of starts at the Rolex 24, both aboard the DeltaWing.

Update – Trenton Estep has replaced Charles Finelli as a driver in the #7 Forty7 Motorsports entry in LMP3 for the Rolex 24. Estep, the 2018 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama champion, made his WeatherTech Championship debut last year in the Rolex 24 as part of the fifth-place GTD Black Swan Porsche team.

#33 Sean Creech Motorsports – Ligier JS P320 – Lance Willsey, Joao Barbosa, Wayne Boyd, Yann Clairay

Sean Creech Motorsports has spent much of its time as an organization focused on historic racing. Recently, they have raced in IMSA Prototype Challenge and now move up to the mainline Weathertech Series. This is a full-season entry for Willsey and Barbosa.

Willsey is the Bronze-rated driver in this entry. The 59-year-old has a long history of motorsports experience. Most recently in IPC and Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America. He last raced in the IMSA Weathertech Series at the 2017 Rolex 24 in a GTD Lamborghini Huracan.

After a long motorsports career, Barbosa is back with racing with one of the first teams he partnered with after his move to North American racing. This will be his eighteenth Rolex 24 at Daytona and the first time since 2009 that he will not be with Action Express Racing. He has won the race four times and finished on the podium another four times. He is a veteran of the sport and will be an invaluable asset for Sean Creech Motorsports this season.

Boyd made a name for himself this season with United Autosports in the 2020 European Le Mans Series where he won three races on his way to the LMP3 title. He also has experience in the Michelin Le Mans Cup and IMSA Prototype Challenge. Where Barbosa brings pure racing experience, Boyd brings a hefty amount of LMP3 experience.

Perhaps a surprising name rounds out this entry, that being Yann Clairay, the 37-year-old French driver who won the 2009 LMGT1 Le Mans Series championship. Since then, his racing experience has been spotty. He completed three races in the 2018 European Le Mans Series in LMP3 and ran two IPC races with Extreme Speed Motorsports in 2018.

#38 Performance Tech Motorsports – Ligier JS P320 – Cameron Cassels, Mateo Llarena, Ayrton Ori, Rasmus Lindh

Former LMP2 team, Performance Tech has opted for a move to LMP3 for the Rolex 24 and the 2021 season.

Performance Tech ran two full-season Ligiers in last year’s IMSA Prototype Challenge and ran a third car at the fourth race of the season at VIR. Only one driver has been confirmed by the team, that being Mateo Llarena.

Llarena finished the 2020 Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup season in 18th after just two top-fifteen finishes on the year. The 16-year-old from Guatemala will be one of the youngest drivers on the grid. 

Floridian driver Ayrton Ori is another 16-year-old with a single-seater background, together with Llarena they are the two youngest drivers yet named in the Rolex 24 field. This will be his first experience of a closed top race car and his first outing in an endurance race.

Rasmus Lindh is yet another young gun, the 19-year-old Swede looking to get his career literally back on track after his original 2020 programme come to nought when the Indy Lights season was canned.

He joined Performance Tech’s IMSA Prototype Challenge effort for a part season with podium success last season and will double up with duty aboard the #38 in the Rolex 24 and with the team’s Prototype Challenge effort on the Roar test weekend.

Canadian racer Cameron Cassels will not be impressed by the revelation that his age is more than the combined total of years lived thus far by all three of his team-mates combined!

Winner of the 2019 Jim Trueman award, class winner at Sebring in 2019 and part of the Performance tech crew that finished second at Daytona the same year he is set to start his third Rolex 24.

In addition to his LMP2 experience in the IMSA Weathertech Championship, he also has three seasons of IMSA Prototype Challenge LMP3 racing under his belt and could be a crucial factor in bringing the very young squad together.

#54 CORE Autosport – Ligier JS P320 – Jon Bennett, Colin Braun, George Kurtz (Endurance), Matt McMurry (Rolex 24)

CORE Autosport managed the Porsche North America factory effort but with that programme ending, the team needed a new venture. They found that with team founder Jon Bennett who comes out of retirement to reunite with the group that ran his prototype racing efforts for nearly a decade. CORE Autosport is one of the finest run teams in North America. This is a full-season entry.

Bennett and CORE Autosport have two IMSA PC titles to their name from the 2014 and 2015 seasons. In 2018, he won two races with ORECA 07 at Canadian Tyre Motorsports Park and Road America. After one season with the Nissan DPi, Bennett announced his retirement. He seems to have been lured back into racing with the more affordable option that LMP3 presents. It’s good to see a man like Bennett back in the IMSA paddock he couldn’t stay away long.

One of Bennett’s longtime driving partners, Colin Braun rejoins his colleague. This will be Braun’s sixteenth Rolex 24 at Daytona – he won last year’s race in LMP2 with DragonSpeed. That race with DragonSpeed was Braun’s only IMSA race in 2020 but with Bennett coming back, Braun gets another full season of IMSA racing, his sixth with CORE Autosport.

The founder of cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike, George Kurtz will join the team for the four endurance rounds. Kurtz is an avid racer and along with his cybersecurity firm, he created CrowdStrike Racing and has focused on GT3 racing in GT World Challenge America. Kurtz and Braun shared a Mercedes-AMG GT3 in both the 2019 and 2020 GT World Challenge America seasons.

McMurry has driven an LMP2 car to a championship in 2019, then he drove a GTD car to a championship in 2020, now he will be an LMP3 car for the Rolex 24 at Daytona. It’s a real shame that McMurry does not have a full-time drive considering his talents. In 2018, McMurry became the youngest person to finish the Le Mans 24 Hours at 18-years and 44-days old. After graduating from the University of California, Irvine, McMurry found an engineering job with Honda, and despite what Mario Farnbacher might tell you, he’s not the janitor!

#74 Riley-Robinson – Ligier JS P320 – Gar Robinson, Felipe Fraga, Oliver Askew, Scott Andrews

Riley Motorsports and Gar Robinson partnered for a GTD programme last season in a Mercedes-AMG GT3. Now the pairing moves over to the newly established LMP3 class. This is a full-season entry for Robinson and Fraga.

Pic copyright Brian Cleary

Robinson finished on the podium at the 2016 Rolex 24 at Daytona but has struggled to find long term success in IMSA since then. Robinson scored two podiums last year but was bogged down by other, more disappointing results, like a twelfth-place finish at Petit Le Mans and an eighth-place finish at the Sebring 12 Hours.

After emerging into the sportscar racing scene with Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen at the 2019 Le Mans 24 Hours, Fraga has continued to make a name for himself. The Brazilian Stock Car champion won the Le Mans 24 Hours with Keating and Bleekemolen but was disqualified after their Ford GT failed post-race inspection. Fraga finished on the podium at the Rolex 24 in GTD in 2019.

Oliver Askew, the 2019 Indy Lights champion is another young IndyCar driver in this year’s Rolex 24. Askew spent the 2020 season with Arrow McLaren SP but he missed four races in the second half of the season due to concussion-like symptoms. Askew was dropped by Arrow McLaren SP two weeks before the end of the season. Askew had one podium in 2020, a third-place finish at Iowa Speedway.

Finally, there’s Scott Andrews who made his DPi debut at the Sebring 12 Hours last year with JDC-Miller Motorsports. Andrews is a talented driver with plenty of experience in LMP3 cars having race them in the Asian Le Mans Series and in the IMSA Prototype Challenge Series. He had two wins and a third-place finish in the 2020 IPC season.

 #91 Riley Motorsports – Ligier JS P320 – Jim Cox, Dylan Murray, Jeroen Bleekemolen, Austin McCusker

This team was the first to commit to the LMP3 class, announcing their plans all the way back in September of 2020. Cox and Murray have raced with each other before in the Michelin Pilot Challenge with a Riley Motorsports-managed Mercedes-AMG GT4. This is a full-season entry for Cox and Murry.

A third-place finish in the Michelin Pilot Challenge GS title fight is the highlight of the young career of Cox who is just 20-years old. He had one win and two additional podiums in the 2020 MPC season. He also completed one race in IMSA Prototype Challenge last year.

After starting out on the NASCAR ladder, Murray switched his attention towards sports car racing in 2018 when he began racing in the Michelin Pilot Challenge series. Murry, who is also in his low twenties, has shown moments of promise. The youth of this full season lineup sets up a very interesting storyline to watch in this race and the season as a whole.

Bleekemolen is back for his seventh Rolex 24 at Daytona and he is still looking for his first win after a podium finish in 2017 in a GTD Mercedes-AMG. From 2017 to 2019 Bleekemolen partnered with Ben Keating for a full season in GTD, but since that program concluded, Bleekemolen has completed just one IMSA race, the 2020 Rolex 24.

Rounding out this lineup is the 2019 IMSA Prototype Challenge champion, Austin McCusker. His 2020 racing season was quiet, though. McCusker was part of Inter Europol’s Petit Le Mans lineup and he completed one race in the Asian Le Mans Series with Inter Europol. Astonishingly, the 22-year-old is the second oldest driver in the team.