The LM P3 was introduced last season as the new LM P3 class in the newly renamed development series, IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda. The LM P3 has been battle-tested in the European and Asian Le Mans Series since 2015. This is the first time the prototype will be run under IMSA sanction and the first time standout series team Performance Tech has run a P3 car for a client.
The LM P3 will be a new challenge for Performance Tech, but for Gutierrez the car is somewhat familiar. Gutierrez has tested the Ligier chassis on three different tracks, two of which are on the schedule for the Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda series. With each experience, Gutierrez found himself more and more impressed.
“I have tested this car three times now, at Sebring, Barber and COTA," Gutierrez said. "It is an amazing car to drive, it creates much more downforce and power that I expected. Last year, my focus was on open wheel racing but when my brother made the move to prototypes I decided to give it a try and I had a very fun experience. So I thought the P3 championship was the best choice for me to try. Prototypes are something I have barely driven, but from what I have tested I know have a pretty good understanding of the cars, but we’ll see.”
Gutierrez was introduced to Performance Tech and Team Principal Brent O’Neill in 2016 through his cousin Patricio O’Ward. O’Ward was recently announced as a full-time driver in the No. 38 Prototype Challenge in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship along with James French. Gutierrez ran in the Prototype Lites series at Watkins Glen International in 2016 as it featured three rounds of racing and provided more time to get to know the team and series. He finished fifth, sixth and fourth, respectively, that weekend.
“I got involved with Performance Tech Motorsport when my cousin Pato ran some races with the team at Sebring in the Lites car,” Gutierrez said. “I really wanted to race those cars, so we programmed a test so I could learn the car. After the test, Brent and I decided to race the triple-header at Watkins Glen, and it went much better than expected. I wanted to get back into the car and back to the series.”
After a strong performance in his first weekend with Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda, Gutierrez has high hopes for what 2017 will bring. However, the only pressure he will be putting on himself is to be the best he can be on track.
“Right now, I have not thought too much about my goals,” Gutierrez said. “I want to come into this year with an open mind and just do the best that I can do out on track. I believe if I do this correct, I should be at the front of the field.”
If history stands for anything, he should be at the front of the field and championship. This will be the first series Gutierrez has been fully committed to for a season of racing since he began go-karting. Gutierrez began karting when he was 4 years old. As he progressed in the series, he was a successful standout. He left his karting days with titles under his belt in Mexico’s Rotax Kart Junior Max and Micro Evo category. Gutierrez began testing formula cars when he was 14. The first series he ran in was the Formula 4 Mexican Championship where he appeared on nine out of 10 possible podiums, including two victories.
"Andres was impressive right from the start," O'Neill said. "I think he'll be the one to watch in the P3 car this year, definitely a contender for the championship. That's what all of our guys are going for, obviously. It's exciting for us, too, to be able to run the P3 car in its first year of competition. We're excited to have Andy under our tent because he and Pato (O'Ward) come from a great family. I think they bring a great dynamic to our team. I'm happy to have him with us this year; it'll be good."
Gutierrez will first take to the track in his Prisma Desarollos LM P3 at Sebring International Raceway for the first two rounds of IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda. This year both rounds will be 45-minute sprint races.