Race 1 Summary
The much-anticipated debut of the LM P3 category in the IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda didn’t disappoint.
Four different manufacturers were represented in the class over the weekend at Sebring International Raceway for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida.
The Ligier JS P3, Ave-Riley AR2, Norma M30 and Ginetta LM P3 had strong performances in their first race, with the Ligier JS P3 taking the class win with series newcomer Nico Jamin, of ANSA Motorsports, behind the wheel.
Jamin led the race flag-to-flag with pressure from former GT3 Cup Challenge USA champion Colin Thompson, of Kelly-Moss Road and Race, and Andres Gutierrez, in the No. 12 of Performance Tech Motorsports. All three drivers were making their series debut.
LM P3 Masters competitor Lonnie Pechnik, in the P1 Motorsports Ligier, made an early pass on Thompson during Lap 1, taking third place overall and the Masters Class lead. Thompson, in the Norma M30, suffered race-related mechanical issues and was forced to retire after Lap 12.
Pechnik continued to hold third position throughout the race to end up on both the Overall LM P3 and Masters podiums.
Series veteran Naj Husain, in the No. 3 Ligier JS P3 entry of Extreme Speed Motorsports, also gained three positions on Lap 1 and then continued to gain ground and settle into fifth overall by Lap 5. His consistency earned him a solid second-place finish in the Masters class.
Doug Peterson, of HP-Tech in his Ligier JS P3, followed Husain’s lead and steadily gained ground through the beginning of the race, pushing him from his 16th-place start on the grid to finish in seventh overall and third in the Masters class.
In the Mazda Prototype Challenge (MPC) class, the venerated Élan DP02 continued to prove its race worthiness by keeping pace with the LM P3 class.
Kyle Masson, 19, from Windermere, Florida, demonstrated consistent race craft in his No. 18 Performance Tech entry, starting and finishing in fourth overall and taking the win in the MPC Class. Masson finished fifth in the IMSA Prototype Challenge series championship last season.
JDC Motorsports’ Kris Wright joined the series this season with previous experience from the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge series. He took the second-place finish in class over series veteran Gary Gibson in the Team Perfect Pedal No. 13 entry.
Twenty-five entries took the green flag in Round 1 with Jamin and Masson setting the fastest lap times in class with 1:58.955 and 2:00.551, respectively.
Race 1 Driver Quotes:
Nico Jamin – No. 20, ANSA Motorsports - LM P3 Winner
"Overall, it was a really good race for ANSA, Ligier and Onroak. The new LM P3 is awesome. Big thanks to them for creating such a great car. My race was good. I had (Andres) Gutierrez in the back at the beginning. I was just managing the tires because I knew it would be a long race and we would wear out the rear tires quite a bit so I was just managing them and then it was all about getting through traffic as fast as possible. It all went very well. I think everybody had really great behavior on track, letting me by and everything. That was very nice and I’m very happy to take the win for ANSA.
I was in St. Pete last weekend at Indy Lights. It didn’t work quite as well so it’s good to be here this weekend and get a win."
Lonnie Pechnik – No. 17, P1 Motorsports - LM P3 Masters Winner
"This P1 Motorsports team did a phenomenal job over the course of the week to get the car up to speed. We still have to find some more speed to get up to first and second but our engineer Jon Shapiro will certainly be able to do it. Our entire crew, Alberto Peña being the team manager, did an awesome job guiding everybody through the whole week and of course JC Perez, my teammate and car owner, did a phenomenal job all week and I’m super proud of him."
Kyle Masson – No. 18, Performance Tech Motorsports - MPC Winner
"The start of the race was very interesting with the LM P3s mixed in with the LM PCs. Obviously, all the LM P3s passed us at the start and it was frustrating because there were P3 cars slower, lap-time wise so I spent the first five, six laps or so stuck behind them and being pitted against the JDC car. I had to do my best to get in front of those P3s so then I could pull away from the guy who was my competition. Once I made the pass and got in front of the LM P3 car, I was able to pull away because then he was stuck behind the LM P3 car.
I’d say the most difficult aspect of the race was coming straight out of the PC car in WeatherTech. They drive so differently and I was borderline sketchy in the Prototype Challenge car trying to figure things out during the practice session. Hopping back into the LM PC car, I had to totally remember momentum, the limit and everything was just really off for awhile in the race, but once it clicked, I figured it out. It was smooth sailing from there.
I’m definitely hoping the race tomorrow goes really well in the Mazda Prototype Challenge but I just need to get more practice in the WeatherTech Prototype Challenge car and just keep building my confidence with it."