The first race for the LMP3 class in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship “went better than we all thought it would” according to the class-winning Riley Motorsports squad, which had a trouble-free run.
Gar Robinson, Spencer Pigot, Oliver Askew and Scott Andrews picked up top honors in their Ligier JS P320 Nissan, finishing three laps ahead of the No. 33 Sean Creech Motorsports entry.
While a number of drivers had voiced concerns on both the reliability and raceability of the new-for-2021 class, six of the seven entries were classified at the finish.
“It was a smooth race to be honest,” Pigot said. “We stayed out of trouble and just did our own thing. That was the plan all along.
“No one really knew how reliable these LMP3 cars would be; I don’t think they ever ran a race this long.
“One thing we knew is that we’d have the best-prepared car in the paddock and I think we showed that today.
“Riley did an amazing job preparing the car through the winter, Roar and this race weekend.”
Pigot admitted there were unknowns going into the race, particularly with reliability.
The No. 74 Riley, which led from the 12th hour, completed its mandatory eight-minute ‘technical’ pit stop overnight while changing front brake pads in a separate stop in the morning.
“We even had the conversation that whoever had the fewest amount of problems [would win] and we thought that maybe everyone was going to have two or three [problems],” Pigot said.
“We didn’t have any, the cars stayed on track the whole 24 hours and it just goes to show the level of preparation that the guys at the shop did.”
For LMP3 ace Andrews, the much-talked about interaction with the GT Le Mans class — which had similar lap times — ultimately did not play a factor, at least thanks to his team’s cautious approach.
“For me I think it actually went better than we all thought it would,” Andrews said.
“With some of the quick P3 cars, we didn’t have too much of an issue because the GTLMs were making speed on us in some areas where we had to look after the car.
“It generally worked out pretty well that they were a little bit quicker than us.
“The smart way around it was to let them go through, tuck into their draft and save some fuel. That actually worked out better.”
CORE autosport team owner/driver Jon Bennett added: “I think all the classes coexisted pretty well at Daytona. There’s a good community of drivers here and everyone had their eyes up.”
Mechanical Issues Hinder Other LMP3 Entries
It wasn’t smooth sailing for every LMP3 car, however, with brake issues and other mechanical faults befalling several teams, including former multi championship-winning squad CORE.
Its No. 54 Ligier of Bennett, Colin Braun, George Kurtz and Matt McMurry underwent a full brake change early on, prior to discovering a broken brake fluid reservoir that resulted in a nearly 20-minute repair in the garage.
The quartet limped the car home to finish fifth in class after electing not to make full repairs, which would have cost even more time.
“As soon as I got in the car I could tell we didn’t have the same braking capacity that we had in practice,” said Braun. “You couldn’t really attack for most of the race.
“The crew tried to sort it out and put in a valiant effort to get it fixed, but we never had a quick fix and had to keep, kind of, driving around the problem.
“It’s tough to diagnose a brake problem in the middle of the race when you don’t have any telemetry and very little experience with the car.”
The class pole-sitting No. 6 Muehlner Motorsports Duqueine D08 Nissan fought back from an early clash with the No. 7 Forty7 Motorsports Duqueine, which damaged its suspension, to finish third in class.
Riley’s sister No. 91 Ligier, meanwhile, lost time early on with a fuel pressure issue, while a water leak from a drink bottle caused further issues inside the cockpit. It finished fourth.