Prototype Challenge Racing Returns to Lime Rock After Six Year Hiatus

19 Jul 2017
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If there's a track on the 2017 IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda schedule that seems absolutely made for the series, it's probably Lime Rock Park in Connecticut, billed as the country's oldest continuously-operating road racing course.


This doesn't mean that there's anything dated about the tight, twisting 1.5-mile track. Owner Skip Barber, the former Formula 1 driver and founder of the famous racing school that bears his name, has done a remarkable job of maintaining the track's physical history, yet incorporating all the fan amenities you'd expect at any of the newer tracks.
Saturday, July 22, marks the first visit to Lime Rock by the IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda since 2011, back when it was called the Prototype Lites Championship. While the Lites cars, now called the Mazda Prototype Challenge entries, remain a big part of the program, 2017 saw the addition of the new LMP3 cars. The two classes will run together in the Continental Road Race Challenge, but compete for podium positions and series points only in their own respective class.
The LMP3 cars - which have an enclosed cockpit, compared to the open-cockpit MPC cars - originated in Europe, where the ACO, the governing body for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, approved six different manufacturers to build them. While the cars are different, the all run a 420-horsepower V-8 engine, and a sequential transmission.
Competition so far this season has been fierce, and four different drivers have stood on the top step of the podium. Despite missing the first event of the year, Kenton Koch has the most victories, with three, in his No. 8 P1 Motorsports Ligier JS P3. Koch is a former series champion, but despite having the most wins, he's second in points going to Lime Rock. In first is Colin Thompson, driver of the No. 14 Kelly-Moss Road and Race Norma M30.
Thompson has been a contender all year, but finally won at Watkins Glen. Speed has been his strong suit, but Koch and Andres Gutierrez, driver of the No. 12 Performance Tech Motorsports Ligier, are still well within striking distance of Thompson, as they are tied for second in points, just 20 back from Thompson. Gutierrez has won twice this season.
There's actually a second competition going on in the LMP3 class - the Masters championship maintains points for drivers age 45 years and over, and in that category, Naj Husain, driver of the No. 3 Extreme Speed Motorsports Liger, is in the lead, and also ranked fourth overall behind Koch and Gutierrez.
Second in Masters is Paul Fix, driver of the No. 44 Ave Motorsports Ave-Riley AR2, which comes from the only American manufacturer approved to build the LMP3 cars.   
Meanwhile, in Mazda Prototype Challenge, the action is every bit as compelling. Leading in the points, and in wins, is Kyle Masson, driver of the No. 18 Performance Tech Elan DP02, which is the spec car for the class, along with the Mazda MZR 2.0 engine.
Masson, who also shares a class victory this year in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship's Rolex 24 At Daytona, can be beat, though, and Kris Wright, driver of the No. 7 JDC Motorsports entry, proved it at Watkins Glen. Wright is third in points, with Tazio Ottis, driver of the No. 72 car and a teammate to Wright at JDC Motorsports, in second.
In a unique twist, the series will only be running one 45-minute sprint race for the weekend, sponsored by Continental Tire. The Continental Road Race Challenge will begin on Saturday, July 22 at 12:50 p.m.
For more information on all IMSA competition - or to access IMSA Radio, which will have live streaming audio of both races - visit IMSA.com.
The race will be live streamed on IMSA.tv and delayed TV coverage of the race will air on FS2 (Fox Sports 2) August 24 at 8 p.m. EDT. The broadcast will also be available on YouTube 24 hours after it airs on television. 
 
For more information about the IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda series, visit www.imsa.com, follow hashtag #IMSAPC @IMSA on Twitter or IMSA on Facebook.
Schedule (all times ET):
 
Practice: 11:05-11:50 a.m. and 4:25-4:55p.m. Friday, July 21
Qualifying: 9:05-9:25 a.m. Saturday, July 22
Race: 12:50-1:35 p.m. Saturday, July 22

Race Coverage: 
 
Live Streaming: The race will be live streamed at IMSA.tv. 
 
Live timing: All on-track sessions at scoring.imsa.com and on the official IMSA App for iOS, Android and Windows
 
Twitter: Live text commentary from all sessions at @IMSALive
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Adam Sinclair

Adam has been a race fan since the first time he went through the tunnel under the Daytona International Speedway almost 30 years ago. He has had the privilege of traveling to races all across the state of Florida (as well as one race in Ohio), watching nearly everything with a motor compete for fame and glory, as well as participating in various racing schools to get the feel of what racecar drivers go through every week.  

Adam spent several years covering motorsports for Examiner.com., where he had the opportunity to see the racing world from behind the scenes as well as the grandstands. He invites everyone to follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus, and looks forward to sharing his enthusiasm for all things racing with the readers of SpeedwayDigest.com.

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