IMSA Prototype Challenge: the #54 MLT Motorsports Ligier JS P320 wins the LMP3 title
13th November 2021 – In its first year in the American championship dedicated to LMP3, the French constructor's new- generation LMP3 sports prototype, the Ligier JS P320, won the title with the #54 MLT Motorsports entry driven by Dakota Dickerson and Josh Sarchet. The final on the Road Atlanta circuit ended in a double podium for the Ligier JS P320s with #7 run by VOLT Racing with Archangel in second place and the #3 Jr III Racing JS P320 third. The team's second car #33 set the fastest lap in the race.
There were eight Ligier JS P320s among the 15 LMP3s entered for the last race of the year. The championship leader the #54 MLT Motorsports Ligier JS P320 driven by Dakota Dickerson and Josh Sarchet was quickest in free practice with a lap 1:14.140s. But in qualifying it was unable to repeat this performance and just missed out on pole with a fastest time of 1:16.420s set by Sarchet.
On Saturday 13th November the cars lined up on the grid for the last race of the season. The #54 Ligier JS P320 held on to second place before being overtaken 20 laps later by #7 entered by VOLT Racing with Archangel in the hands of Alan Brynjolfsson and Trent Hindman. A yellow flag was deployed while the championship leader was still third. On the restart, 17 minutes before the end of the race, #54 car made contact with Performance Tech's #6 and fell back to seventh spot in the classification. “Luckily, the damage to the rear of the car wasn't horrible,” Dickerson said. “The MLT guys did a great job all weekend and we had a super-fast car even with the damage.”
Time was running out. To ensure victory in the championship the #54 Ligier JS P320 had to finish in at least fifth place. But it was hemmed in sixth spot behind #33 run by Jr III Racing crewed by Andrew Balogh and Garett Grist. Time passed and hopes began to fade. But three minutes before the chequered flag was waved Grist showed true sportsmanship and moved over to give his place to Dickerson. “It was definitely way more intense than I thought it would be,” Dickerson said. “We're very thankful for the (No.) 33 car to be a great teammate with Ligier. It's a great part of being part of Ligier's family.” “Absolutely insane race; I couldn't believe it,” Sarchet added. “In the end, we're the champions, we deserved it and couldn't be happier.”
Into second place after a flawless race came the #7 VOLT Racing with Archangel Ligier JS P320. Due to their second podium after their victory at Sebring, the team clinched third place in the championship. Thanks to a great restart the #3 Jr III Racing Ligier JS P320 driven by Ted Olson and Mike Skeen crossed the finishing line in third place giving the team their third podium of the season. #33 set the fastest lap in the race in 1:16.227s.
Thus, with five podium finishes including two victories the #54 MLT Motorsports Ligier JS P320 won the IMSA Prototype Challenge Championship. “This championship didn't necessarily come down to one race,” said Dickerson. “The whole season we've been there. The podium finishes in the early part of the season really got us here. To have this (points) buffer coming into this race really is a testament to the team as a whole. Thank goodness we did have it. It came down to the wire but it feels really good to have this championship.”
In 2021, the Ligier JS P320 has won five championship titles in Asia, Europe and the United States (Asian Le Mans Series, Michelin Le Mans Cup, Ultimate Cup Series, IMSA Prototype Challenge and IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship).
For the complete race results, CLICK HERE.
For the championship standings, CLICK HERE.
Photo credit : Jake Galstad