IMSA WeatherTech: Riley Motorsports crowned LMP3 Champion and 100% Ligier JS P320 podium at Petit Le Mans
10 – 13 November 2021 – The Ligier JS P320 ended its season in a blaze of glory on the Road Atlanta circuit during Petit Le Mans, the last round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship (IMSA WSCC). Fastest times in free practice, pole position, victory and a 100% Ligier JS P320 podium plus fastest lap in the race and the LMP3 title! The #74 Riley Motorsports Ligier JS P320 put on another stunning performance by winning the race and clinching the very first LMP3 Championship title awarded by IMSA WSCC which welcomed the LMP3 sports prototypes for the first time. #30 run by Jr III Racing finished second and set the fastest lap in the race while the second Riley Motorsports car, #91, came home third.
The weekend kicked off with a 100% Ligier JS P320 top 6 in the first free practice session. It was led by #54 entered by CORE Autosport and driven by John Bennett, Gerald Kurtz and Colin Braun who set the quickest lap in 1:15.916s. The second free practice ended with two Ligier JS P320s at the top of the time sheets led by #91 run by Riley Motorsports and driven by Jim Cox, Dylan Murry and Jeroen Bleekemolen. It set the best time in 1:16.413s. Another top 6 in the third free session with first place going to Performance Tech Motorsports' #6 in the hands of Dan Goldburg, Rasmus Lindh and Malthe Jakobsen.
The #2 Ligier JS P320 entered by United Autosports for Niklas Kruetten, Tom Gamble and Andrew Meyrick shone again in qualifying on Friday 12th November on only its second outing in the championship by sealing its second pole position with a lap in 1:15.664s.
On Saturday 13th November it was time for the final with a 10-hour race in perspective. The #2 United Autosports Ligier JS P320 made a great start and held on to first place building up a comfortable lead over its rivals. But shortly after the end of the first hour when it was overtaking another car there was contact punting it into a spin and it hit the guardrail. First stop for repairs and the LMP3 rejoined. But the damage made the car difficult to drive. Another stop and it then made up for lost time and retook the lead between the second and third hours until a mechanical problem forced it to pit again. It did not emerge until two hours later and crossed the line in sixth place.
Qualified fifth, the #74 Riley Motorsports Ligier JS P320 of Gar Robinson, Felipe Fraga and Scott Andrews pulled back two places by the end of the first hour's racing. It led briefly in the third hour before falling back to second. During the fourth hour it again took the lead in the LMP3 category for some 20 laps before #30 run by Jr III Racing passed it. It was the start of a duel between these two rivals who exchanged the lead lap after lap. Finally, in the last 25 laps #74 got the better of #30 and went on to win the Motul Petit Le Mans with a lap in hand.
The #30 Jr III Racing Ligier JS P320 that started in eighth place moved up to sixth after two hours racing. It shot up the time sheets in the following hour and took over the lead for 20 laps before #74 entered by Riley Motorsports dislodged it from first place. But by lap 150, four hours after the start, it was back in front again. It held the leadership twice before being overtaken by its rival, Riley Motorsports. #30 saw the flag in second place and set the fastest lap in the race thanks to Garett Grist who got round in 1m 15.942s.
The #91 Riley Motorsports Ligier JS P320 started the race in fourth place. It fell back to sixth after the first hour and then fought its way back up to third in the second. In the following one it was involved in an incident with a GT and it dropped back down the time sheets to ninth spot. But the team wasn't giving up and it managed to make up the time lost and became involved in the battle for a place on the podium once again. In the seventh hour it ensconced itself in third place which it defended tooth and nail until the chequered flag.
With its fifth victory the #74 Riley Motosports Ligier JS P320 brought down the curtain on a season rich with successes. It won the LM P3 category championship title head and shoulders above its rivals.“There really aren't any words to capture the enormous effort and success that was our 2021 season, but if I had to boil it down to one word it would be teamwork. I am so blessed to be a part of the team that is Riley Motorsports. When I stand back and take a look at all the effort and passion that comes out of all the great men and women it's no wonder that the results fall where they do,” said Gar Robinson.
It is the fifth championship won this season by the Ligier JS P320, with those of the Asian Le Mans Series, Michelin Le Mans Cup, Ultimate Cup Series and IMSA Prototype Challenge.
For the complete race results CLICK HERE.
For the championship standings, CLICK HERE.
Photo credit : Jake Galstad