Young drivers capture LMP2, LMP3 titles as they grow their careers

October 18, 2019

Young drivers capture LMP2, LMP3 titles as they grow their careers

October 18, 2019

IMSA’s Prototype stepladder provides the opportunity for young drivers to hone their skills and develop their craft.

Some grow into eventual top level DPi class drivers in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship; others explore other class options where they can continue to further their careers.

Such is the case for this year’s class champions in LMP2 and LMP3 specification machinery.

MCMURRY’S MIDSEASON WIN STREAK PROPELS HIM TO LMP2 CROWN

The LMP2 specification cars were branched into a separate class of the WeatherTech Championship, rather than combined with DPi spec cars this year.

Matt McMurry seized the opportunity for his most successful year yet in parts of five seasons racing in IMSA.

The teenager first emerged on the sports car scene when he became the youngest starter in the history of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, at just age 16 in 2014.

Since that point, McMurry has already competed in a diverse range of machinery, from a Ligier JS P2 Honda, to a Cadillac DPi, to GT cars such as a Porsche 911 GT3 R and Honda (Acura) NSX GT3.

McMurry won six consecutive races with the PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports team, driving the No. 52 ORECA 07 car. Perhaps most impressively, he achieved that feat with four different co-drivers (Eric Lux, Gabriel Aubry, Dalton Kellett, Patrick Kelly).

By winning his fifth straight race at Monterey, McMurry secured the LMP2 driver’s title so long as he started the Motul Petit Le Mans season finale. Funnily while both cars in class started the finale, neither one finished as both cars retired early in the race. It prompted an in-race championship and race win press conference.

It’s somewhat remarkable to think that a driver who’s spent most of the time on the podium drinking sparkling cider instead of champagne has now finally reached legal drinking age this season.

Now 21, McMurry isn’t just old enough to drink, but also old enough to celebrate a championship with bubbly.

MCCUSKER, PFLUCKER’S ROAD TO PROTOTYPE CHALLENGE CROWN

A similar story took place in IMSA Prototype Challenge, the entry-level prototype series which this year featured LMP3 spec cars. The LMP3 cars have a 5.0L V8 engine and aren’t far off, pace-wise, of the lighter and more aerodynamically advanced LMP2 cars.

Consistency proved key for Forty7 Motorsports’ pair of Austin McCusker and Rodrigo Pflucker, who only finished outside the top six once in the series’ six races.

They secured the title once they started the season finale at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta. For 21-year-old McCusker, who like McMurry called time on the North American open-wheel ladder before switching to sports cars, the title helps to validate the move. Pflucker, a Peruvian driver, completed a full season this year after sporadic starts in 2018 to aid the team and car’s championship charge.

McCusker and Pflucker’s No. 47 Norma M30 held off all comers, with the closest rivals coming from ANSA Motorsports and fellow set of youngsters Neil Alberico and Leo Lamelas. This pair won the first race in their No. 4 Ligier JS P3 but failed to recapture the magic throughout the rest of the season.

Other young drivers, such as teenaged Georgian native Dylan Murry and past or new Team USA Scholarship recipients Dakota Dickerson and Scott Huffaker, are among those who stood out at various points this year and will look to advance in the years to come. Scottish star Stevan McAleer and “Ginger Stig” Mike Skeen, a pair of sports car veterans, also won races this year and proved to be two of the fastest drivers in the field.

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