DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Aspiring racers aiming for the pinnacle of prototype racing need look no further than IMSA for their pathway to achieve those goals.
Between the IMSA Prototype Challenge and IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, up-and-coming drivers – and also teams – familiarize themselves with the nuances of prototype racing. Those who excel have the opportunity to achieve new goals, whether that’s racing in the Rolex 24 At Daytona, Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts or perhaps the full IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship or earning an invitation to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The annual Jim Trueman Award is intended for drivers who have built a career outside of racing and contribute a substantial portion of the funding to a team’s budget. Eligible drivers compete for the Jim Trueman Award based on their individual performance, the performance of their teams and their driving contribution to the race result of their car. Bronze-rated drivers are automatically qualified.
The Jim Trueman Award includes that coveted invitation to race twice around the clock at Le Mans in the Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) class. The 2020 recipient, Patrick Kelly, did just that earlier this month, competing at Le Mans for the first time aboard the No. 24 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA LMP2 07. The same opportunity will continue to exist for future Jim Trueman Award winners.
“I will forever remember the significance of winning the Jim Trueman Award,” said Kelly, the 2020 WeatherTech Championship LMP2 champion. “It was that award that granted me the entry to Le Mans. Racing at Le Mans was a scale and awesomeness that truly exceeded my expectations. I have watched that race since I was young. Every year I watch pretty much the whole 24 hours, so I figured that I had a sense of what it would be like.
“I didn’t. The scale, the speed, the intensity, the technical aspects to the track. It was simply awesome.”
Competitors in the IMSA Prototype Challenge, meanwhile, have the opportunity to use their success racing Le Mans Prototype 3 (LMP3) cars in that series as a springboard to competing in the WeatherTech Championship. For the past several years, championship-winning drivers in this series have earned substantial credit toward entry fees to compete in the following year’s WeatherTech Championship events.
This year, a $100,000 credit will be awarded to the driver who wins the IMSA Prototype Challenge P3-1 championship. If there are co-champions, the award will be divided equally amongst them.
In 2021, an LMP3 class was introduced into the WeatherTech Championship, opening the door for many existing IMSA Prototype Challenge drivers and teams to sample or move into IMSA’s premier series on a full-time basis. One driver and team to do just that is Jarett Andretti, who now co-drives the No. 36 Andretti Autosport Ligier JS P320 with Oliver Askew in WeatherTech Championship races.
“I think the Prototype Challenge is a great step into WeatherTech,” Andretti said. “It allows teams to get experience in the P3 class at the tracks you run in WeatherTech. Teams can also run both classes to get extra experience. It’s a great segue into WeatherTech.”
As part of IMSA’s expanded strategic partnership announced earlier this month with the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) – which organizes the 24 Hours of Le Mans –IMSA will have three automatic invitations for Le Mans starting next year. One is reserved for the Jim Trueman Award winner, one will go to the Bob Akin Award winner for the top GT driver competing under the same parameters as those for Trueman-eligible drivers, and a third to be used in 2022 by a 2021 WeatherTech Championship LMP3 champion who is either a Bronze-rated or Silver-rated driver under the age of 30.
In subsequent years, that third award will be provided for an entry in the top LMDh/LMH category, but it’s a tremendous opportunity for LMP3 racers competing in this year’s WeatherTech Championship.
“Between the introduction of LMDh in 2023, convergence at the top of the prototype racing pyramid globally, and the many opportunities available in LMP2 and LMP3, it’s a great time to be an aspiring prototype driver,” said IMSA President John Doonan. “We have a proven system that clearly works, as evidenced by the many drivers and teams that have made their way through the ranks from IMSA Prototype Challenge to the WeatherTech Championship and all the way to Le Mans.”