DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The three-year run for the Le Mans Prototype 3 (LMP3) class in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship wrapped up late Saturday night with a most appropriate conclusion: Gar Robinson and the No. 74 Riley Ligier JS P320 atop the standings.
Because no driver and team achieved more or better exemplified the class than Robinson and the historic powerhouse Riley Motorsports team.
Robinson and the No. 74 Riley raced away with the 2023 LMP3 championship, winning the first four points-paying races and following that with two podium finishes to close the season. Over the three years of the class, the Robinson/Riley pairing compiled 12 victories in a possible 21 races (57 percent win rate), claimed the LMP3 championship twice (2021 and ’23) and finished second the other time (2022).
With the LMP3 class giving way in 2024 to make room for the expanding other four classes of the WeatherTech Championship, Robinson and Riley have already declared their intent to move into Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2). But not before fondly looking back at a dominant LMP3 run.
“The past three years have been probably some of the best years of my life,” said Robinson, the son of three-time Twelve Hours of Sebring class winner George Robinson. “Being with all my different co-drivers and with the Riley team, and carrying on the legacy that my dad and Bob and Bill (Riley) kind of started in the ‘90s in TransAm cars and WSC cars, is super special to me and really brings it home.
“The championships and the wins and stuff are spectacular, but the lessons and the fun and the memories that I’ve had for the past three years are something that I get to love and enjoy and keep for the rest of my life,” he added. “I just have to give a huge thank you to everybody who supported me, especially IMSA who put the class together and made it all possible.”
Robinson leaned on a pair of more seasoned drivers to help take him and Riley to the title. Felipe Fraga and Josh Burdon both co-drove in victories at Sebring and Watkins Glen. Fraga was the co-driver in the winning effort at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, while Burdon teamed with Robinson to win at Road America.
“They did a wonderful job this year,” Robinson said. “Josh had to sub for Felipe a couple times at Indy and Road America and did a phenomenal job there. And Felipe’s always pretty spectacular everywhere we bring him.
“It’s one of those things at Riley that everybody’s so good that the wins and all the success comes from all sorts of different parts. Sometimes we get a win on strategy, sometimes Felipe wins it, sometimes the victory comes from Josh or the middle driver, sometimes even the Am (Bronze-rated Robinson) does a good job to get it there, and then there’s the crew. The wins don’t just come from one source, it comes from an entire team working well together, knowing what they have to do and doing their job well.”
AWA, Jr III Teams Gather Cherished Victories Too
Two other LMP3 teams had their share of successful moments this year as well. The No. 17 AWA Duqueine D08 won at a pair of historic tracks, Daytona and Indianapolis. The Rolex 24 At Daytona triumph in January came via a war of attrition as Anthony Mantella, Wayne Boyd, Nico Varrone and Thomas Merrill won by 12 laps, an unheard-of margin today. Mantella and Boyd won by 12 seconds ahead of Robinson and Burdon at Indy in September.
“When I think back to Daytona, it is one of the greatest moments of my life,” Mantella said, “especially to be driving with such professionals. And Indy is on that bucket list. To kiss the bricks after a win is every kid’s dream.”
Boyd added, “To get the opportunity to even race in IMSA is fantastic, but as Anthony says, it’s a dream to win in such events with the prestige that they have of Daytona and then to win at Indy. It’s very special.”
The Motul Petit Le Mans season finale proved quite special to the Jr III Racing team as well. Having already announced plans to shutter racing operations in 2024 as team principal Billy Glavin accepted a role to help run United Autosports’ LMP2 program in the upcoming season, Jr III had been frustrated in its quest for a first WeatherTech Championship win. Particularly sensitive to the team were a pair of late-race maneuvers by Fraga in the No. 74 Riley to bull his way past Garett Grist in the No. 30 Jr III Racing Ligier for wins at Watkins Glen and Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
So, when Grist roared up behind Fraga near the end of Saturday’s race at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, he never hesitated. Grist pointed the No. 30 inside of Fraga and the No. 74 into the left-hand Turn 10A. Contact ensued through right-hand Turn 10B, damaging the No. 74 and forcing Fraga to pit while Grist cruised away to win.
“I think he was probably a bit surprised I sent it from that far back, but I was a long way up beside him once we got to the apex (of Turn 10A),” Grist said. “Unfortunately, there was contact; there’s been a lot of contact between those two cars this year, so it was just kind of normal. Unfortunately, he got a puncture; obviously I don’t want that to happen to them, but it was my best opportunity so I took it.”
Grist was proud to deliver Jr III a memorable first WeatherTech Championship win in the team’s final race, as were co-drivers Bijoy Garg and Dakota Dickerson.
“Obviously being the last race of the LMP3 championship, it makes it even more special to win it,” Dickerson said. “I’ve been with Jr III since 2022 Sebring so I know how hard these guys have worked to try and get this win.”