This afternoon’s 2021 Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway is looking, uh, a little more dangerous than usual. Not because of weather or track conditions—mostly because of the addition of the LMP3 class, which has turned out to be a little bit of a hot mess.
In theory, there’s nothing wrong with prototype LMP3 machines, which have usually run their own special series in the United States. They look pretty similar to the LMP2 machines, but LMP3s all share a Nissan V-8 that produces 455 horsepower. All in all, it seems pretty straightforward.
But for some reason, if you put these cars on a track with other classes, disaster strikes. Part of that is because it’s a great step for entry-level or gentlemen drivers—people who may not have tons of skill or experience but who have the ability to race. That’s fine. I don’t judge. But the on-track action—whether it be practice sessions or last weekend’s qualifying race—has shown that these bad boys can cause an impressive amount of chaos.
I mean, just watch the qualifying race:
Another big issue here is the fact that LMP3s are pretty much on par with the GTLM class machines in terms of pace, which means we’re about to have two very different types of car duking it out for the same track positions. Which could easily get nasty.
And LMP3 isn’t the only category causing chaos. During night practice on Thursday, for example, LMP2 driver Austin Dillon locked up in Turn 6, tried to avoid hitting the tire barrier by spinning around in Turn 1 and facing oncoming traffic, before he finally rejoined in Turn 6. According to one Twitter user, race control said, “That was the dumbest thing we’ve ever seen.”
Here’s a handy visual of traffic flow to get you picturing the situation.
Dillon’s instincts were right in this situation, for the most part. As professional driver Ryan Lewis explained, Dillon was probably just trying to avoid hitting the tire barriers head-on. He’s new to the car, so it makes sense that there’s a learning curve. It’s unfortunate that it had to be during night practice ahead of one of the bigger endurance races in the world.
Sportscar fans are expecting chaos to descend over Daytona Beach this weekend, and many are pegging that chaos to be sparked by LMP2 and LMP3 machines. The Rolex is always a good watch, but it’s going to be especially fascinating this year with this wild card thrown into the mix.