Earlier in the week, PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports wrapped up a test session at Sebring International Raceway in Florida for their new Gibson-powered Ligier JS P217 prototype. As the team participated in IMSA’s November open test at Daytona shortly after taking delivery of their new car, they chose to skip the open test held on Tuesday and Wednesday.
In the team’s press release wrapping up the Sebring test, they announced their 2017 driver lineup. Tom Kimber-Smith (pictured above in the team’s old ORECA FLM09-Chevrolet) will return to the Fresno-based team for his third full year in the No. 52. In 21 starts with the team, Kimber-Smith has seven victories (four of which in the endurance events). He’ll be joined full-time by José Gutierrez, who drove for the team in the four Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup races in 2016. For those aforementioned endurance races, a familiar face returns. Mike Guasch, a former full-time driver for the team, will compete in all four of the endurance events. A fourth driver for Daytona only will be named later.
Gutierrez is very excited about racing the new Ligier.
“Wow! The LMP2 is a monster,” Gutierrez said in a press release. “It was my second time in the car since the first test in Daytona, and I absolutely love every second I get to spend behind the wheel. I’m still getting accustomed to the speed, more braking power and more downforce compared to the LMPC, but I can’t wait for the Roar Before the 24 and to show what PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports can do in 2017.”
In 2016, Gutierrez made seven IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship starts. Four of them were the endurance races with PR1/Mathaisen Motorsports, capped off with a class victory at Road Atlanta in October. He also made three starts in Starworks Motorsport’s part-time No. 7. Gutierrez’s best sprint race finish was a fourth at Road America along with Gustavo Yacaman.
Guasch is happy to be back at PR1/Mathaisen Motorsports.
“It’s great to be back with PR1. I ran in Europe in LMP3 last year and had great success, but decided to come back to the United States and make the step up to P2. When it comes to racing in the US, [team owner] Bobby Oergel is my go to, so we talked and were able to get me back in the car for the four big races,” Guasch said. “I met José [Gutierrez] for the first time at the test, and I have to say he’s a great guy and he’s really fast. I’ve known Tom [Kimber-Smith] for a while, as we drove together for the full season in 2015. I’m really excited to be back with PR1 and to be able to team up with Jose and Tom, and I think we’ve got the potential to do very well in our TPNAECC races.”
With Robert Alon off to race full-time for 3GT Racing in the GT Daytona class, the team has lost their primary sponsorship from Professional Security Consultants, a family business founded by Alon’s father, Moshe. Guasch can bring sponsorship to the team via Molecule, a line of cleaning products designed for racing attire.
Guasch has 27 career starts in PC equipment (15 in the American Le Mans Series, 12 in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship). 22 of those races have come with PR1/Mathaisen Motorsports. Guasch has nine career wins (5 in ALMS, 4 in IMSA) and won the 2013 American Le Mans Series PC championship. In 2015, Guasch shared the No. 52 with Kimber-Smith and finished second in points with four wins. This past season, Guasch took a break from IMSA and raced for United Autosports in the European Le Mans Series. There, Guasch won the LMP3 championship along with co-drivers Alex Brundle and Christian England on the strength of three wins (Silverstone, Imola and the Red Bull Ring).