DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – K2R Motorsports is on a mission to get its elusive first LMP3 win in the IMSA Prototype Challenge, and the team is enlisting a familiar face for the final three races of the season to do just that.
British driver Matt Bell will join Naveen Rao in the No. 64 Ligier JS P3 for the remainder of the season, beginning this weekend at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
The three-hour race Saturday signals a return to action for the IMSA Prototype Challenge after a two-month break, with 20 entries expected.
The pairing between Bell and K2R Motorsports has produced success in one-off races in the past. Limited to Sebring International Raceway, Bell finished fourth with longtime co-driver Jim McGuire in 2018 and followed that up with a third-place podium finish with McGuire at Sebring earlier this season.
The two also teamed up last November for the Michelin IMSA SportsCar Encore and finished second alongside teenager Kay van Berlo.
It was that weekend at the Encore – combined with the impressive development for Rao, who sits fourth in points – that put the wheels in motion for Bell to team up with K2R Motorsports.
“We’re very happy with our results, but we expect more, and we know we can show more,” said team owner Bobby Golasinski. “The 64 car with Naveen has shown a lot of promise, but we think we can still get more out of it. I think our whole team, we’ve shown we’ve added speed, we just haven’t quite produced the results yet. We’re hoping to change that.
“Naveen is just blowing us away with how well he’s doing. Even the last test we did, he was very, very quick. That solidified our decision to make the change to Matt so we can have someone to complement his progression and how well he’s doing. For an Am, for a Bronze driver, he is probably one of the top Bronze drivers out there right now.”
Rao and co-driver Alex Barron enjoyed remarkable consistency through the first three races of the season, finishing seventh or better in all three races. Rao enters Canadian Tire Motorsport Park fourth in points, one point out of third.
What Bell brings to K2R Motorsports is a wealth of experience and knowledge with the Ligier JS P3 LMP3 car. Starting his career in the GT ranks – where he found success, including a GTD class win in the 2014 Petit Le Mans – Bell transitioned to LMP3 in 2016.
Since then, his calendar has consisted of LMP3 races all over the world in the European Le Mans Series, Asian Le Mans Series and Le Mans Cup with United Autosports.
Bell’s relationship with McGuire, his teammate in a number of those events, is the link back to K2R Motorsports. McGuire – a successful driver in his own right and the CEO of AERO Advanced Paint Technology – brought Bell to the team for the Michelin IMSA SportsCar Encore last November.
“I would say that’s where it kicked up a bit of momentum,” said Bell. “We did a P3 race earlier that season. That first time we didn’t really test, we just showed up for the event and I didn’t do many laps. The Encore we spent a lot more time together, two days of testing. I spent a lot more time with the team. That’s when I really got to know the guys at K2R.
“I’m very happy to be coming back and doing a few IMSA races. I’ve followed the [IMSA Prototype Challenge] race results for a variety of reasons and I took an interest in K2R once I started having a relationship with them. You’re always looking to see where things you’re involved in are growing across the world especially when you want to do that yourself. I’ve followed it quite closely and it’s been exponential growth, really, and it’s very good to see. Hopefully it will continue to grow.
“Most races have been 20 cars plus, which as a standalone may be the most in the world.”
The common goal for both Bell and the team is to get that first win, and Golasinski is hopeful that can happen this season.
After Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, the IMSA Prototype Challenge finishes its season at Virginia Int’l Raceway (Aug. 23-24) and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta (Oct. 10-11).
“I think what Matt’s going to bring us is he’s going to elevate this to the next level,” said Golasinski. “We’ve had some pretty good Ligiers in the LMP3 Ligier versus Norma battle. I think we’ve had one of the best Ligiers out there. We just haven’t quite been able to show it in the results. We know we need to go to the next level and I think Matt is the guy to take us there.”
“We’ve come so close to wins a couple of times when I’ve driven for the team in the past,” added Bell. “We are very keen to get win number one.”