Ligier has been something of a trendsetter in the fixed-specification prototype arena across the last decade – the French manufacturer the first to introduce a closed-cockpit LMP2 design, which has now become the norm, back in 2014.
It then became one of the early adopters of the fledgling LMP3 regulations back in 2015, Ligier following close behind British marque Ginetta by introducing a lightweight prototype of its own – the JS P3.
Now, after the 2023 Season 3 update to iRacing, you can enjoy the Ligier JS P320 in all of its virtual glory. Let’s understand this staple prototype racer.
Introducing the Ligier JS P320
The LMP3 regulations were designed primarily to fill the large gulf between the road car-based GTE rule-set and the significantly faster LMP2 prototypes, giving relatively inexperienced amateurs as well as up-and-coming pro drivers a place to learn the intricacies of prototype vehicles that featured more aggressive aero layouts compared to GT cars, while also enjoying decent slow-speed performance.
The ACO – the governing body that came up with the LMP3 regulations in the first place – then decided to create a second-generation evolution of the class for the 2020 season that allowed the four registered constructors to develop their cars with a more sophisticated aero package, traction control and an improved naturally-aspirated 5.6 litre Nissan V8 engine that produces 460 bhp.
Ligier branded its updated machine as the JS P320 – a car that has gone on in the subsequent few seasons to become the car to have in LMP3, though closely rivalled by Norma’s M30.
The Ligier JS P320 LMP3 competes in some of the world’s most established championships such as the IMSA WeatherTech series, the European Le Mans Series as well as the Le Mans Cup – scoring plenty of wins and titles in all three championships along the way.
In iRacing, the JS P320 can be used in a one-make series – consisting of a fixed setup contest staged over 20 minutes – as well as the multi-class Falken Sports Car Challenge series in which you compete across 30 minutes alongside the GT4 class. To find out more, take a look at Coach Dave Academy’s guide to the championship.
The basic car setup
The Ligier JS P320 is generally a balanced and stable vehicle from the outset, its carefully designed aerodynamic package keeping it nice and stable through medium and high-speed bends while remaining planted and capable in slow-speed corners.
However, slow speed understeer – particularly on corner exit – can be a problem when starting out with the JS P320, something that can be helped by softening the front anti-roll bar blades until you find a better balance.
This needs to be tuned in relation to the high-speed performance as you don’t want the car to suffer from too much oversteer as a result of an overly pointy front-end, so tweaking the aero balance is also advisable to maximise the car’s performance depending on how far you tweak the front suspension or anti-roll bars.
The optimal path to getting the JS P320 hooked up from the first time you virtually strap yourself in, however, is to use one of Coach Dave Academy’s professionally crafted setups.
Our Delta app provides an easy-to-use programme to install each set-up into iRacing so it’s ready to use whenever you need it, while also providing video tutorials of each track from our expert drivers in order to help you find improvements at each location and get ahead of the competition.
Aerodynamics and bodywork
The main thing that sets the JS P320 apart from the GTE-spec cars it transcends in the sportscar pecking order is its elaborate aero package that is designed to teach its drivers how to utilise the speed granted to them in the higher-speed corners in preparation for a possible future in LMP2 and GTP machinery – such as the Cadillac V-Series.R GTP – while also providing the stability and drivability of GT cars in slower turns.
This design culminates in a well-balanced driving experience across any racetrack, unlike higher-level prototype cars where high-speed cornering is almost easy compared to a GT car – though they pay the price in slower corners as the vehicle is designed predominantly to work well in the faster sections.
The best tweaking you can do while trying to dial the JS P320 to your preferences is by changing the positioning of the front splitter and rear spoiler in order to find an aerodynamic balance that best suits your driving style, with a higher percentage found in iRacing’s setup menu placing more load on the rear and thus creating more high-speed rotation and vice-versa.
Steering and cornering
With the Ligier JS P320 LMP3 designed essentially as a learning tool for those looking to move up to a faster prototype, it should come as no surprise that the general balance of the car is geared more towards understeer in both high and slow-speed bends.
- The car therefore reacts well to being slowed down more before turn-in before then making sure the nose meets the apex smoothly.
- It’s important to then ease onto the power in order to not overload the traction control, as well as potentially create understeer by pushing the front tyres too hard.
If you’re still struggling to find the perfect racing lines, apexes and braking points when racing the Ligier JS P320 LMP3, make sure to check out one of our weekly hotlaps, such as this one at the Suzuka.
Power delivery and braking
The experiences of the power delivery and braking of the JS P320 are polar opposites of each other as a result of the respective electronic governance that takes care of both – with the traction control system taking care of putting the Nissan V8’s grunt to the tarmac, while your left foot is purely responsible for stopping the car due to its lack of an ABS system.
- Running the traction control at level one can give good results when used to how the car puts its power down – in a straightforward manner in fact due to the lack of a turbo – as levels two and higher can cut the engine quite significantly, causing slower acceleration as a result.
- The lack of ABS can make corner entry tricky. The JS P320 has a tendency to lock up the rears when asking too much under braking – it’s best to brake earlier and focus on trail braking with around 70-75% brake pressure toward the apex.
- Moving brake bias forward can help with corner entry stability, though braking technique is more important here.
The Ligier JS P320 provides an ultra-fun introduction to high-downforce prototype competition if you fancy moving on from GT-specification racing machinery on your journey up the sportscar racing ladder should you have aspirations of competing in LMP2 and GTP competition in the future.
It also provides a good lesson in learning to control the braking of the car without electronic assistance should you have got used to the ABS-fitted GT3 vehicles, as well as allowing you to experience multi-class racing from the other side of the coin – overtaking the slower traffic rather than the one being overtaken, a key skill needed should you want to move to faster prototypes eventually.
Don’t forget that if you want to hit the ground running with the Ligier JS P320, Coach Dave Academy is here to help with pre-built setups ready to make sure you are leading the pack rather than chasing it.