I was reading up on some news on Racer and Sportscar365 and came across two interesting tid bits surrounding the Daytona Prototype International (DPi) Class in IMSA. One was that 3 more manufacturers are looking to get into the class, and the other was the cost to run DPi vs LMP2 in IMSA. This got me thinking about the state of the class and looking ahead a few years.
So the news that caught my inspiration to write this post, was speculation that up to 3 manufacturers will join the DPi ranks for the 2020 season. Ford has been looking at running in the class when the GTLM / GTE Pro program ends at the conclusion of this year. I imagine they would likely run with the Multimatic/Riley underpinnings (same as the Mazda DPi) given how deep their relationship with Multimatic is. They’d probably run the same engine as the current GTLM car as well.
~(I’m going to shorten Multimatic/Riley to MM/R)~
It recently has been revealed that Hyundai has been evaluating a program for 2020. I think this is would be amazing if that was confirmed. Whatever chassis they end up with is kinda in the air, but I’d bet that it wouldn’t be MM/R, assuming Ford uses the MM/R chassis, it might be too much for MM/R to take on another program. Dallara might also be quite strapped due to the shear amount of Cadillac DPi’s right now, which would leave only Oreca and Ligier. As far as engines, it would probably be some derivation of their V6TT Lamda II from the Stinger GT, given that 2 of the 4 current DPi engines are V6TT’s (Acura and Nissan). Now, they don’t really have a race version of that engine, but that could be a neat little project for the N division over there at Hyundai.
I personally love the fact that Hyundai is going hard into racing, it’s something that I feel has been lacking from them despite their large-ish size at present. In addition to running in TCR and committing to eTCR, they have also been looking at the Hydrogen Hypercars for the middle of the next decade in WEC. This may make the DPi a stepping stone project until then, but I love that idea.
As for the final potential OEM, Sportscar365 has got some sources saying that a “Japanese, medium volume manufacturer” is evaluating an entry into the class. Doing the maths of who is already here and who remains (who sell in USA), that means Mitsubishi, Subaru or Suzuki. I highly doubt it would be either Mitsubishi or Suzuki, because they don’t have the money or resources to pull that off. There is also the added fact that neither have ever really been interested in racing in a sportscar series.
“Personally seeing (and hearing) a Boxer-4 in a prototype would be amazing.”
Subaru on the other hand, would be less of a stretch. They had a record sales year in 2018 and have their own motorsport division, while also getting involved in the GT300 team that runs a JAF spec BRZ over in Japan. Not only that, they have been making a push to release more sportier versions of the BRZ and Impreza as of late. Personally seeing (and hearing) a Boxer-4 in a prototype would be amazing. Here’s another added bit of speculation that makes me think it’s Subaru; the SuperGT team could then use that engine in their car (based off of JAF build rules, you can use ANY engine produced by the OEM, regardless if it is road legal or track only). That team is currently using a derivation of an old WRC engine from the most recent rally Impreza’s. I may be hyping up that a bit, but if I had to bet, they would be the company being speculated and I hope regardless of who it actually is, that they join the series; the more the merrier.
Seeing as we could nearly double the amount of manufacturers next year, one as to ask “where on earth did all the hype for next year come from?” Clearly IMSA struck gold with this rule set. However, this wasn’t an overnight success story. Let’s quickly look at the history behind the class:
DPi has it’s roots in the Rolex Grand AM Series’ Daytona Prototypes, which were cheap tube frame chassis prototypes. They were designed to allowed a mix of engine combinations. Eventually an ever growing number of makes including Porsche, Lexus, Ford and Chevy got involved at some point to supply engines. It was a good formula and very popular because of its low cost of running. Although they weren’t all that quick (IIRC, the DP’s were just as fast around Road America as the GTLM cars), they were fun to drive and teams made good money running them.
Then entered Chevrolet with the Corvette styled DP. For the first time, a DP looked like it came from the manufacturer that supplied the engines (and not just cheap add-on grilles like the BMW powered DP). Ford sort of followed suit a couple years later with the EcoBoost DP, which was more of a design language style (sound familiar to the Hypercars?). Soon after these two cars hit the track, IMSA and Grand AM announced they would merge together.
“For approximately $5 million, you can race a car in IMSA within the DPi subclass and be part of a factory backed effort.”
Shortly after, IMSA and the ACO began discussing new LMP2 regulations, as IMSA had previously announced they were only grandfathering the DP’s for a couple years passed the merger. DP manufacturers wanted to get involved so that they could keep racing at the pinnacle of sportscar racing in North America, whilst growing the brands throughout the world.
ACO and IMSA butting heads over build rules and eligibility at Le Mans, and we ended up with DPi becoming only LMP2 based and not allowed in competition outside of North America. Although using the same chassis as LMP2’s, different engines and a rule allowing development outside of the EVO kits provided by the ACO spec P2 chassis manufacturers were allowed. For approximately $5 million, you can race a car in IMSA within the DPi subclass and be part of a factory backed effort. That is peanuts compared to an LMP1 budget, and only $2-3 million more than a standard P2 budget in IMSA.
Cadillac, Mazda and Nissan (albeit under licence and not a factory effort) joined for the first year, and Acura joined the following year, cementing the class as viable and BOP creating a competitive atmosphere. Since DPi debuted, we’ve had rumours of Audi, Bentley, and Lexus looking to join in the past as well, but all seemingly decided to go in another direction.
Looking to the future beyond 2020, we have the ongoing discussions with ACO yet again to commonize classes (DPi and “Hypercars”). We are talking about seriously faster cars, seriously bigger budgets and seriously more complex cars and rules. While we have had small, medium and large scale OEM’s looking to get in, those manufacturers have more money to spend. IMSA would love to tap in on the global scene and I seriously hope it works out.
However, it all comes down to money, and because of that, I don’t think we will see DPi 2.0 sharing any commonality with the new LMP1 regulations. $5-10 million for DPi versus $100 million for LMP1 is a huge difference that current DPi teams will tolerate. Unless the manufacturers actually get involved with full blown factory teams, I doubt we will see it in North America. Historically, the North American OEMs don’t like to spend a ton of money, with a couple exceptions. Nowadays Ford and GM are looking to cut costs as it is, so it becomes even more important that they don’t frivolously spend money that they don’t have to.
Instead, what I think will happen is we see either a variation of the “Hypercar” rules (maybe a mandated spec hybrid powertrain manufacturer (somebody neutral like Cosworth, for example) or a continuation of the current DPi rules. There are so many variables but we’ll see what happens. However, I’d put money down that we don’t see anything crazy different with the regulations aside from some modest face-lifting the next gen LMP2 cars.
On the off chance that they do actually commonize, here would be my guesses on which OEM’s would commission a car and run in either IMSA and/or WEC at some point over the span of the rule set:
*Volvo/Lync & Co.
*- Hydrogen subclass
Well that about wraps up how I see DPi today and ahead in the next few years. I think IMSA has a great formula here and I hope they are able to continue the upward trend long into the future. Seeing these cars in person is awesome, and I don’t want them to go away.
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