Photo: José Mário Dias
By: Kobe Lambeth
This past weekend, the 84th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans took place. One major storyline from France concerns the future of global prototype racing.
DPi vs LMP2
It appears that trouble is brewing between IMSA and the ACO over the future of prototype racing. It was recently announced that IMSA DPi (Daytona Prototype International) cars will not be allowed to race in the LMP2 category. Originally, the American prototypes were going to be balanced alongside the ACO-spec Gibson engine. No need to worry about this now as DPi cars will not be allowed to race. The idea of DPi and LMP2 competing together for class honors appears to be in a garbage truck heading to a landfill.
The DPi engine ban might change the minds of team owners who want to go to Le Mans. It is known that Visit Florida Racing is looking to race in the twice-around-the-clock endurance classic as early as next year. The main question is, “which LMP2 chassis does the team choose?” They could run a Mazda DPi customer program, return to the General Motors family with a Cadillac DPi, or purchase the ACO-spec LMP2 Gibson. Do you think the DPi engine ban has made it easier for Visit Florida Racing to decide which car to purchase?
We will not see DPi in LMP2, but is there a future in LMP1-Lightweight? This is a very interesting idea to consider in the next few months. IMSA wants to make DPi their top class where you pick one of the four LMP2 constructors (Onroak, Oreca, Dallara, Riley/Multimatic), have the option of running multiple engines, and bodywork which will give the car identity. There is nothing wrong with IMSA’s vision as this will be their top class. LMP1 is where the ACO wants the manufacturers and rightfully so. With the four different chassis and spec engine, LMP2 is the stepping stone for teams wanting to enter LMP1. Once again, there is nothing wrong with the ACO’s philosophy because it works for their championship.
If the 2017 LMP2 regulations were the same as DPi, it would pretty much defeat the purpose of LMP1. It is completely understandable why DPi and LMP2 cannot race together from their point of view. Switching roles, what would the reaction in America be if IMSA used the ACO-spec car as their leading prototype? It would not make any sense for the two prototype divisions to be spec. The DPi formula is perfect for IMSA and they should not let the ACO dictate how they run the show. Two championships, two sets of rules, why can’t we all just get along?
A compromise between the two sanctioning would be a miracle, but anything is possible these days. Close your eyes and imagine DPi cars from the likes of Mazda and Cadillac flying down the Mulsanne straight. All you can do is dream on because this is unrealistic in the ACO’s eyes.
If the DPi cars are not welcomed to Le Mans, then why should ACO-spec cars be welcomed to Daytona? Why is IMSA’s new prototype called “Daytona Prototype International” when there is absolutely nothing international about the formula? Why are we even discussing this topic?
There are so many questions concerning the relationship between IMSA and the ACO. Maybe we need to go old school and have both parties sit down in a room with cookies and milk until a common idea can be reached. The ACO needs IMSA and vice versa. A divorce will not benefit anyone. It will hurt both series, teams, drivers, officials, and everything that makes sportscar racing beautiful. Please, I am begging for the sanctioning bodies to get their act together or we will not like the outcome of the situation. We should definitely be worried about the future of sportscar racing. Do we risk losing the link between America and France?
Will cookies and milk save this rocky relationship? Only time will tell.