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Franchitti: DPi Formula “Could Bring Back Greatness” of ALMS Era

Marino Franchitti on return to Mazda; DPi prospects…

Photo: John Dagys

Photo: John Dagys

Marino Franchitti believes IMSA’s new DPi formula could bring North American sports car racing back to the heyday of ALMS prototype racing, as the rapid Scot makes his return to the wheel of a Mazda in this weekend’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.

Franchitti, a two-time Sebring class winner, including claiming top overall honors in 2014, was drafted into the factory SpeedSource-run squad to fill the third seat in the No. 70 Mazda RT24-P alongside Tom Long and Joel Miller in the No. 70 Mazda RT24-P.

After his work with Ford developing and racing the new Ford GT came to an end last year, Franchitti said it didn’t take long for his longstanding relationships with Mazda and SpeedSource to pay dividends.

“It all came together just around Daytona time,” Franchitti told Sportscar365. “I’ve obviously driven with Mazda and SpeedSource before [in the Rolex 24 in 2012 and 2013].

“Especially with [Mazda Motorsports Director] John Doonan, we always kept in touch.

“We’ve always been trying to do some more together, and the opportunity came up here with Hinch doing Daytona and he’s concentrating on his IndyCar stuff right now.

“The chance was there and I jumped at it. It’s nice to be in one of these new DPi cars. The new Mazda, the RT24-P is a beautiful car.”

Much like his role with Ford and many others over the course of his career, Franchitti jumps in to a Mazda DPi project that is still early in its development cycle.

Being able to have an influence on the direction the new car takes makes this weekend all the more rewarding for the affable veteran.

“I love it; it’s something I’ve done a lot in my career,” he said. “I’ve been very lucky to be involved in programs where you’re developing cars, you’re not just getting a product.

“You’re not just a customer, you’re in a factory program or something that’s going to be sold as a customer car. I really love testing. I love making a car as good as it can be. It’s fun.

“It’s a great little engine as well, the little four cylinder. I just think the DPi cars are so beautiful, whatever car you’re talking about. It’s exciting to be in one this early in its life.”

Franchitti gushed praise for the new DPi platform, saying the cars compared favorably with those from the late 2000’s both in aesthetics and performance.

“In my career, my generation, the high point was ’07 and ’08,” he said. “That was just a helluva time to be involved in sports cars, racing in America.

“These cars, I would say, are very close in cornering performance to what we had in 2007-2010 with a really fun LMP2. I think the regulations are fabulous.

“It’s a nice car: a lot of downforce, a lot of grip. I really think it could be back to that greatness with these new rules. I think they’ve done a great job.”

For the moment, Sebring remains the only race with Mazda on Franchitti’s calendar this year, but he readily admitted he would be interested in a return later in the year if the opportunity arose.

“You never know, but this is definitely it at the moment,” he said. “You’d have to ask John Doonan. That’s a decision for him.

“We’ve had success together in the past, Mazda and myself, and it’s definitely nice to be back here.

“I think like everybody, I saw pictures of the RT24-P and was like, ‘Whoa, what a car!’ It definitely doesn’t disappoint.”

Ryan Myrehn is an Indianapolis-based journalist and sportscaster, covering IMSA and Pirelli World Challenge. Myrehn, a graduate of DePauw University, is also the host of Sportscar365's “Double Stint” Podcast.

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. jason

    March 17, 2017 at 11:00 am

    Maybe he is right but WEC LMP1 will keep that from happening as long as it is around. The thing about ALMS prototypes in 2006-2008 was that there was no doubt that those teams were the top sportscar prototype teams on the planet. Maybe the only one missing (as far as full season goes) was Peugoet, but they showed up for the enduros.

    • RLL_335

      March 17, 2017 at 3:54 pm

      LMP1 is in no way standing in DPi’s way. It’s survival is in serious jeopardy because of DPi but could the two live on in parallel? Sure. But they won’t, because DPi is the better formula for a world championship.

  2. nah

    March 17, 2017 at 11:36 am

    the ALMS era sucked until Audi left

    • Matt

      March 17, 2017 at 2:05 pm

      Lol no it didn’t. P2 teams were racing for overall wins in 07-08.

  3. WBrowning

    March 17, 2017 at 1:20 pm

    I was never a huge ALMS fan, but if it gets like the mid-80s IMSA GTP era, before Nissan and Toyota went crazy throwing money in to it, I’d be happy as heck. Porsche, Jaguar, Chevy, Ford and others all running and competitive, it was awesome for a few years.

    Looking forward to seeing many more manufacturers getting involved in DPi in the years to come.

  4. Anon

    March 17, 2017 at 5:50 pm

    If only the sanctioning body could bring back the greatness.

  5. SkippyDoo

    March 17, 2017 at 7:24 pm

    ALMS was very entertaining for much of its run.

    It sucked way more when Muscle Milk was running circles around Dyson than it ever did with Audi running circles around everyone.

    Sure, the wins were almost a foregone conclusion but the battles further back were great. And GT2 was brilliant with Porsche vs Ferrari. Corvette was sad in GT1 though lol.

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