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Brown: DPi a Good “Starting Point” for Global Prototype Platform

McLaren’s Zak Brown, other manufacturers support global DPi concept…

Photo: Scott LePage/IMSA

McLaren Executive Director Zak Brown believes that DPi is a good “starting point” for a global prototype platform, as talks intensify between the FIA, ACO and IMSA for a possible set of common regulations.

Last month’s Rolex 24 at Daytona saw the debut of a fourth DPi manufacturer in Acura, with Ford, and Lexus both seriously evaluating entries into the bourgeoning class in the short-term.

Brown, who was represented on the grid at Daytona with his United Autosports LMP2 team, has remained one of the advocates for a single global platform, a concept that’s also being backed by the ACO.

“It seems it would be in everyone’s best interests to land on a common set of rules,” Brown told Sportscar365.

“I think if you look at IMSA, you’ve got a good starting point sitting here with 20 cars on the grid. It feels to me that that should be the starting point of the conversation.”

McLaren has been among the manufacturers in recent working group meetings to help shape the new LMP1 regulations, which are set to be announced at this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans in June.

The ACO’s concept is understood to be an evolution of DPi, where cars have greater brand identity to production cars, referenced by ACO President Pierre Fillon as “GTP-like.” 

Mazda Motorsports Director John Doonan, however, believes a potential global platform shouldn’t stray too far away from what’s currently seen in DPi.

“I’m sure other manufacturers have weighed in on it but it just seems like a no-brainer with this much momentum around it,” Doonan told Sportscar365.

“There are select base [LMP2] chassis and then there is the opportunity for manufacturers to run a branded car with a variety of engines without spending astronomical amounts of money.

“I hope that everybody can come together in that kind of way because the actual execution of the racing programs is one thing but the way we market it and tell the story is the most important thing for this to continue to stay relevant.”

Lexus, which is evaluating an entry into DPi, are also backers of a global platform.

It would allow the world’s second-largest automaker to run the same car as a Toyota in the WEC and Lexus in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

“Our colleagues in Japan are right in the middle of conversations with the FIA and ACO,” TRD President and General Manager David Wilson told Sportscar365.

“You’ve got to give IMSA a tremendous amount of credit about what they’ve done with DPi, attracting more manufacturers.”

Timing is another hotly contested topic, with IMSA’s homologation period for current DPi and LMP2 cars having now been extended until the end of the 2021 season. 

Neveu, however, admitted its new-gen rules could be pushed back by one additional season, should manufacturers need additional time to build cars to the regulations.

“We can start in the middle of 2021 and they can join in the [beginning] of 2022,” he said. “For us it doesn’t change nothing

“I have to say that the ACO and IMSA are trying to work very close together to try to find a way that we will be able to make sure the top categories in IMSA will be eligible also in our championship, and the opposite can work. It’s the big challenge.”

One of the biggest holdups, however, could be hybrid technology, with the majority of current IMSA manufacturers, including Mazda and Acura, against hybrids, where the FIA and ACO have pledged to continue with it, but in a more cost-effective fashion.

TRD’s Wilson has described the implementation of hybrids as a “slippery slope” in prototype racing.

“The current competition is very happy with where DPi is now,” he said. “The flip side of it is that obviously Toyota and Lexus are invested in technology.

“With hybrid technology, we’ve learned a ton racing in WEC so from a tech transfer perspective, that would be kind of cool, but it has to be done the right way and in a manner that doesn’t compromise the great product that IMSA has on the track right now.”

Brown, however, believes that hybrids have to play a role in any future top-level prototype platform.

“There are things like hybrid that going to be very important in 2021, 2022, 2023,” he said.

“I hope they can come together, because I think it will be great for the fans and great for the teams and the manufacturers.

“I know from a McLaren point of view, if the chances of us developing two cars as opposed to one is much more unlikely.

“If it’s one, it makes it that much more compelling for us and other OEMs from ones I’ve discussed the future with.”

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365 as well as the recently launched e-racing365 Web site for electric racing. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for FOXSports.com/SPEED Channel, and contributes to other publications worldwide. Contact John

36 Comments

36 Comments

  1. vinay mistry

    February 7, 2018 at 11:10 am

    I do wonder if there can be a slight compromise. Imagine DPI but with the current lmp1 non hybrid upgraded engine. That means the manufacturers get to keep high spirits that they will not be beaten by an lmp2 manufacturer, the costs stay low and we still get four classes in wec/le mans. It would be different to the imsa dpi but still pretty similar.

    I really do hope a standardised hybrid kit can be shoved into the cars though at some point as that would be cool as well.

    • AudiTT

      February 7, 2018 at 11:40 am

      The new GTP class is targeting (ballpark) LMP1 performance levels. Discussions also factor in privateer requirements (class will not just be for OEM’s) who need to buy off the shelf parts (including hybrid), for set costs, with performance parameters that match factories.

      This free’s up LMP2 to remain a secondary class in WEC, and gives IMSA this option too.

  2. Sestom

    February 7, 2018 at 11:57 am

    DPI/BOP for IMSA, why not. But DPI/LMP1/BOP for WEC, never.

    • Haskellb

      February 7, 2018 at 6:45 pm

      No snob factor.

  3. WBrowning

    February 7, 2018 at 11:59 am

    If they use “spec” batteries and motors in a hybrid formula, it might work. Maybe 650hp gas engines with 250hp of hybrid with a fairly limited battery capacity? Then it would be up to the manufacturers and driver when and how to employ the electric power, kind of like a “turbo” button, only programmable.

    I just hope everyone gets the stuff together and we can all go racing together at the world’s best and most predigest tracks/races. Maybe they could come up with a World Patron Series kind of thing with 4 or 5, twelve plus hour races. LeMans, Nurburgring, Daytona, Sebring, Fuji, etc.?

    • Kirk

      February 7, 2018 at 12:58 pm

      That’s what I was thinking. Instead of allowing each team to develop their own hybrid systems just have a spec system each car has to use. It would keep costs down, keep the playing field level, and still allow the introduction of modern technology into DPi.

      • Eric J

        February 7, 2018 at 1:36 pm

        If a spec hybrid, then there’s no technology development to transfer to road cars. So why bother with the hybrid then.

        • ben

          February 7, 2018 at 4:27 pm

          There’s no technology transfer anyway, so why bother? The real R&D happens in the lab and tested by the camo prototypes you see in the auto news.

          • Jenner

            February 7, 2018 at 6:54 pm

            You’re wrong.

            According to Toyota: “With hybrid technology, we’ve learned a ton racing in WEC….”

            Guess you don’t follow racing very closely.

  4. Azuma

    February 7, 2018 at 12:07 pm

    I think DPI could be the next LMP1 Cars.

    I could see DPI, LMP2, GTE Pro and GTE-Am at Le Mans up at least in 2021 at the end of the homologation period.

    Then after that, GTP will come into play. I think for Classes, it will be GTP, GTE and GT3.

    • jm

      February 8, 2018 at 2:21 pm

      I hope its just 2 classes GTP and GT3. It will be a easier for marketing and gaining new fanbase.

  5. Tim

    February 7, 2018 at 12:31 pm

    I think what we see in privateer P1 and DPi now will be a good mix. Make them about 4 seconds faster then current P2 and then open up chassis manufacture. I mean Orecas R13 is a P2 with more down force and a more powerful Gibson engine.

  6. TF110

    February 7, 2018 at 12:35 pm

    I don’t want rebranded lmp2’s with a blade wing on the front like the current dpi’s to be the basis for the lmp1 future. Rebranding is a weak exercise and the wec survey shows that it’s not a popular replacement for lmp1. The Toyota GAZOO Super Sport concept is what lmp1 should be like. Close to the Mercedes CLR look. Private teams should be able to continue with their current cars for a couple of years longer.

    • Thomas

      February 7, 2018 at 1:31 pm

      DPi doesn’t feel any way near-futuristic. A hypercar/concept-car class with BOP would look good with low cost.

      But a common platform is needed, seeing 2 12h of Sebring in a row feels weird, especially if they don’t group the GTE.

      • Steven

        February 7, 2018 at 5:41 pm

        DPi was only created to keep GM, Mazda, Nissan, and Honda in prototype racing since manufactures are now banned from LMP2. Non of the manufactures want to spend money to run a LMP1 car but they cry wolf because they are not allowed in Le Mans.

        • Andy Flinn

          February 7, 2018 at 7:24 pm

          Steven, LMP2 was only neutered with the spec-Gibson engine and 4-chassis option in a lame attempt to keep factories (Nissan, Audi, Porsche, Toyota) involved in LMP1.

          How did that work out?

          Let’s see, despite massive hype and fanfare, Nissan’s LMP1 failed before it even got started. The Audi and Porsche LMP1s are now gone. That leaves Toyota as the only factory LMP1 left to fight the privateers.

          Brilliant!

          • Steven

            February 7, 2018 at 8:19 pm

            Audi and Porsche was pulled because of the VW scandal. (VW even pulled the plug on their WRC effort). Nissan raced one time in LMP1 with a failed concept. Can we really consider that a program?

            I think one thing you constantly forget is the LMP2 class is for privateers and is cost capped. Something DPi is not and will drive Mazda out first.

    • Andy Flinn

      February 7, 2018 at 7:17 pm

      TF110, you completely ignore the fact that the DPis have entirely different engines than the dominant Orecas, and the Ligiers, Dallaras and Rileys forced to race in Euro LMP2 with the spec Gibson engine.

      Oh, and if the Acura body is so similar to the spec Oreca offering, why is the Acura body banned from competing in WEC LMP2 and at Le Mans?

      (Hint, the Oreca and Acura bodies aren’t the same.)

      • Steven

        February 7, 2018 at 8:34 pm

        You are joking right??? The Acura is banned because of the engine and the fact that they modified the LMP2 bodywork (Adding the boomerang and extra louvers for cooling).

        The LMP2 spec bodywork that Acura uses does not meet LMP1 specifications either so that’s that.

      • TF110

        February 8, 2018 at 7:08 pm

        Why are they banned from being in lmp2? Because they are a factory backed team and it’s illegal to use another engine than the Gibson in lmp2. They should be in lmp1 with their car, but they are not. Imsa is going to drive away the private teams in a couple of years because none of them will have a chance to win. It’s evident that it’s the Cadillac show, again. A manufacturer putting money in imsa’s pockets is always going to be on a favorable list.

        • thomas

          February 10, 2018 at 8:58 am

          Every manufacturer puts money in IMSA’s pocket. Your conspiracy theory is mad

  7. Anonymous

    February 7, 2018 at 2:37 pm

    If they are bothered about manufacturer involvement or rather a lack of it! Then there could be a more drastic solution to save LMP1. This will be controversial I know and might generate a lot of backlash but here goes. Ban auto manufacturers from participation in LMP1! If they want to race in Motorsport to promote their future road car technology then put it in a GTE car! Leave the prototypes to manufacturers such as Oreca, Dallara, Riley, Adess, Gibson, Norma, Tatuus, Radical, etc.

    • jm

      February 7, 2018 at 3:26 pm

      Here is my guess. Auto manufacturers will have to use gt chassis with “prototype” powertrains and bolt on aero. privateers will use other manufacturers chassis and powertrains as you mentioned.

  8. Sir Skidsalot

    February 7, 2018 at 3:12 pm

    The ACO and FIA would be stupid to turn away auto manufacturers from their top class. I root for them, not the drivers or teams. I could give a rats ass about Rebellion, et al., other than filling out the field, unless they’re powered by my favorite make of car. I enjoy watching great drivers and all, but in my book, it’s all about the chassis/engine. If you don’t drive for my guys, you’re the enemy. 😉

  9. DB

    February 7, 2018 at 3:25 pm

    I have to agree, the best thing about manufactuers in auto racing is seeing the factory teams pitted against each other. Im still on the moon on how great ALMS back in 07-08 was. Even if the Porsche and Acura where p2 cars, the battles they had made it so interesting to watch battling against the Audi’s.

    And now, watching Audi/Toyota/Porshce battle, they just need to find a way to keep cost down. Then the manufactueres will come.

    • Thomas

      February 8, 2018 at 4:23 am

      The interesting thing about that is when the LMP thing came about there was two categories LMP900 and LMP675 and the idea was that they’d have similar performance bases on power to weight ratio. In the end that became LMP1 & 2 and was meant to be performance separated. Then ALMS happened and the now supposedly performance separated cars raced pretty much equally.

  10. NaBUru38

    February 7, 2018 at 5:35 pm

    How about allowing hybrids in LMP1, and keeping the current engines in IMSA?

  11. Steven

    February 7, 2018 at 5:36 pm

    Instead of having the half-assed idea of DPi, get the costs down to welcome back manufactures. Having a LMP2 with a bra and a boomerang modified to the car is an utter slap in the face for every top category that has run at Le Mans and the top class of sportscar racing.

    All automotive manufactures should be required to build their own chassis.

    • Larry

      February 7, 2018 at 10:03 pm

      Steven, you really haven’t paid much attention to sports car racing history, have you.

      Having each manufacturer build their own chassis is one of the things that drove costs up and would not hold costs down. It one post you completely contradict yourself.

      Spiraling costs killed CanAm, CamelGT, Group C, and many others and gave birth to GrandAm with those POS DPs.

  12. Andy Flinn

    February 7, 2018 at 7:39 pm

    Steven, the fact that a spec-engined LMP2 finished second at Le Mans last year and came within a lap of winning the race is your slap in the face.

    Did you ever stop to consider the fact that not just GM, Honda, Mazda and Nissan but MOST manufacturers don’t race in LMP1 because the costs are too high?

    “All automotive manufactures should be required to build their own chassis.” — Steven

    This is one reason most manufacturers still don’t race in LMP1.

    • Steven

      February 7, 2018 at 8:26 pm

      Why is that a slap in the face? It was a warm Le Mans and that put a lot of strain on the Prosche’s and Toyota’s who really sacrificed reliability for speed.

      Isn’t GTLM going 1-2 overall in Petit Le Mans over the heavily favored P class 2 years ago a bigger one to IMSA? When the primary the tire carrier (Continental) was completely owned by the GT’s on Michelins in the rain.

      LMP1 is for manufacturers, LMP2 is for privateers that is cost capped so you don’t have to spend a fortune on running a program. You don’t see Ferrari, Mercedes, McLaren, and Renault all running different chassis/engines in F2 and F3.

      • Larry

        February 7, 2018 at 10:07 pm

        And LMP1 came close to ceasing to exist due to costs. Do you actually read what you post?

        And GTLM winning was beating the now-defunct DPs, not the current P2 or DPis so it’s an irrelevant analogy.

        It was also about the tires so you got that part correct.

      • Thomas

        February 8, 2018 at 4:25 am

        There’s nothing stopping any manufacturer from building engine or chassis in F3 as it’s an open class

  13. Degner

    February 7, 2018 at 10:30 pm

    Give DPi engines more power and use that chassis as a basis … or use a GTP/GTLM approach and give those cars’ engines more power.

    Drop hybrids from the equation completely. Anyone who knows anything about modern road car engineering knows road cars are far more advanced than current racing cars. The R&D and testing done to make hybrid road cars viable is exponentially more advanced than anything seen on track. Toyota’s comments are nothing more than hyperbole, and they know it.

    Racing is sport and entertainment, nothing more. The days of technology transfer have all but ceased due to technologies for the road having eclipsed anything applicable from a track. The two – road and track – have diverged.

    The costs that tipped the WEC P1 class into the trash bin ($100-$200 million for a season)are insane for any kind of racing program – F1 included. And these are just the tip of the iceberg compared to current costs for road vehicle development.

    Further, racing will not save the planet (neither will electric cars for that matter). That’s not its purpose. Using efficient, powerful ICE engines and limiting aero development to provide close, affordable competition is all that is needed here. That’s how to keep sports car racing viable.

  14. John

    February 7, 2018 at 11:16 pm

    Harmonized regulations would be beneficial to everyone, but the desire to maintain distinct identities, and philosophies is very hard to overcome. That is often ignored, and understated.

    Wilson and TRD are entitled to their viewpoints, but it’s important to remember that they don’t speak for Toyota as a whole, and haven’t been given the responsibility to run Toyota’s top-level prototype program. That belongs to TMG, which has espoused a desire to maintain a technology component, in line with the corporation’s philosophy. Take Wilson’s comments FWIW, and I imagine a similar situation exists with Honda and HPD.

    I’m starting to wonder if Mansour Ojjeh and his colleagues have any doubts about hiring Brown, but I guess they could feel that any publicity is good publicity.

    If it were me, the #1 priority would seem to be restoring Team McLaren to respectability in F1, but that seems to be just one of many balls in a juggling act that I’m not sure the owners expected. #2 is obviously to keep Alonso happy, but the greater and greater lengths they’re going to do that come with increasing amounts of risk, especially to #1. As a fan, I welcome what Alonso did, and will do, but I’m not sure being all over the place is such a good thing for a team that needs to get its core business back to health. I’d also place more weight into his comments if McLaren would actually step up and put its money where its mouth is, but they haven’t even managed to do that in IMSA as it stands. I see that they are listed as a partner, so the marketing fee has presumably been paid, but I don’t see any McLarens in GTLM, or even just GTD. Where’s the beef?

    Top-tier sports car racing lives and dies by the whims of the manufacturers, as they come _and_ go. As frustrating as the sanctioning bodies can be, they aren’t completely oblivious. If Toyota, Honda, Mazda, GM, and any other OEM all went as a group to the ACO and IMSA and said, “this is what we’d like to see, and if we get it, we’ll commit for five years,” I don’t think they’d have the door shut in their faces. But it’s easier to speak in generalities in quotes to the press than to actually follow through.

  15. JD

    February 8, 2018 at 9:29 am

    IMSA has every manufacturer seriously looking at DPi programs while the ACO has one manufacturer in LMP1 who returned mainly because as long as they don’t break, they should win Le Mans. So which platform should we look at building off of going forward? One that’s been super successful with a ton of involvement or one that’s on the verge of death? Hmm…. Tough decisions.

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