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Nair (Ford): Common Prototype Regs the “Obvious Opportunity”

Ford’s Raj Nair pushing for global prototype platform for 2020 regs…

Photo: Drew Gibson/Ford

Ford’s Raj Nair believes common prototype regulations between IMSA and the FIA/ACO that would enable the same car to fight for overall wins is the “obvious opportunity” the sanctioning bodies need to look at, in the wake of uncertain future of LMP1.

Hybrid and non-hybrid-powered LMP1 cars are set to be consolidated into a single class beginning next year, following Porsche’s exit from the top class, with discussions underway for an all-new set of regulations to debut in the 2020/21 FIA World Endurance Championship season.

It’s understood officials from IMSA have been part of those initial talks, which could see a common platform between LMP1 and a new generation of DPi machinery, which is due for 2021.

Nair, the Executive Vice President and President of Ford North America, confirmed interest in a factory prototype effort following the conclusion of its Ford GT program, but only if a global platform materializes.

“I think the global aspect of it is going to be important for a lot of manufacturers, but particularly for Ford,” Nair told Sportscar365.

“We’d really like to see something that’s more common between IMSA and WEC. It’s just the obvious opportunity.

“When we talk about affordability, I think the organizers can’t just look at their series in isolation.

“If you were to look across series, and think about what that’s going to do for participation and budget efficiency and getting more cars on the grid and all of that.

“It’s difficult to do, but it’s kind of an obvious solution we’d like more work on, to get to that common IMSA, WEC, ACO, FIA view.”

The manufacturer’s current program with the Ford GT, which runs in both the WEC and WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, is confirmed through the 2019 seasons, with an extension beyond its four-year commitment reportedly unlikely.

Nair said Ford would consider a prototype program should it provide the same flexibility in the technical regulations that it has enjoyed with the common GTLM/GTE platform.

“Obviously the GTLM and GTE is close and we’ve seen what that’s done,” he said. “It’s allowed us to bring four cars to Le Mans, which was well-received.

“I think there’s a very similar opportunity in prototype, for P1 to have a set of rules that are global, that we can race in both series together, that’s affordable.

“I think that’s one of the bigger aspects on what happened to P1.

“Also technology that’s relevant. There’s a fine line between being on the leading edge but not really production relevant.”

One of the big talking points has been the potential continuation of hybrid technology in LMP1, but in a more cost-effective approach.

Nair said he’d support hybrids in the new set of regulations, but only if it has a direct correlation to technology seen on the road today.

“Hybrid technologies? Sure, but they need to be hybrid technologies that are relevant to what we do on production cars, not a hybrid technology that’s purely dedicated to racing,” Nair said.

“I’m not convinced that it needs a hybrid component but I wouldn’t be totally opposed to it if it’s production relevant. I don’t think the fans are screaming for hybrids.

“Hybrids will be an important part of our future, but so will regular internal combustion engines, not just for racing but for production as well.

“That could go either way, and there’s plenty of technology being developed for the regular internal combustion engine as well that would be fun to apply.”

Ford isn’t the only manufacturer pushing for a common set of prototype regulations, with McLaren’s Zak Brown admitting they’d “seriously consider” mounting a bid for overall victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans should there be a global platform.

“I think all of the manufacturers would say that represents a lot better return on investment than what we have now,” Nair said.

“We’re always looking, we’re always making assessments, and we’re always open to the conversation so we provide our feedback when it can be positive.

“We’re getting so much leverage with our GT. The leverage that we’ve had, being able to have the same car in IMSA and in WEC, the same livery and the teams look the same, and we get coverage everywhere we go.

“It’s almost the template of what could be if we were to be a little bit more global and together between the two series.”

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

37 Comments

37 Comments

  1. GR88

    September 16, 2017 at 12:51 pm

    As with GTE/GTLM, it makes sense to have joint regulations.

    An LMP1 based DPI would also give IMSA the opportunity to position LMP2 as their Pro/Am prototype class.

    Makes sense for all concerned.

    • someone

      September 16, 2017 at 1:04 pm

      Yes lets increase cost of DPI’s by 10-30 million dollars by moving them to an open chassis formula like LMP1, where you have to buy an upgrade kit every 6 months to a year… That totally worked out last time we did that with LMP900 and LMP1 in ALMS didn’t it.

      • GR88

        September 16, 2017 at 8:01 pm

        Manufactures will spend what they want, regardless of regulations. The key is keeping the baseline budget to be competitive reasonable. Basing a DPI on LMP2 makes sense in the short-term. Medium to long-term it needs to be opened up.

        It’s mutually beneficial as such regs would attract the likes of McLaren,Toyota, Ford and VAG (Bentley?) who need a WEC component to justify a prototype program.

        It also helps IMSA with LMP2, they can follow ELMS/WEC with a Pro/Am class, potentially increasing entries significantly while keeping costs attractive for privateers.

        • someone

          September 17, 2017 at 5:43 pm

          And none of what you just mentioned is what the manufactures want… Well outside of 2 people that say they “would build cars”. IMSA manufactures do not want a class that they have to spend more then 5-10million a year. Even the upper end of that is too much. They’ve already complained that the new p2 package is extremely expensive. So why on earth would they want to move to a open chassis formula where you can build whatever you want.

          More or less you seem to want a LMP1 with the addition of BOP? lmp1/p1-L is already class that everyone has ran from for the past 20 years.

          It isn’t sustainable get over it.

          • Chad

            September 18, 2017 at 4:36 pm

            Yes, lets shoot the idea down before literally any details or proposed details have come out. Brilliant. Fact is the world is seeing the DPi formula and the success IMSA is having with it. People want in on the fun and globalizing the formula would be the next logical step. That step would continue on what makes DPi popular, not rip up the rules and start new. Why couldn’t they keep a set number of chassis constructors? Base it off of the LMP2 as they do now and make tweaks to aero, power, tire size etc. in order to make the cars faster. Maybe open it up to the existing 4 plus 2 more.

            The manufacturers are expressing major interest in the DPi formula as it is today. If you are getting manufacturers telling you they like the idea, they just want the regulations to be the same across the globe. Make some tweaks but I see no reason for it to go crazy. Take the cars as they are, add horsepower in the form of more burnt dinosaurs or relevant hybrid technology and I see no reason why this couldn’t be the LMP1 of the future.

  2. Trevor Smith

    September 16, 2017 at 12:51 pm

    Ford and Mclaren both in P1 on both sides of the pond? Yes, please!

  3. Steven

    September 16, 2017 at 1:17 pm

    This is the LMP/DP problem all over again. I think if IMSA separated the classes from the get go, there could’ve been a better understanding where everyone stands. We have really no clue what Cadillac, Nissan, Mazda, or Honda are capable of as it gets BoP’ed to LMP2 instead of free reign.

    A DPi is basically an LMP2 with a different engine (only Mazda veered from the common bodywork). It is gonna need some serious modifications to get the level of aero and downforce to compete with LMP1. ( WEC spec LMP2 is lapping CotA 2-3 seconds faster than the Cadillac DPi and an LMP1-H is 9-10 seconds faster)

    Ginetta and SMP have also kept their designs pretty hidden (Ginetta’s has only been seen though computer renders). Ginetta says they are testing their car next month. SMP has been secretly testing their car. Oreca is believed to be building a LMP1 challenger in 2019 from a recent interview. Another rumor is Dome making a LMP1 car that was said during a Super GT race that could be possibly seen with Jensen Button as one of the drivers. but that rumor is most likely never gonna happen.

    I still think its too early for the ACO to push the panic button if Toyota leaves. There is still optimism in LMP1 if there are no factory teams. 2004 and 2005 were raced with zero factory teams and the LMP1 class survived.

    • el_gordo

      September 16, 2017 at 1:44 pm

      can’t really compare the WEC vs IMSA thing because well Conti tires, put Michelins on the Cadillac DPi and let it run some down-force (it’s had all it’s down-force BOP out of it) and I have a feeling it would be more than a match for the WEC P2 cars, then for fun let them run the 6.2 unrestricted to see how much time they can shave off the P1 lap times

      • Steven

        September 16, 2017 at 1:58 pm

        Well, I’d hope the DPi’s would be faster than the LMP2’s as its a open budget vs. cost capped. But even with the open restrictions, I’d say a DPi would maybe be 1-1.5 seconds/lap on the the LMP2’s at CotA. the ByKolles LMP1 was only 1 second or so faster at LeMans than the LMP2’s. Now that Gibson engine has been tested, its showing what its V8 is capable of.

        One of the other problems with the whole thing between IMSA/ACO. IMSA wants to run the cars at Le Mans but blocks LMP1’s from their series. Until LMP1 is allowed back into the series. I don’t see the ACO allowing DPi’s to enter.

        • Andres

          September 16, 2017 at 3:00 pm

          Steven, that is the fact, with Continentals and with forced less downforce it will be always slower than WEC in Michelins or Dunlops, even having close to 100 HP more, that we know that is not the real number, cause BOP

        • Blaneysellstrashbags@Ring24

          September 18, 2017 at 1:53 pm

          ACO is really not in much of a position to be dictating rules to IMSA at this point. They need IMSA a whole lot more than IMSA needs them. All of that could change if suddenly 3 or 4 teams decides they wanna run a factory P1 team but right now that is not happening.

      • Evan

        September 17, 2017 at 9:33 pm

        WEC enforces track limits while IMSA doesn’t so that is making IMSA look closer to the WEC cars at COTA too.

    • guest

      September 16, 2017 at 2:06 pm

      “We have really no clue what Cadillac, Nissan, Mazda, or Honda are capable of as it gets BoP’ed to LMP2 instead of free reign.”

      That’s by design! They all are marketing based programs. They all want an equal chance at the overall win without the massive engineering budgets of P1.

    • GR88

      September 16, 2017 at 8:05 pm

      Any 2020/21 DPI class would be based on LMP1.

      That’s the whole point, DPI would be based on the more open LMP1 platform (with similar cost controls to current DPI), rather than LMP2’s four constructors.

    • kv

      September 18, 2017 at 3:43 pm

      WEC and IMSA need SIR JACKIE STEWART to consolidate sportscar racing on a GLOBAL level!Manufacturers teams and fans are growing sick of all the politics,i stopped watching C SPAN FOR JUST THIS REASON !

  4. AMGMerc

    September 16, 2017 at 1:27 pm

    Manufactureres obviously want common regs, so why is it so hard to accept, or even understand this? The manufacturers want to play on BOTH sides of the pond, not spend millions on each side of the pond. Lets face it folks the motorsports budgets aren’t what they used to be, I could honestly give a rip if they are hybrids or not. Make it SOUND like a race car, make it fast like a race car, and make it LOOK like a race car. It’s not that hard. The ACO/WEC better get there head out of there butt, and start listening, or they will have there precious LMP2 cars winning the 24 Hours, after Toyota pulls the plug. Toyota wants Hybrids, so go back to F1 then, Hybrids at Lemans are over, done, stick a fork in them.

    • AudiTT

      September 16, 2017 at 8:13 pm

      Every manufacturer who has spoken about future LMP1/DPI regs, from Toyota, Peugeot, McLaren and Ford, have said they see hybrid continuing. When running a program at this level it needs to have an R&D component.

      They have all said this is preferable (not just hybrid R&D, but other tech), but they need much more sensible cost control and tech solutions that are 100% road relevant.

      • Matt

        September 18, 2017 at 10:56 am

        Did you read the article? Nair is saying he doesn’t give a crap if the regs leave out hybrid tech. He only wants hybrid tech if it’s road relevant and affordable. He also understands that most fans want to see exciting, good-sounding race cars because racing is supposed to be entertaining.

      • daedalus

        September 18, 2017 at 11:44 am

        they just need to ditch the exhaust gas recovery system and limit it to regenerative braking (KERS) with 1 system. A simple motor/generator on the driveshaft wired to a off the shelf li-ion battery would be all that is needed. It would be real cheap, even the privateers could afford to do it.

        • kv

          September 18, 2017 at 3:52 pm

          SOUNDS like GM has a EVT that can do the job !THE FLY BRID CAN USE MORE DEVELOPEMENT AS WELL A ROTARY GAS TURBINE,just expand garage 56 !

  5. Luna

    September 16, 2017 at 1:46 pm

    The IMSA DPi is the right car. Those charlatans of ACO/FIA chose the wrong option and miserably failed blinded by their arrogance. One of them, Bernard Niclot, a protégé of the FIA president, has been fired. Time for others to go and make space for the sport.

    • Steven

      September 16, 2017 at 1:48 pm

      If it wasn’t for those ACO LMP2 chassis. The DPi wouldn’t even be around because those manufacturers don’t want to build a chassis themselves.

      • jareth Belanger

        September 16, 2017 at 3:58 pm

        Your point is? They would have just done the same thing anyways. He’ll dallara built the old corvette DP chassis for WTR.

      • AudiTT

        September 16, 2017 at 8:16 pm

        Every IMSA class, from DPI to LMP2, LMP3, GTE & GTD is an ACO/FIA class. Of course DPI is IMSA’s own tale on LMP2, but under the skin its pure LMP2.

        • Andy Flinn

          September 18, 2017 at 1:34 pm

          AudiTT, prototypes don’t race without their “skins” – or their engines.

          So, DPis really aren’t ACO/FIA LMP2s. Are they?

      • Andy Flinn

        September 18, 2017 at 1:31 pm

        Steven, that’s absurd.

        It’s like saying if it wasn’t for Oreca there would be no WEC LMP2 class this year.

        Oreca (Alpine branding) wins again at CoTA.

        Zzzz….

    • kv

      September 18, 2017 at 3:54 pm

      ALAIN PROST for sportscar CZAR !

  6. Juninho

    September 16, 2017 at 2:07 pm

    Chip Ganassi Racing IMSA and WEC

    Ford GT (2017-2019)

    New Ford DPi/P1 in 2020

  7. John

    September 16, 2017 at 4:02 pm

    If Ford, Toyota, McLaren, and Peugeot went to the ACO and said “we want this, we’re willing to commit for four years,” it would happen.

    Otherwise, talk is cheap.

    Mazda will show up if can scrounge some change from the couch cushions.

    If Ed Brown is willing to pay, I’m sure Nissan would supply something with their name on it.

    Honda (distinct from HPD) is spending their money on F1, and still have their work cut out for them with TR/RB.

    To their credit, GM/P&M have been flying the international flag with the Corvette for a long time, but I have serious doubts whether they could stomach a step up, never mind a Ford-style multiple-car factory assault. And they don’t do customer cars. How persuasive is Wayne Taylor?

    BTW, I didn’t know that the WEC had scheduled a televised, full-field testing session in Texas. Why on such a hot day?

    • Matt

      September 18, 2017 at 10:58 am

      The cars have air conditioning

  8. AudiTT

    September 16, 2017 at 8:19 pm

    “BTW, I didn’t know that the WEC had scheduled a televised, full-field testing session in Texas. Why on such a hot day?”

    Like IMSA, that’s why they aren’t returning when circuits around the world are eager to join the WEC. Unfortunately COTA probably won’t be around long-term.

    • Andy Flinn

      September 18, 2017 at 1:39 pm

      AudiTT, make no mistake.

      It’s the WEC that is “eager” to ditch CoTA and race at Sebring, not the other way around.

      Arrogance is going to destroy the WEC.

      The series needs new management to properly lead what’s left of the WEC.

      • JrSamples

        September 18, 2017 at 2:01 pm

        If I were Scott Atherton I asking WEC what is in this for IMSA? WEC decides they wanna suddenly be friends and cooperate with IMSA…IS the WEC really wanting to play along with IMSA or perhaps is this based totally on need at the moment?

  9. Tom Rheder EXCURSION owner 674,000 miles.

    September 17, 2017 at 11:37 am

    A LOT TO DO ABOUT NOTHING!

  10. Tom Rheder EXCURSION owner 674,000 miles.

    September 17, 2017 at 11:38 am

    A LOT TO DO ABOUT nothing.

  11. Jack

    September 18, 2017 at 9:55 pm

    Look at Dpi and GT3 as a template for what could work out for LMP1. GT-3 has taken off because the same cars can be raced in many series. So a global LMP format would certainly boost LMP1 participation.
    The new Ferrari GT-3 car can be converted to GTLM. Change front bodywork, rear wing, wheel arches and some engine work and your now GTLM for about 125K. This could also work in LMP. DPi can use GT3 engine like the Nissan car does in IMSA 500-600hp. Make LMP1 and LMP2 chassis the same for 2020 and designed to allow hybrid tech (room for batteries and electric motor). LMP2 You can run stock body and Gibson engine or manufacture body work 600hp target balance BoP with weight, restrictor, fuel tank and fuel refueling rate – no hybrid in lmp2. LMP1 is same car, more downforce with a target 800hp. Most GT-3 engines are less powerful than their street cars. LMP1 can either run a larger restictor to get to 800hp or add hybrid tech as a single electric motor 150-175hp rear wheel drive only.
    You could run in LMP1 with gt3 engine + Hybrid and only have to develop the Aero Kit. Cost effective, relevant auto tech and customized bodywork to make car associated with manufacturer. Car also become much more reliable and don’t have the breakdown issue from last year Lemans.

  12. Davy

    September 20, 2017 at 12:48 am

    DPi is the right idea. There isn’t enough money in endurance racing to justify constant development. Or pointless junk like hybrids.

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