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Atherton: Costs the “Biggest Hurdle” for Common Prototype Regs

IMSA’s Scott Atherton encouraged by 2020 WEC regs but worries about costs…

Photo: Scott LePage/IMSA

IMSA President Scott Atherton is encouraged by the FIA and ACO’s proposed 2020 prototype regulations revealed on Friday at Le Mans, but admitted costs are still “the biggest hurdle” to the platform coming to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

High-ranking IMSA staff were involved in the discussions for the regulations which seek to create a greater brand identity than current prototypes while still encouraging technological innovation in hybrid powertrains and reducing costs to one-quarter of current LMP1 hybrid budgets.

It is the latter point that could prove to be the stickiest, according to Atherton, with proposed budget figures for the yet-to-be-named prototype regulations coming in significantly higher than those of DPi manufacturers currently competing in IMSA.

“The biggest hurdle, certainly, is budget.” Atherton told Sportscar365.

“High marks to the FIA and the ACO for achieving what they have to date in that the current LMP1 budget is extremely expensive and they have done an outstanding job of reducing that while still introducing an interesting, exciting, technically relevant product.

“Even with those significant reductions, the proposed budgets, the talked about budgets that are connected with this generation of car, still represent a significant increase over where we are today [with DPi].

“And that’s where the challenge lies.

“We have manufacturers that have expressed similar concerns that even with the reductions that have been proposed, it’s still not to the level that would give them the opportunity to participate, and that’s where the challenge lies.”

Atherton said crafting common regulations to unite endurance sports car racing globally is the ultimate goal and an outcome that could shift the trajectory of the sport for the positive, but added it can’t come at the expense of IMSA’s core tenants.

“[Common regulations] would be lightning in a bottle, no question about it,” he said. “That’s the goal.

“What I would say, and this is not new information, if that goal could be realized while still enabling IMSA with the WeatherTech Championship to maintain the core elements that have made the DPi formula successful.

“What we won’t do is agree to regulations, involve ourselves in regulations, that abandon those core tenants, just for the sake of saying we have a global formula.”

Atherton said he’d consider the introduction of hybrid technology for the first time in the WeatherTech Championship.

“We’re open minded to new details, new regulations, to changes in the car configuration, to changes in the extreme branding elements,” he said. “That’s all open. Hybrid technology, not an issue.

“What becomes the challenge there is how do you put the proper controls in place so that you don’t have a repeat of what everyone has now witnessed with LMP1.

“I think we’ve demonstrated that you can have cost-effective prototypes with regulations that are attractive to manufacturers, to fans. It works.

“We’ve got a good thing going on in North America right now and we want to be part of a solution, as we are with out GT formulas. GTE, GTLM are one of the same. GT3 is global.

“If we can apply that same mindset to the prototype category, all the better. But we’ve got to maintain the core elements of what has made our current platform successful.”

DPi DNA Evident in New Regulations

IMSA’s DPi concept, a brand-specific prototype platform with significant cost controls built into the regulations, shares a great deal in common with the plans the ACO and FIA announced.

Asked if he took pride in seeing his French counterparts following a similar path, Atherton conceded that it was gratifying to see the IMSA’s influence manifested in the global future of the sport.

“The short answer would be yes,” he said. “The way it’s described and the way it’s positioned here takes it to an impressive level, more extreme.

“Our mission right now with DPi is not that extreme and it’s to give manufacturers an opportunity to take existing design elements from existing road cars and incorporate them into a prototype format.

“Ironically, when we first approached the ACO with that idea it was not well-received.

“To actually have that now be one of the primary, foundational elements of the 2020 regulations, that’s where the satisfaction comes in for sure.”

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.



  1. jeff

    June 15, 2018 at 7:31 am

    Sure sounds like there won’t be global regs. I really don’t see Acura, Mazda, or Cadillac stepping up their budgets to this PLUS funding to actually run Le Mans in addition to the packed IMSA schedule.

    • Old Trombone

      June 15, 2018 at 10:35 am

      Other than Le Mans itself and Spa, the WEC is boring F1-lite. On the other hand, IMSA has beautiful tracks that have enormous character and beauty.

      What does the ACO want? To make F1 and FE combine into WEC and make WEC the “pinnacle series”, with Le Mans as the “Pinnacle of the Pinnacle” Super Bowl-style.

      What do IMSA teams want? A stand-alone class at Le Mans where they race the exact same cars as at Daytona, a class which will take Le Mans line-honors whenever the euro-f1-style cars break, which is often.

      The ACO wants to be the “decider”. IMSA teams want to be the “disrupters”.

      These two shall never meet … until someone from outside Europe becomes Chief of the FIA.

      • Old Trombone

        June 15, 2018 at 10:39 am

        I forgot one part – the euro-f1-style teams also want to dominate Daytona and Sebring each year and the phaak off never to be seen again until the next year. And they want the IMSA teams to satisfy themselves with minor placing in Florida and therefore irrelevance in the rest of the IMSA year.

        I think trying for dominating just part of another’s series is less moral than trying to be an occasional lucky winner in another’s series’ separated pinnacle. Right?

        • Just another fan

          June 15, 2018 at 5:59 pm

          IDK, to me you described the same problem but you present both sides from different POVs. I wonder why?

      • kv

        June 16, 2018 at 3:53 pm

        ONLY Jackie Stewart can stop the ACO/FIA/IMSA conundrum !

        • Haskellb

          June 17, 2018 at 10:33 pm

          When Chuck Norris dreams of being a race car driver, he dreams of being Jackie Stewart.

  2. Sorc

    June 15, 2018 at 8:07 am

    Not quite sure what these proposed regs have to do with DPi other than the idea of road car styling… Which in itself started way back with GT1 anyway. And the DPi cars don’t even resemble ‘hypercars’ in the slightest, they just look like LMP2 cars with a few extra bits or a plank over the nose.

    • Andy Flinn

      June 15, 2018 at 6:34 pm

      Sorc, sorry dude but prototype road car styling cues existed “way back” before GT1 was ever a class.

      Randy Wittine’s IMSA Corvette GTP is just one example.

      Not everything fine, good and proper in sports car racing originated in Europe.

      It’s ok though.

      • The Brad

        June 15, 2018 at 10:25 pm

        The only thing that resembled a corvette on that car were the stickers.

        • jareth Belanger

          June 17, 2018 at 10:46 pm

          uh what…he’s talking about the GTP not the DP you dipshit.

  3. southcove

    June 15, 2018 at 8:22 am

    Keep the current DPi thought process…P2 levels of performance is fine. If you want to kick it up a notch in IMSA, offer a open engine option with some more horsepower and maybe a bit more tire…I always go back to Nascar type horsepower and big engines that pretty much any good race shop can maintain. Gee, 800hp in a P2 type chassis…leave your hybrids at home!

    The new formula for WEC is too much amped up and glorified uber GT car for my tastes, but I’ll certainly follow it with interest.
    The top class of prototype should be just that, prototype. Pure race car.

    • Old Trombone

      June 15, 2018 at 10:45 am

      You got no Hybids in:
      Aussie Supercars

      But that’s not enough for you, right? You won’t be satisfied until not one hybrid races anywhere for anyone, right? If two Khazaks were racing Priuses down a street in Kyzylorda, that would ruin your watching F1 and Indycar, right? Unless everybody on earth is watching exactly what you are watching, then you suffer badly, uh huh? Trigger bait.

      • greeniessuck

        June 16, 2018 at 11:47 pm

        Ah,widdle twumpet is upset………….AGAIN.

        Friggin greenies.

  4. Zone

    June 15, 2018 at 8:32 am

    Today’s DPi cars are just spec cars at best. They don’t excite me at all. The GTLM in imsa and GTE class is what fans can identify with. Would like to see Chevy and Ford back in the GTP class again. Get Riley the hell out of there. Gibson engines who the hell needs them. The current 24 hours of LeMans top class is missing Audi and all the other manufacturers this year. It’s a big yawn IMO.

    • Marc

      June 15, 2018 at 8:49 am

      Considering IMSA has been seeing increases in: corporate sponsorship, OEM involvement, ratings and at track attendance, you are definitely in the very small minority when it comes to DPs being not exciting.

      Anyways, as I’ve mentioned in other posts (while others argued against me), DPi costs are around $5m per year per car. Asking teams to spend 2-3x more is a big leap.

      IMSA keep it up with DPi! Keep the prototype look.

    • jason

      June 15, 2018 at 9:21 am

      Very true. I hope the GTE/GTLM manufacturers will consider the new GTP category. I think you can design cars that still look just like the current GTLM cars but with more aero, the little fin, more power, etc Chevrolet has a base design already with the Corvette DP. The Ford GT just needs to add a fin to the back. Porsche can get a car that looks like the GT1 98 but with the GTE engine that makes that great sound.

      • thomas

        June 15, 2018 at 11:05 am

        Which Corvette DP? There were at least two different cars with superficially similar bodywork that went by that name but were otherwise very, very different

      • Larry

        June 16, 2018 at 11:52 pm

        I would rather those cars stay in GT rather than throw all their money at prototypes. This could kill GTLM/GTE.

        This whole thing with trying to make prototypes look like street cars is rubbish, whether it’s FIA or IMSA. That’s what the GT classes are for.

      • Larry

        June 17, 2018 at 12:01 am

        Jason, you do realize that the “Corvette DP” was an unsafe POS tube frame prototype with chassis built by THREE different companies, right?

        GMs and NASCARs idea of “high tech”, meaning “cheap as shit”.

        Has nothing absolutely to do with the current DPis and P2s.

    • pdxracefan

      June 15, 2018 at 2:44 pm


    • Andy Flinn

      June 15, 2018 at 6:38 pm

      Zone, GM and Ford aren’t interested in building or funding bespoke hybrid prototype cars.

      It simply costs too much money.

      • Larry

        June 16, 2018 at 11:53 pm

        Actually Andy, Ford was at the meetings this week and is all for it.

        You are probably right about Government Motors.

  5. Zone

    June 15, 2018 at 8:41 am

    No open cockpits anymore it’s a spec race and boring as hell. That class just gets in the way of the other classes. We don’t need nascar involved in any sportscar racing they almost ruined grand am. The formula for the conti series seems to be attracting manufacturers again because fans want to see those cars. However I do like the sounds of those V/8’s from Europe and soon GM. TT V/8’s bring em.

    • Mo

      June 15, 2018 at 9:16 am

      No, it would be a spec class if it weren’t for DPi. You have it backwards.

    • Harry Manback

      June 15, 2018 at 12:00 pm

      Have you ever actually watched an IMSA race?

      • Mo

        June 15, 2018 at 3:48 pm

        I actually attend them. Do you have a point?

        • Larry

          June 17, 2018 at 12:03 am

          Mo, I think he was responding to zone.

    • Larry

      June 16, 2018 at 11:57 pm

      zone, grandam was their invention and it was ruined from day one.

      Tube frame prototypes? No thanks.

      Tube frame GTs? No thanks. The only GT class car that was not tubeframe were the 911s.

  6. Just another fan

    June 15, 2018 at 10:28 am

    Great! Atherton, being Atherton, wants “global” prototype regulations to fit straight in with his organization’s priorities and in particular, the budget. Understandable that he cares about IMSA first but from the looks of things, I am not expecting a converge any time soon. When IMSA hits hard times and it will – every series does at some point – he will be forced to change his mind or maybe forced out of his current role to save face…

    • thomas

      June 15, 2018 at 11:06 am

      Yeah that’s a logical thought process…when IMSA has troubles they’ll resolve them by tripling or quadrupling the price of entry which is what these new FIA rules will do.

      • Andy Flinn

        June 15, 2018 at 6:47 pm

        Thomas, great post!

        I was about to make a similar comment but you beat me to it.

    • GridS2Plaza

      June 15, 2018 at 11:29 am

      I think the primary priority of IMSA is legitimate cost control that allows both privateers and manufacturer’s to participate.
      The FIA/ACO cost capping limits are still very high which will in the end limit the number of entrants.
      What is so “innovative” about any of this regulations.
      If a manufacturer does not produce road cars are they not going to be allowed to compete in the top class?
      What is old is new again.
      Since driverless cars seem to be the rage with the tech crowd, maybe the FIA should consider a driverless class. Full scale slot car racing.

      Seems like a big yawn to me with Atherton sticking to his PC speak like he always does.

      • Just another fan

        June 15, 2018 at 6:06 pm

        “If a manufacturer does not produce road cars are they not going to be allowed to compete in the top class?”
        That’s not the case. ACO’s Beaumesnil said that even ORECA can enter the new category with a concept car design in their name. It doesn’t seem necessary to be a road car manufacturer to enter the market. Red Bull’s F1 team could enter if they so wished. From what I understand and in light of the new ESports series, the idea is to bring the Vision Gran Tourismo cars to the real 24 Hours of Le Mans.

  7. fernando

    June 15, 2018 at 10:58 am

    Let’s not forget that Atherton almost killed prototype racing in the US by aligning with the ACO. To me, the man is delusional. Leave ACO and LM where they are and let’s stick to DPI on our side of the pond. Mid and short term the ACO rules have always been unsustainable. The philosophies are too different, the agenda’s as well. The only thing I would welcome would be LMP1 non hybrid in the US, with DP’s with similar levels of performance, or make the DPI as close to LMP1 as possible. Leave LMP2 as it is as a separate class that fights for class wins and the odd podium. Sort of a Gentleman’s driver class. And leave it well alone!

  8. jason

    June 15, 2018 at 12:11 pm

    After seeing what is going on in 2018. I can see as soon as 2019, IMSA splitting up DPI and LMP2 into different classes. The twist is that they could allow non hybrid LMP1 cars to run in the DPI category next year. A BoP would not be that hart. At Le Mans the LMP2 cars can go 3 min 25. P1 privateer is 3 min 19. The DPI’s on proper tires I bet can go 3:20 to 3:22.

  9. bjones

    June 15, 2018 at 12:31 pm

    If someone would like to research it, this idea almost came to light with Audi and Chevy until Peugeot decided they did not like it and FIA nixed the idea. I believe Porsche was involved as well as Aston but not sure. But i am with most in saying: not sure about the so called new rules. As for saying the current IMSA formula is boring? How much Endurance racing have you watched. I for one never turned away for 12 hours of Sebring as as those damn fools beat on each other for twelve hours, some were even dumb enough to challenge the ole girl herself and paid the price. IMSA has it as it stands and I love P1. I also agree that outside of the enduro series,NOT EXCITED!.

  10. Dave

    June 15, 2018 at 5:15 pm

    For IMSA it will be all about if the manufacturers want to do it. Clearly we will be looking at new cars three years down the line. And a rebodied P2 car is not going to cut it in the next GEN. I’m not sure about the viability of two seats in a race car. It reminds me of when they used to make the 60s prototypes have places for luggage.

    • thomas

      June 16, 2018 at 7:37 am

      LMP1/2 cars have always had a space for a second seat

      • Larry

        June 17, 2018 at 12:10 am

        thomas, have you seen a current P1 or P2? No room for a second seat.

        Yeah, back in the GTP/Group C days, even up to ALMS, but not currently.

        • Dave

          June 22, 2018 at 5:47 am

          Haha, very true, Larry. IMO there isn’t even room for one driver

  11. Mazda Greg

    June 15, 2018 at 5:53 pm

    Would someone be able to give me an idea on how the budget of a Toyota (Audi/Porsche) LMP be broken down.


    I have a hard time with understanding how to bring the cost down with not knowing were the bulk of the money is being spent.

  12. The Brad

    June 15, 2018 at 10:38 pm

    Thank God Atherton didn’t cave and do whatever the ACO wanted. We really dont need hybrids in racing. If I wanted to see that I’d hang out at a Toyota dealership and watch Prius’s.

    I say uncork the motors in DPi and get some more speed. Offer an engine upgrade to the Gibson cars and add another class for P2 spec cars if they want to stay spec. How many European P2’s have raced here this year anyways? ? ? ?

    Let ACO do whatever they want, they’ve already shot themselves in the foot with P1H. 2 cars this year. TWO! And the high water mark was 6 cars. Yay. They need us more than we need them. Daytona and Sebring will no longer be WEC’s test weekend.

  13. Dave

    June 22, 2018 at 5:43 am

    All motorsport series are limited by the tracks. We are close to the limit in America as to the safe speeds that can be done. Having attended races at COTA – America’s F1 track – I can tell you that, IMO, it is not a fan friendly track. Once you put in the necessary runoff and catch fencing, the fan is way too far from the track to fully experience the race. At Lime Rock you can practically touch the cars as they go by. Inside and outside the Boot at Watkins Glen you can see clearly over the 4′ fence and feel the wind created by the passing cars. Laguna Seca affords great views of the corkscrew if you can wedge yourself in at the fence, and many other spots around the track too. Road Atlanta features one of the great viewing mounds in motor sport after the esses – not to mention turns 6,7 & 10. This is a long way of saying that European tracks can likely accommodate cars that are slightly faster than most American tracks could safely. It would stand to reason, then, that a common set of regs might not be practical. I hope they do homologate just because it would be great to see everyone competing at Le Mans, Daytona, and Sebring in the same race, but that may remain a GTE/GTLM thing.

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