IMSA President Scott Atherton says the decision to split DPi and LMP2 into separate categories was a “no brainer” decision, following an alleged unanimous approval from existing LMP2 teams.
Confirmed during Friday’s annual ‘State of the Series’ address, the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will return to a four-class format with the spinoff of LMP2 machinery into a dedicated, Pro-Am-enforced class next year.
It comes following a turbulent past 18 months that has seen repeated slowdowns for DPi machinery to match the FIA and ACO’s global-spec platform, which had been the performance baseline in the unified Prototype class.
“Originally there was some opposition from our LMP2 competitors to keep it exactly as it is,” Atherton told Sportscar365.
“The reason they’re here is because they wanted to compete with the best and the brightest in the DPi category.
“As time has evolved, all of our current LMP2 competitors expressed a desire to separate. Compared to the previous set of circumstances, that made it easier.
“The DPi teams have always wanted it, so it became a no-brainer.”
The change, which will see DPi performance levels restored to its initially intended values, will essentially prohibit LMP2 cars from having a chance to win races overall.
It comes in the wake of victories for both JDC-Miller Motorsports and CORE autosport in the two most recent Prototype rounds at Watkins Glen and Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, respectively.
Despite this, Atherton believes it will still be a “very attractive” proposition for European teams looking to come over for the Rolex 24 at Daytona and/or Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
“For teams that are very accustomed to running in similar formats, the opportunity to come over and race against teams that are similarly equipped and configured I think is going to be very attractive,” he said.
“We take our feedback from our stakeholders, and we make decisions based on what we think is going to play the best and do the best job we know how to execute against it.
“Hopefully that means more cars on the grid.”
Bennett ‘Disappointed’ by LMP2 Spinoff
While largely supported by teams such as PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports, CORE autosport team owner/driver Jon Bennett admitted he’s ‘disappointed’ by the move to spin off LMP2.
“I enjoy the challenge of running in a unified, top category,” Bennett told Sportscar365.
“I’m encouraged that a smaller, private team can be competitive with the bigger factory teams and I still think we’re learning about this car.
“It’s a little bit disappointing that we can’t continue to learn and compete against some of the best drivers and teams.
“I hope that as teams make plans for 2019 that the LMP2 class will be populated enough to make sense to be racing in it.”
Bennett, who hasn’t ruled out a future move to DPi machinery in the future, said he’s taking a wait-and-see approach on the platform’s viability for privateers.
“It will be interesting to know what the accessibility to DPi programs will be for smaller teams,” he said.
“I think for our team you have to be careful about making sudden, large decisions based on limited information, but we’ll certainly be watching the DPi class next year and measuring its feasibility for us.”
No Plans for Customer DPi Sales Mandate
Atherton said there are no plans to mandate customer DPi sales, despite the current limited entry point for privateers into what will become the championship’s premier class next year.
Both Acura and Mazda have stated no immediate plans to offer its DPi machinery to privateer teams, while it’s understood Cadillac’s support program is currently limited to four cars.
The future of the privately funded Onroak-Nissan program, in the wake of Tequila Patron’s exit from motorsports involvement, meanwhile, remains unclear.
“There’s some examples where there’s a more aggressive position than in some other examples,” Atherton said. “Some, frankly, are not interested in having additional cars in the hands of others; they like it the way it is.
“Cadillac, right now, already has what they would describe as some customer teams that are competing.
“That’s one example and I think there will be others.”