IMSA President Scott Atherton says there could be up to two new manufacturers set to join the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with DPi machinery for as soon as next year, with significant additional interest building in the prototype formula for the long-term.
The new-for-2017 platform, which utilizes manufacturer-specific engines and bodywork mated to global-spec LMP2 chassis, launched this year with factory or works-supported programs from Cadillac, Mazda and Nissan, with Honda widely linked to soon be announcing its entry with Team Penske for 2018.
Atherton hinted that another manufacturer, which has not yet been reported in the media, could also debut in the short-term.
“I would suggest there will be some near-term DPi news and some additional developments to come,” Atherton told Sportscar365.
“I think there’s some other developments that are going to surprise many, if not all.
“That’s been satisfying for us to not see speculation on some of these things, such when it does come time to have an announcement, it’s going to be news and not confirmation of the already known.”
While a number of manufacturers, including Audi, Bentley and Ford are all understood to have at least begun preliminary investigations, it’s believed most potential projects could be for 2019 or later, should they get the green light.
Atherton said there are no current plans to limit the number of DPi manufacturers in the class, despite the potential of five brands on the grid for next year and more on the way in the years to come.
“As an ex-track promoter, you operate on the philosophy that there’s always room for one more and I would put us, currently at least, in the same category,” he said.
“Should there come a time in the future where we would re-consider that, I think that falls in the category of a great problem to have.”
Atherton said he’s been pleased with the platform’s growth, which has exceeded IMSA’s initial expectations, but stressed there’s still work to be done.
“That’s been very satisfying for all of us,” he said. Because we felt like the start of the DPi era was at, or perhaps above our original expectations were.
“To have three premium brands and really strong teams with high quality examples across the board. Then to see the mix of performance of LMP2 cars and DPis truly intermixed with lap time and capability.
“There’s a lot of people that contributed mightily to the overall detail and description of what the DPi platform represents. There isn’t any part of that was my chance. Everything has been thought through and fully vetted.
“To see the way it’s been launched and to have the amount of positive momentum surrounding it that we have right now… If you went back two years ago and said, ‘OK let’s skip ahead to the middle of 2017.
“You’ve got three active manufacturers involved, there’s at least one, maybe two that are short-term imminent to come and more in the pipeline.
“Would you consider that a success? Yeah we would. That exceeds our highest expectations.”