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DragonSpeed Eyeing Rolex 24 LMP2 Effort

DragonSpeed planning Daytona LMP2 entry; other teams evaluating IMSA futures after prototype split…

Photo: MPS Agency

DragonSpeed is planning a return to the Rolex 24 at Daytona under the new split LMP2 class format, according to team boss Elton Julian.

The U.S. outfit, which currently runs Oreca 07 Gibsons in both the FIA World Endurance Championship and European Le Mans Series, is working on a likely entry into next year’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season-opener with at least one LMP2 car.

It would mark the team’s first WeatherTech Championship start since the 2017 Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring and its return to Daytona after debuting the new-gen Oreca nearly two years ago.

Julian told Sportscar365 that the team’s chances of returning are “high” following IMSA’s decision to split its top category into separate DPi and LMP2 classes for 2019.

“We’ve been asking for it [the prototype split] since day one,” he told Sportscar365.

“We were one of the first ones to go there with the P2 car, but we learned our lesson then.

“I love the DPi category and I love the P2 category, I just never thought they should race against each other.”

Julian indicated they would likely field at least one car, with one of the Oreca LMP2 cars already due to be Stateside for the 1000-mile race at Sebring in March.

The team, which bases its European operations in France, owns two active Oreca chassis, split between its full-season WEC and ELMS programs.

Jota Sport Looking at Satellite DPi Effort

Jackie Chan DC Racing could also appear at Daytona but with a satellite DPi entry, according to Jota Sport’s Sam Hignett.

The UK-based squad, which runs the pair of Jackie Chan-backed Orecas in the WEC, has ties to 2017 Daytona winners and Cadillac DPi outfit Wayne Taylor Racing.

Hignett said the team could forge a one-off entry that would keep it in the top category after its debut with a pair of Oreca LMP2 cars this year, which were supported by WTR logistically.

Referring to the IMSA prototype split, Hignett explained that the decision “hurts our aspiration there with an LMP2 car.”

“What it does mean is that I need to strengthen our relationship with the DPi teams, because the only way we would race there now is with a DPi car,” he told Sportscar365.

“We wouldn’t go back there with an LMP2 car if we can’t win outright, but we’re close to IMSA teams so we would go back there as a satellite DPi car.

“Tentatively, for Daytona it’s something that we’re looking at.”

Daytona “Not on the Horizon” for Rebellion

Rebellion Racing’s Bart Hayden, meanwhile, has discounted the possibility of the Swiss squad appearing at Daytona in the wake of the class split.

Hayden, whose team ran Neel Jani, Nick Heidfeld, Stephane Sarrazin and Sebastien Buemi in an Oreca last year, said the new structure caters more to teams already based in the U.S.

“It’s a tricky one,” he told Sportscar365. “I can fully understand the reasons why [the split] would happen.

“If you’ve got an LMP2 car and you’re in WEC, and you’re thinking of going to IMSA, it would make that less interesting.

“If you’re already over in the USA then I think you have to look at getting into DPi which we’ve seen a few teams doing.

“As an LMP2 customer, I would be less interested in going and taking part. Daytona’s not on our horizon, certainly for the next year or so.”

John Dagys contributed to this report

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365 and e-racing365, with a focus on the FIA World Endurance Championship and various electric racing series.

15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Jack

    August 16, 2018 at 10:24 am

    I guess Cadillac is handing over support to Dallara and Dallara is just running wild with it.

    • kv

      August 18, 2018 at 11:18 am

      THE superior torque of the 5.5v8,has outrun the choking BoP,NOW BoP BETWEEN CARS IN CLASS, WILL TIGHTEN UP THE SHOW !

  2. Andy Flinn

    August 16, 2018 at 11:54 am

    What would make Daytona more “interesting” in 2019? Is he referring to a shot at the overall win?

    With all due respect to Rebellion, unless the two Toyotas crash into each other, both suffer massive mechanical failures or boycott a race, Rebellion is NOT going to win overall in the WEC next year (certainly not at Sebring or Le Mans) in either.

    And he never explained – at least not in this article – how the IMSA split-class structure “caters” to teams based in the U.S.

    • Andy

      August 16, 2018 at 9:46 pm

      Because DPis aren’t cheap so if you want to run up front you have to buy a car for that sole use and there’s no point in converting your chassis back and forth to use in WEC and IMSA. With the original plan, rarely successful as it was, Rebellion could use their Orecas with an all Pro lineup in it for NAEC events if they wanted. But with the new regs they would have to find a new lineup to meet the driver requirements and a not be racing at the front of the field. But I guess that’s a hard conclusion to reach?

      As for Rebellion winning outright in WEC, well that’s not that much of a stretch. One car failure in a race or bad penalty and one idiot driver in a GT car and we have a race. As that has happened plenty of times in the past I’m not sure why they shouldn’t still race in case it does. It so you think Rebellion should just pack it up cause they can’t win?

      • Andy Flinn

        August 17, 2018 at 10:28 am

        Andy, no it’s not a hard conclusion to reach. However, compared to the Toyota hybrids, Rebellion is already racing in another class (LMP1 non-hybrids) in the WEC. As has been said by non-hybrid WEC prototype drivers, third place on the LMP1 podium would be a win. Also, as good as Rebellion is, they were never going to be granted access to a factory LMP1 hybrid.

        Barring a freak accident for Toyota, Rebellion – as good as they are – will not win an LMP1 race this “superseason.” We can bet on that if you want.

        And DPi isn’t the only option for Daytona.

        Rebellion could just rent an Oreca LMP2 and compete for the class win at Daytona, which is something they’ve done not long ago in the WEC. I know they could win IMSA LMP2.

        And, ironically, Rebellion does seem to be saying that they’re going to skip Daytona because they think they can’t win.

  3. NASCAR/DPs Suck

    August 16, 2018 at 12:20 pm

    Could ESM offer up their Ligier Nissans for someone to leave for Daytona? Seems like that could be something for Jackie Chan or one of the other teams like United Autosports.

    • John

      August 16, 2018 at 5:16 pm

      Well, the hopeful plan is for ESM to still need their Ligiers to race, and promote the new sponsor they’re looking for.

      But, they have relinquished their exclusivity deal with Onroak and NISMO for 2019, so in theory at least, others will be free to purchase and use the same package.

      One unanswered question would be who would shoulder the pesky manufacturer’s fee.

  4. Dave

    August 16, 2018 at 2:15 pm

    Interesting article that points out how two seemingly similar teams relative to IMSA look at it very differently. Dragonspeed races LMP2 and wants to win in LMP2. To beat a DPi car with its performance dialed back is not a win in their book. Kind of like the WEC LMP1 dilemma. Rebellion on the other hand wants to take the checkered flag in which case ELMS would be the right series for them. I guess the point is that there will be people with interest in P2 and competing for the class win, then there are those who either stay away or go with DPi. There is no one solution that will please everyone.

  5. bjones

    August 16, 2018 at 8:01 pm

    I beg to differ about Rebellion, Toyota has all they want with that team, they are good and money is no object. They are smart and not only know how to make a car fast but last.
    Bart is just talking facts and how teams feel. If they want to come and win they will.
    Just not a fan of the split, I will give you one guess who wanted this, (team wise).
    I also want to see the DPI teams released a little but this is the rule they got into bed with and not sure why someone thought these teams would sit on their hands and not develop the car. I can promise you,two of the teams has made a career at doing this so we have what we have.

    • bjones

      August 16, 2018 at 9:13 pm

      Just read that Mclaren is quite serious about DPI in 2020

      • Andy

        August 17, 2018 at 7:19 am

        Is it McLaren who was interested of Zak Brown? Cause it sounds like United is interested IF they can get some form of Ligier based DPi (currently Nissan but another could develop on the chassis now that all 4 are used) for 2020. I would assume they are looking toward something on their Ligier and United has a pretty good relationship with Ligier currently. If Zak can convince the cash behind McLaren to invest than possibly a McLaren DPi but they weren’t even paying the manufacturer fees to earn points in CTSC so no one could run in GTD. They HAVE to pay or they can’t build a DPi.

        • John

          August 17, 2018 at 7:37 pm

          Most of the stories I’ve read only indicate that UA is interested in DPi for 2020.

          Only one story has mentioned a possible connection between UA/Ligier/McLaren.

          Make of that what you will.

          Like you, I’m skeptical that McLaren would step up, when their overall sports car efforts have been shallow, to put it kindly.

          Talk is cheap. Paying the manufacturer’s fees is not, and their actions so far have not indicated they’ve got that kind of commitment. But I wouldn’t mind being surprised.

          It all reminds me of Lotus, and how it had a hand in all the big series before the house of cards fell. McLaren (and Aston Martin) are only more solid financial ground, but there is still more hype than substance.

  6. Mike S.

    August 17, 2018 at 4:14 am

    Pretty polarizing this split so far. In fact maybe IMSA can create the PPC. Its a championship. The Polarizing Prototype Challenge. It would be the overall between the split classes as if they are racing in the same class. Total points wins the PPC. Sweet why not have more championships to win for everyone. Gees.

  7. FERNANDO

    August 17, 2018 at 9:15 am

    I do t agree with the split. I don’t like it. It’s just my opinion. I don’t want to see 7 or 8 Caddy’s and two Acura’s. That’s the way IMSA is going. The budgets needed to win will increase. Soon teams will start to drop out. Spirit of Daytona and ESM May not be on the grid next year. I would have liked a BOP sim where P2 and DPI meet in the middle, rather than dumbing down the DPI to a ridiculous level. I understand that this can’t be done because IMSA has agreed to follow the ACO rules. Screw that. Why does IMSA have to be aligned with the ACO? Have we forgotten what created the demise of the ALMS? It looks like. And we have the same lunatic at the wheel! All I want, and most fans want, is to see a grid with a load of different prototypes, possible with European teams, and different cars that have a realistic shot at a win. But for as long as Scott Atherton is at wheel and continues to drive the manufacturer doctrine and the ACO subservience we are back on the path to destruction. Let’s face, GM and Acura will not go Le Mans. Hybrids or part hybrids aren’t sustainable from a cost stand point. So grow our series, according to our market and our fans, instead of setting it on a path to failure.

    • Larry

      August 17, 2018 at 11:47 am

      Fernando, you could get your wish if NASCAR would just allow teams to run any of the 4 P2 chassis with any engine they want without the asinine bodywork requirement trying to make them look like a street car. That’s what the GT classes are for and the only DPi that looks anything like what it’s supposed to be is the Mazda.

      We would already have 20-30 cars over here if they had just done that.

      The whole DPi thing requires manufacturer involvement whether it’s a customer team or not but allowing a team to take a P2 chassis, buy an engine and trans, and go racing would not only reduce the cost but reduce manufacturer meddling and spending.

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