Details of Ford’s likely DPi entry into the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship have begun to emerge, with initial car studies and a team selection process reportedly already underway.
The American manufacturer, which is currently in the third of a four-year factory GT Le Mans campaign, has been widely reported to be preparing for a top-level prototype program following the conclusion of the Ford GT effort.
Sportscar365 has learned that design studies involving staff from Multimatic have been undertaken, along with requests for proposal from teams that could run the factory operation by as early as 2019.
Ford’s current sports car racing partner, Chip Ganassi Racing, however, is believed to hold the first right of refusal for the program.
The developments come in the wake of news that Ford is no longer in the FIA’s technical working group meetings to shape to the proposed 2020 ‘Hypercar’ regulations for the World Endurance Championship, leading to speculation that a Ford DPi program may have already been confirmed internally.
Ford Performance global motorsports director Mark Rushbrook previously said they would not undertake a dual prototype program unless it’s with a common set of regulations that’s shared in IMSA.
Speaking to Sportscar365 last weekend at Road America, Rushbrook said Ford continues to evaluate its prototype options, with a decision hinging on the finalization of the Hypercar regs, which is due to be presented to the FIA World Motor Sport Council for approval in early December.
“We’re still continuing to look at our options,” Rushbrook told Sportscar365. “We’re studying what our cycle plan is and could be in the future. There’s a lot of moving pieces.
“There’s certainly deadlines that need to be met for those kind of decisions.
“The commitment from the ACO and FIA is to have a complete definition of its rules at the end of the year and that’s when we will make decisions.”
When asked about whether a Ford DPi could debut in 2019, alongside the expected final year of the factory Ford GT program, Rushbrook said they “do not comment about future activities.”
IMSA President Scott Atherton has downplayed any imminent new DPi manufacturer for the start of the 2019 season.
“I wouldn’t hold out for that,” Atherton told Sportscar365. “We’re always in meetings and there’s always a process and content in the pipeline. But I don’t think we’re expecting a new player.
“If there was, we’d know about it and that’s not on the docket right now.
“It could happen. There’s always content under development. But our business planning is not expecting that.”
However, should Ford commit to a 2019 debut, it would give the manufacturer at least a three-year run under the current DPi regulations, which are confirmed through the end of the 2021 WeatherTech Championship season.