Honda has not completely ruled out a DPi effort for the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season, although admitting that a wait-and-see approach could be its best option in formulating future plans.
Honda Performance Development VP and COO Steve Eriksen, along with Nick Wirth, attended last weekend’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship round at Watkins Glen for further meetings with the sanctioning body and other parties.
While the new Acura NSX GT3 is on track to debut next year in North American competition, Honda’s possible DPi venture could instead surface in 2018, with the American manufacturer instead utilizing existing grandfathered P2 machinery for the coming season.
“It’s difficult at this point and make ’17 unless you’ve been planning for it already,” Eriksen told Sportscar365. “It’s tight for sure. We may end up just waiting to see how it shakes out.
“I’m also waiting to see what happens with the grandfathered cars because we know that they’re going to allow them at 2016 performance levels, but how much difference is that going to be?
“It’s hard to say because when you start styling the car it ends up going backwards [in performance] and you have to make up the performance in another way.
“Where is that performance window going to end up? It remains to be seen.
“Maybe the 2016 cars, given that they’re reliable and well sorted out and everyone knows how to run them, maybe it’s not a bad proposition.”
Eriksen said there are currently no “irons in the fire” on firm customers for its HPD ARX-04b, which tested in a revised aero configuration earlier this year, especially with the car expected to be grandfathered for 2017 only.
It would leave its existing Ligier JS P2 Honda package, which both Michael Shank Racing and Tequila Patron ESM currently run, as a viable short-term option prior to a possible dedicated DPi program the following year.
While the requirement of custom bodywork had been a prior stumbling block to Honda’s entry into DPi, Eriksen said it could instead be an appealing part of the project.
“I think that’s actually one of the appeals, that you can have some kind of brand identification on the car,” he said.
“When we raced in P2 and P1 with a factory program, you didn’t really have that option because it’s all about performance, there’s no branding opportunity.
“Now that they allow for that, I think that’s a very appealing part of that, honestly.”
Both Cadillac and Mazda are the only firm manufacturers that are preparing DPi programs for 2017, with news recently surfacing of a potential effort from Panoz as well.