While Cadillac and Mazda may end up being the only two manufacturers on the grid in January’s Rolex 24 at Daytona for the kickoff of the new platform, IMSA is anticipating additional automakers to debut DPi machinery, potentially as early as mid-year.
Mark Raffauf, IMSA’s Director of Racing Platforms, has revealed that at least two other manufacturers could be in position to join the new-look Prototype class sometime over the course of the 2017 season.
“I can see two [additional OEMs] potentially [for Daytona] but realistically, they would have to up the rate of the progress to do it,” Raffauf told Sportscar365.
“They can because they’ve either done a good chunk of preliminary work, and it’s just a question of finishing it off, or some of them may take a prudent step back and say, ‘We’ll work towards a Sebring or Long Beach debut or something later in ’17, mostly so we can get it right.’
“As you tighten the timeframe, the prospects of getting something right goes up.”
Raffauf wouldn’t reveal the deadline for manufacturers to finalize its DPi engine and bodywork homologations but admitted they have some flexibility depending on the availability of additional full-scale wind tunnel testing at Windshear, which all Prototypes must go through.
Should a manufacturer not be ready for the start of the 2017 season, Raffauf said teams could begin the year with cars in LMP2-spec, with the standard bodywork and Gibson engine, and convert to DPi once its ready.
“These cars have that adjustability that’s pretty simple,” he said. “The engines all go on a number of plates in the back of the tub, so any kind of engine can fit into these cars
“They have a common crankshaft height so they are all going to fit in the same way.
“So if you had a deal coming and that OE isn’t ready you could actually start with a Gibson car, and then in March, April, May, whenever all the other pieces come together, you can convert one of these into a [DPi].”
Owing to the convertibility, Raffauf said IMSA plans to utilize the same base LMP2 chassis for wind tunnel testing of two different bodywork configurations.
He’s also confident of seeing a few Gibson-engined LMP2 cars for the full season next year, particularly as that package will be used as the performance baseline for the entire P class.
Both Ben Keating and Starworks Motorsport have announced the purchase of Riley Mk. 30 LMP2 cars, although neither have yet confirmed race programs for 2017.
Tequila Patron ESM, meanwhile, has also been linked to a potential full-season P class effort, in what could at least initially be LMP2 machinery.
Raffauf expects to see even further DPi growth into 2018 and beyond but would not be drawn on a specific targets or number of manufacturers.
“We’re taking a long-term view where someone could be joining in ’18 for ’19 or ’19 for ’20 and that’s just fine because they’re going to come into the program the same way the guys are doing it now are,” he said.
“With the process in place, the door remains open throughout the term and if the term is successful, which I’m pretty comfortable it will be, the term will continue.
“We’re coming to the end of almost a 15-year era of Daytona Prototypes. And we look back in time, there aren’t too many categories of cars that have lasted that long, in any way shape or form. When you have a good thing like that, you’ll want to keep it going.
“This is a pretty good package. It’s a well-engineered concept. It should be good for five-plus years, with maybe some tweaks after the first generation.
“We did three generations of DP cars, and hopefully we’ll do three or four generations of these in the same concept.”