TRD President and General Manager Dave Wilson says Lexus has continued to keep DPi in its “field of vision” amid increased speculation of the luxury automaker joining the top class of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
The second-year GT Daytona manufacturer, which has a long-term commitment to IMSA, is understood to have ramped up talks for a possible DPi effort to debut as early as 2019.
Sportscar365 has learned that discussions have already taken place with chassis constructors and prospective teams, including ORECA and Andretti Autosport, respectively, which could put the brand in sports car racing’s fastest growing platform.
Wilson, however, downplayed any immediate prospects of Lexus joining the Prototype field.
“Last year, we said we were continuing to explore all the various opportunities,” he told Sportscar365.
“We’re really impressed with the growth of DPi and we’re keeping that in our field of vision. There’s nothing certainly right now.
“Our focus is to have a good sophomore year in GTD, grow on that, and we’ll see what happens down the road.
“As a fan, you’ve got to love where DPi is going. Of course, we’re all, as an industry, looking at the global picture.”
With IMSA recently extending the homologation period of DPi through 2021, an entry into the class for next year would provide Lexus, or any other manufacturer, a three-year minimum program under the current regulations.
Wilson said the possibility of a global prototype platform, proposed by the FIA and ACO, that would merge LMP1 and DPi regulations, would be the ideal situation for the company, which is already heavily invested in the FIA World Endurance Championship with Toyota.
It would effectively allow Toyota and Lexus to compete with the same car in both series by as early as 2022.
“Our colleagues in Japan are right in the middle of conversations with the FIA and ACO,” Wilson said.
Wilson, however, admitted that hybrid technology, currently embraced in the WEC, could be a “slippery slope” in IMSA, which has been among the holdups in convergence talks as recent as last weekend in Daytona.
“The current competition is very happy with where DPi is now,” he said. “The flip side of it is that obviously Toyota and Lexus are invested in technology.
“With hybrid technology, we’ve learned a ton racing in WEC so from a tech transfer perspective, that would be kind of cool.
“But it has to be done the right way and in a manner that doesn’t compromise the great product that IMSA has on the track right now.”
At least three manufacturers are understood to be closing in on a DPi decision, in what would add further growth to the platform in the coming years.
Acura joined the DPi ranks this year alongside launch partners Cadillac, Mazda and Nissan, with Ford also understood to be in advanced talks that could see the Blue Oval debut in 2020 following the completion of the Ford GT program.
“You’ve got to give IMSA a tremendous amount of credit about what they’ve done with DPi, [in] attracting more manufacturers,” Wilson said. “We’re looking at it.”