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Manufacturers Taking Wait-and-See Approach to LMDh Formula

Leading car brands weigh in on prototype convergence and express levels of interest…

Photo: Mike Levitt/IMSA

Leading sports car racing manufacturers have reacted to the launch of the new LMDh formula with most adopting a ‘wait and see’ line toward the common prototype platform.

Friday’s announcement of an agreement between the ACO and IMSA sanctioning bodies will create a formula that can enable brands to compete in both the FIA World Endurance Championship and the WeatherTech Championship with the same prototypes.

Following the announcement, senior figures from many of the leading manufacturers voiced largely positive responses to the landmark deal.

Porsche’s director of GT factory motorsports, Pascal Zurlinden, described it as a “historic moment” for the sport.

“At the end, it’s a historic moment for sports car racing,” Zurlinden told Sportscar365.

“We have no details of the regulations yet as they are not yet released. They still have a lot of work and we’re not involved in it, but we’ll have to look into it as we look at every regulation.

“But just speaking about the platform they’re doing, I think for all of the OEMs and for the sport, it’s a great platform and let’s see where the future brings us.”

Existing IMSA DPi brand Cadillac also welcomed the news with its racing director Mark Kent explaining that a decision on a program will be made after a period of evaluation.

“Cadillac congratulates IMSA and the ACO on their announcement of a convergence in the top class of prototype racing,” said Kent.

“Since the introduction of the Cadillac DPi-V.R in 2017, we have had tremendous success in North America in the IMSA series and are encouraged by the prospect of an international formula for the future of prototype racing.

“Once we obtain further details, we will evaluate if our participation aligns with our company’s future vision.”

One of Cadillac’s IMSA rivals, Mazda, echoed its competitors’ sentiments about waiting for further clarity on the technical regulations side before making a commitment.

An announcement on the technical structure of LMDh will be made during the Super Sebring weekend in March.

“It’s exciting,” Mazda’s motorsport director Nelson Cosgrove told Sportscar365.

“For people like me who are about my age, it’s kind of a mind-blowing thing to finally get to see this come together.

“For a lot of people in this room, the dream of racing [at Daytona] and at Le Mans are huge for just the people, but a lot of the manufacturers have that dream as well.

“I think it’ll be a real exciting time over the next 60 to 90 days as we see more and more of what the technical regulations are going to look like.”

Like its counterparts, Mazda was not in a position to make an outward commitment to LMDh on the weekend of the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“We’ll have to see what the rules are and what it takes to go global,” explained Cosgrove.

“We’re running a domestic program right now with a North American arm of Mazda, and this is obviously a much larger, global program.

“We’ll have to go look at what it is. I was texting [Masahiro Moro, Mazda North America CEO] during the meeting keeping him up to speed. He’s actually in Japan so that’s one of the topics we’ll talk about.”

BMW motorsport director Jens Marquardt praised the ACO and IMSA’s ability to reach a state of regulatory co-operation.

The German marque previously ruled itself out of a Le Mans Hypercar program, citing the lack of a road-going equivalent it could mould a program around, but it has been more supportive of a DPi-style discipline in recent months.

BMW has already been involved in one high-level sports car convergence process through the alignment of DTM and Super GT under the Class One formula.

“I think Jim [France, IMSA chairman] and Ed [Bennett, IMSA CEO] probably put it right,” Marquardt told Sportscar365.

“I think today is a great day for the fans. With that co-operation and convergence, I think fans get to see great cars on great racetracks more often.

“I’m a big fan of co-operations. At the same time, I’m a big fan of regulations and car specs that are different where they need to be, in powertrains, but common where it can be.”

Toyota and Aston Martin, which are the two OEM brands signed up for the first season of the LMH formula in 2020-21, have also responded to the creation of a shared platform.

It’s not yet known if LMH cars will be eligible to race alongside the global LMDh platform in IMSA.

John Dagys contributed to this report

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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