Team principals are pushing for the separation of DPi and LMP2 into standalone classes, amid the growing disparity between the two platforms and a desire among some manufacturers to restore DPi performance levels to its initially established window.
It comes following a mixed first half of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season, which saw DPis dominate the opening five rounds, although JDC-Miller Motorsports break through for victory last weekend at Watkins Glen, in only the second overall win for a LMP2 car in the DPi/LMP2 era.
IMSA has maintained the ACO-spec LMP2 cars as the class baseline, which according to Wayne Taylor, has caused concern among DPi manufacturers.
Since its introduction last year, the Cadillac DPi-V.R’s power output has been reduced by nearly 100 horsepower, in an attempt to bring DPis in line with LMP2s, which have remained unchanged per IMSA’s agreement with the ACO.
“It’s not a happy place anymore,” Taylor told Sportscar365. “How do you BoP a DPi, which has got the best teams with best drivers against a P2 car, which has one pro and one amateur? How do you do that?
“I respect all of those guys in P2. I respect the Am drivers for being in the series. But quite honestly, I think they would enjoy [it more] if they could win their class.”
Taylor said there’s “no question” IMSA needs to separate the platforms.
“DPi must go back to what the rules were when it first started,” he said. “My view is that unless they do that, they may have a problem.
“I can’t see how to motivate a sponsor to come. We qualified 8th [at Watkins Glen]. How does that look to your sponsor when you’ve built the best car, the best drivers and you get it all taken away.”
AFS/PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports team co-principal Bobby Oergel says he sees “no sustainability” in the current Prototype model for privateers, which could ultimately drive teams like his out of the series.
“It’s very clear that the P2 world doesn’t bring commercial viability to the category right now,” Oergel told Sportscar365. “I don’t think it’s fair to the manufacturers, more than it’s unfair to us as well.”
The former Prototype Challenge entrant says a Pro-Am enforced LMP2 class would be the only way forward.
“It needs to be cut-and-paste of what PC used to be,” he said. “In all fairness, that worked amazingly [well]. They had to keep upping our lease on life in that thing because it was successful.”
Despite claiming victory with its Oreca 07 Gibson at Watkins Glen, JDC-Miller team principal John Church, who had been one of the adversaries for a LMP2 class spinoff, appears to have backed down on his desire to maintain the current class structure.
It comes amid the team’s ambitions of switching to DPi machinery next year.
“We absolutely want to be in a class where we can fight for overall wins,” Church told Sportscar365. “It’s just a matter of putting those pieces together to be in whatever class that is.”
IMSA President Scott Atherton, meanwhile, has stated that options are being discussed on the future class format, although admitted there would be “far reaching” ramifications should the two platforms be separated.
Should a decision be made, it would likely be announced next month at Road America during IMSA’s annual ‘State of the Series’ address.
“There’s no choice,” Oergel said. “On my end of the fence, I need [confirmation on the class separation] to be reality by August. Because if it’s not [a] reality by August, I’ve got to look at possibly ELMS programs. That’s where [the LMP2 model] works.”
Cindric: Caliber of Teams a Factor in LMP2 Disparity
Team Penske President Tim Cindric says that the current caliber of teams with LMP2 machinery has played a factor in the disparity seen this year, with an all-pro driver lineup likely being a routine contender for wins.
Penske fielded an Oreca 07 Gibson in last year’s Motul Petit Le Mans, which saw Helio Castroneves grab pole and finish third overall alongside Juan Pablo Montoya and Simon Pagenaud.
“The idea I thought was that with a P2 car, with a proper driver lineup, a proper team and proper execution should have a shot of winning races,” Cindric told Sportscar365.
“I felt like we took that approach and tested that theory [at Petit Le Mans last year].
“I left there thinking it’s right. I felt like if we would have executed and not had made certain mistakes throughout that race… I think we could have had a chance for the win.
“I think the series needs to continue to be one that rewards execution and the best team and drivers should win.”
LMP2s in ‘David vs. Goliath’ Battle
CORE autosport team owner Jon Bennett, meanwhile, has likened LMP2 vs. DPi to a ‘David and Goliath’ battle, in that teams like his are rewarded in the occasions they beat the manufacturer-backed squads.
The former PC championship-winning squad claimed pole and finished second on Sunday.
“It’s super fun to pretend you’re fighting the Goliath-type battle against some of the best in the business,” Bennett told Sportscar365.
“On the other hand, it’s a bit of a steep task for everyone to stay motivated.”
JDC-Miller’s Church, meanwhile, hopes his team’s recent victory will help entice others to join in with LMP2 cars.
“I think everybody would like to see the class grow,” he said. “Our guys have been working really hard and we’ve been pushing hard here in the last couple of years.
“It shows that with hard work you can get to that top step. Certainly you’ve got to have a few things go your way but you have to put yourself in that position. I think that’s what we did on Sunday.”
Ryan Myrehn contributed to this report