United Autosports could enter IMSA Prototype Challenge competition as a precursor to a future DPi program in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, according to managing director Richard Dean.
The Anglo-American team, which took part in a three-race Prototype effort last year with a Ligier JS P217 Gibson, elected to forgo any involvement this year following IMSA’s decision to separate DPi and LMP2 into individual classes.
Dean said they’ve laid out targets of establishing a full-time base in the U.S., likely initially with a LMP3 operation, with the goal of then landing a DPi program in the years to come.
“We’re looking at it,” Dean told Sportscar365. “We’ve loved the IMSA program.
“The team enjoyed it and our drivers enjoyed it as well. We’ve got an eye on it in LMP3 with clearly trying to keep in touch over the DPi movements out there for opportunities.
“We’re not really any closer, certainly not closer to announcing anything. But we’re working on something. I’d definitely like to see us in a full-time program over there.”
While the DPi class has seen significant manufacturer interest in recent months, including potential future programs from Ford, Hyundai and Lexus, Dean said the formula is “not as open” as perceived.
“I’d like to be in a lot more discussions than I am,” he said. “I’d like to be involved in more positive discussions. But we’re trying, and I’m sure everybody else is trying.
“We’ll keep involved and hopefully people will involve us in their talks if we’re not already talking to them.
“But I think it’s more likely at this point, if I was going to predict how we go into the States, it’s more likely that we go in via an LMP3 program in the Prototype Challenge, which will allow us to set up a full-time base of staff and equipment.
“We’d like to have some sort of established position over there that we are in a better place to accept something should it come along in DPi.”
Asian LMS Return “Unlikely”
While expanding into the FIA World Endurance Championship with a single-car Ligier LMP2 entry, Dean confirmed United has no present plans to return to the Asian Le Mans Series, where it claimed the LMP2 title with Phil Hanson and Paul Di Resta last season.
United’s core focus, at least this year, remains in the European Le Mans Series and Michelin Le Mans Cup, where it is fielding multiple Ligier prototypes in both championships.
Dean cited the tight window between the Asian and European seasons as a major factor in the former becoming untenable.
“As a business you need to try to ensure that you’re at least making money and breaking even [and in] Asian Le Mans we found it quite difficult to achieve the budgets that were required to do that,” he explained.
“The dates of the final round of ELMS [in October] and the opening round of Asia [in November] – and the final round of Asia and the opening round of ELMS – make it really difficult for a team to do both from a personnel and logistics point of view.
“And from a budget point of view it increases the budget hugely because you have to air freight. You can’t sea freight the cars.”
Dean maintains that United would have received an entry for this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans if it hadn’t gone to Asia, even if the team only had its second entry approved last week following an expansion of the grid to 62 cars.
Daniel Lloyd contributed to this report