IMSA President Scott Atherton says that discussions on future prototype regulations are “ramping up” ahead of its pivotal decision on whether to combine with the FIA and ACO to create a common worldwide platform for manufacturers.
Representatives from all three organizations, as well as current and prospective manufacturers, met last week at Sebring for continued talks, as planning continues towards the next set of LMP1 regulations, which are set to launch as early as the 2020-21 FIA World Endurance Championship season.
While the IMSA boss nor any officials from the WEC and ACO provided details on the meeting, Sportscar365 understands that no firm decisions were made while at Sebring.
Atherton, however, said he remains optimistic for a potential unified future.
“If anything it’s ramping up in terms of the dialogue and the people involved in that dialogue is ever expanding,” he told Sportscar365.
“The fact that the ACO, it was unplanned to have Vincent [Beaumesnil, ACO Sporting Director] here so that was a nice add. We had a WebX conference call with an online presentation that went with it about ten days ago and with our DPi manufacturers and with those who have shown an interest.
“This meeting that was held [on Thursday] was just a follow on from that.
“We being the leadership of IMSA, Jim France, Ed Bennett, and myself, are meeting also with Pierre [Fillon] and Gerard [Neveu] on the same topic. Much less technical, more philosophical.
“I put all of that in the good category. The dialogue continues.
“The further along we go, the more clarity is on the vision and there will come a time in the not distant future where all of us will have to make some decision.”
Atherton indicated the ongoing discussions between the three organizations is “much more complex” than than three years ago, when talks for a common DPi/LMP2 platform essentially broke down over a disagreement from the ACO on the DPi’s philosophy.
While the two platforms compete alongside each other in the WeatherTech Championship, DPis are not eligible at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, as originally planned, with standard bodywork.
“I would characterize these as being much more complex just because of the technology involved and the pre-existing conditions of both LMP1 and DPi,” Atherton said.
“We didn’t have that before. We were at the end of the useful life of the Daytona Prototype, everybody was ready for a fresh start.
“We knew going into it [that] it’s going to be a lot of compromise on everyone’s part. The challenge is defining that and what becomes acceptable and what becomes unacceptable.”
High-Powered Hybrids, Active Aero for LMP1?
A divide in philosophies for each of the championship’s premier classes could ultimately be the stopping block for a common platform.
Sportscar365 understands that one of recent concepts floated by the ACO involves high-powered hybrids, potentially aimed to retain current LMP1 lap times at Le Mans.
While the power output would be restricted to the rear wheels only, cars could also have active aero, which is being suggested as a form of cost savings to eliminate the development of multiple aero kits.
Currently, DPi manufacturers are restricted to a single aero package with only minor modifications permitted, such as rear wing angle and dive plane adjustments, with its power output in the 575-600 horsepower range.
ACO Sporting Director Vincent Beaumesnil declined to confirm details of any ideas or discussions with manufacturers when asked by Sportscar365.
IMSA Has “Flexibility” on New Regs Confirmation
Atherton, meanwhile, said IMSA has some “flexibility” on the timeframe for confirmation of the future ruleset.
The sanctioning body recently extended its current DPi regulations through the end of the 2021 season, with Atherton stating that any potential new regs would not debut in the WeatherTech Championship until 2022 at the earliest.
That compares to the FIA and ACO’s timeframe for the 2020-21 WEC season, although it’s understood it could be pushed back by one season to 2021-22.
ACO President Pierre Fillon previously outlined the target of unveiling its new LMP1 regulations at this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.
“It’s an obvious goal, and it’s an understandable goal,” Atherton said of an announcement this June. “In a perfect world it would be easy to say why not. I think there’s a lot of work being done right now and I don’t want to predict success or failure of meeting that deadline.”