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Brown: DPi a Good “Starting Point” for Global Prototype Platform

McLaren’s Zak Brown, other manufacturers support global DPi concept…

Photo: Scott LePage/IMSA

McLaren Executive Director Zak Brown believes that DPi is a good “starting point” for a global prototype platform, as talks intensify between the FIA, ACO and IMSA for a possible set of common regulations.

Last month’s Rolex 24 at Daytona saw the debut of a fourth DPi manufacturer in Acura, with Ford, and Lexus both seriously evaluating entries into the bourgeoning class in the short-term.

Brown, who was represented on the grid at Daytona with his United Autosports LMP2 team, has remained one of the advocates for a single global platform, a concept that’s also being backed by the ACO.

“It seems it would be in everyone’s best interests to land on a common set of rules,” Brown told Sportscar365.

“I think if you look at IMSA, you’ve got a good starting point sitting here with 20 cars on the grid. It feels to me that that should be the starting point of the conversation.”

McLaren has been among the manufacturers in recent working group meetings to help shape the new LMP1 regulations, which are set to be announced at this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans in June.

The ACO’s concept is understood to be an evolution of DPi, where cars have greater brand identity to production cars, referenced by ACO President Pierre Fillon as “GTP-like.” 

Mazda Motorsports Director John Doonan, however, believes a potential global platform shouldn’t stray too far away from what’s currently seen in DPi.

“I’m sure other manufacturers have weighed in on it but it just seems like a no-brainer with this much momentum around it,” Doonan told Sportscar365.

“There are select base [LMP2] chassis and then there is the opportunity for manufacturers to run a branded car with a variety of engines without spending astronomical amounts of money.

“I hope that everybody can come together in that kind of way because the actual execution of the racing programs is one thing but the way we market it and tell the story is the most important thing for this to continue to stay relevant.”

Lexus, which is evaluating an entry into DPi, are also backers of a global platform.

It would allow the world’s second-largest automaker to run the same car as a Toyota in the WEC and Lexus in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

“Our colleagues in Japan are right in the middle of conversations with the FIA and ACO,” TRD President and General Manager David Wilson told Sportscar365.

“You’ve got to give IMSA a tremendous amount of credit about what they’ve done with DPi, attracting more manufacturers.”

Timing is another hotly contested topic, with IMSA’s homologation period for current DPi and LMP2 cars having now been extended until the end of the 2021 season. 

Neveu, however, admitted its new-gen rules could be pushed back by one additional season, should manufacturers need additional time to build cars to the regulations.

“We can start in the middle of 2021 and they can join in the [beginning] of 2022,” he said. “For us it doesn’t change nothing

“I have to say that the ACO and IMSA are trying to work very close together to try to find a way that we will be able to make sure the top categories in IMSA will be eligible also in our championship, and the opposite can work. It’s the big challenge.”

One of the biggest holdups, however, could be hybrid technology, with the majority of current IMSA manufacturers, including Mazda and Acura, against hybrids, where the FIA and ACO have pledged to continue with it, but in a more cost-effective fashion.

TRD’s Wilson has described the implementation of hybrids as a “slippery slope” in prototype racing.

“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.”

Brown, however, believes that hybrids have to play a role in any future top-level prototype platform.

“There are things like hybrid that going to be very important in 2021, 2022, 2023,” he said.

“I hope they can come together, because I think it will be great for the fans and great for the teams and the manufacturers.

“I know from a McLaren point of view, if the chances of us developing two cars as opposed to one is much more unlikely.

“If it’s one, it makes it that much more compelling for us and other OEMs from ones I’ve discussed the future with.”

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365 as well as the recently launched e-racing365 Web site for electric racing. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for FOXSports.com/SPEED Channel, and contributes to other publications worldwide. Contact John

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