Mazda Motorsports director John Doonan believes DPi would be a “logical step forward” as a replacement for the top class of the FIA World Endurance Championship, amid the recent fallout of LMP1 manufacturers and growing concerns on its future.
The WEC is set to be left with only Toyota on the LMP1 Hybrid grid in 2018, and likely as a partial season entry, following Porsche’s decision to pull the plug on its program at the end of this year and Audi’s recent exit.
Doonan, speaking on this week’s Sportscar365 Double Stint Podcast, said that the integration of IMSA’s burgeoning prototype platform on a global stage would be a win-win for all parties involved, in enabling manufacturers to compete for overall victories at a fraction of the costs currently associated with LMP1 hybrid budgets.
“The fact of the matter is that manufacturers are involved in motorsport, for the most part, to put their brand in a positive light, to show the performance of their brand and to see their brand winning,” Doonan told Sportscar365.
“In our case, when Mazda has success, we believe it creates positive energy among our road car owners.
“I’ve heard from a lot of manufacturers, we’re all competitive on track, but we all are in a place of wanting to do what’s best to grow the industry. ‘Rising tide lifts all boats’ has been our philosophy.
“In the end, for us at Mazda, 2018 [IMSA] is our sole focus. However, if between IMSA, the ACO and FIA, there can be a common understanding about DPi-style cars competing on a global stage, I don’t see how you’d go wrong.”
With a fourth manufacturer in Acura joining the DPi ranks next year in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, and others reportedly in the pipeline in the years to come, Doonan feels there would be enough interest in the platform, should it be adopted in the WEC and at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
“Mazda is a global company. Most of the other brands competing in IMSA have global sales and marketing efforts,” Doonan said.
“It seems like it would be a logical step forward. With huge respect to what Audi, Porsche and Toyota have done in LMP1, showcasing hybrid electric opportunities.
“But let’s find a common ground here for everybody to compete. Frankly, the more the merrier, as far as I’m concerned.”
While its revitalized WeatherTech Championship effort with Mazda Team Joest taking priority for next year, Doonan admitted he’d be open to discussions about the Japanese manufacturer’s potential global involvement with its DPi car, if and when the time comes.
It’s believed the ACO and FIA have yet to enter advanced negotiations with IMSA over the potential of expanding its platform into the WEC, although has been among the considerations for 2019 and beyond.
“I think when those discussions happen, it’s fair to say I’d love to have a seat at the table so we could express our interest,” Doonan said.
“Our focus right now is on 2018. In terms of pushing for it, I’d like to be part of the discussion.
“If everybody comes to a common understanding and all of the input from the manufacturers and from the sanctioning bodies can reach an agreement, we would certainly be keen.
“It would be silly not to consider it, as a global brand that’s looking to continue to compete in a premium space, which is what we’re doing with our road cars and what we do on the race track.”
Ryan Myrehn contributed to this report