The first full season of the LMDh formula is set to take place one year later than planned in 2023, although IMSA president John Doonan has said it will be “technologically possible” for cars to compete in late 2022.
Speaking after the ACO’s annual press conference at Le Mans, where the joint IMSA-ACO LMDh regulations were finalized, Doonan suggested the likelihood of having “multiple manufacturers” on the grid at the start of the 2023 campaign but no sooner.
The global LMDh platform was originally slated for a 2022 debut in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship but it now appears extra time will be needed before the full rollout.
The onset of the coronavirus pandemic ultimately led to a delay in the release of the LMDh regulations, which were due to be announced at the ‘Super Sebring’ event in March.
A draft set of regulations was released in May, leading up to Friday’s release of the finalized regs.
“There’s no question that the global crisis has delayed us somewhat, but as intended it is technologically possible for someone to run at some point in the later part of 2022,” Doonan told Sportscar365.
“We have announced three great partners that make up the hybrid powertrain system.
“Given the crisis, I would imagine for sure a full-season championship in 2023 but it is technologically possible that we can see some cars competing in the later stages of 2022.
“From the IMSA side, January 2023 at Daytona, we expect multiple manufacturers in that category for sure.”
ACO President Pierre Fillon echoed Doonan’s statements of a slight delay in the rollout of LMDh, although confirming the cars will also be eligible in the FIA World Endurance Championship in 2022.
“We expect to have some manufacturers in the middle of the season, but not for the championship,” he said. “For the complete season, 2023 [yes].”
Doonan said that the “market will vote…when they are ready” to introduce LMDh cars on track in competition, referring to global racing manufacturers.
One interested brand is Porsche, which is working through an LMDh feasibility study.
However, the company’s head of factory motorsport Pascal Zurlinden last month suggested that a 2022 debut would be challenging considering the timescales at play.
It’s understood that Porsche wants to have a board decision in place by the end of this year, which would mean having an LMDh car completed by June 2021 at the earliest.
Zurlinden described the chances of a Porsche-designed LMDh car competing for the first time in January 2022 as “not so realistic”.
Other manufacturers, currently not involved in DPi, that are understood to be in the mix include Hyundai and Lexus.
DPi Set to Continue Through 2022
Doonan confirmed that IMSA is ready to extend the current DPi category’s tenure through to the end of the 2022 season, to guarantee grid numbers in the top class during the transition to LMDh.
Sportscar365 understands that IMSA is expecting to have a similar or a slightly reduced grid of DPis next year, amid Team Penske’s withdrawal and the possible downsizing of at least one other two-car team.
Acura is set to announce its new partner teams for 2021 next week in Mid-Ohio.
“Clearly we have three committed partners now in Acura, Cadillac and Mazda,” Doonan said. “They would clearly like to continue and they’ll be back in 2021.
“If we need to bridge a year, we would certainly allow them to compete in the current specifications and the current category structuring.”
John Dagys contributed to this report