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IMSA DPi Manufacturers in Support of Hybrids for Next-Gen Rules

IMSA manufacturers support hybrid technology for next wave of prototype regulations…

Photo: Jake Galstad/IMSA

Current and prospective IMSA DPi manufacturers have voiced support for hybrid technology in the next-wave of prototype regulations, although stressing that it must be a semi-or fully spec system in order to prevent a “pandora’s box” of development that has severely impacted LMP1.

Manufacturers met with officials from the FIA, ACO and IMSA at Sebring last month for the latest LMP1/DPi technical working group, as discussions continue towards a potential common global prototype platform for 2021/22.

One of the key divides, however, has been with hybrids, which is not currently embraced in IMSA’s DPi formula.

While Sportscar365 understands that the FIA and ACO’s most recent proposal involves the retention of high-powered electric motors, for a combined power output near 1,000 horsepower, the majority of IMSA manufacturers are in favor of a smaller, “over the counter” system that’s seen in other championships.

“I think if it was a very cost-contained spec hybrid system, then that could be interesting,” Honda Performance Development VP and COO Steve Eriksen told Sportscar365.

“If you look at the Acura product direction, with super-handling all-wheel drive sport hybrid in the RLX, MDX and NSX… That is truly what the production car side is doing. So I think there is some interest there.”

Eriksen believes a fully spec unit, such as the Zytek-built system used in Super GT300, which generates 50kW of power, would be the best approach for IMSA.

“We have to protect ourselves against ourselves,” he said. “It’s the same thing we do in IndyCar, where we have a homologation table that controls what parts of the engine you can work on at one time. That never used to be the case.

“This is a way to still have an innovative challenge but also keep costs restricted. It has worked out. You look at the seven years we’ve been running that spec [engine], it’s worked out great.

“It’s still neck-and-neck, there’s no BoP and that’s managed to provide good engineering competition between the competition. It’s exciting and fun.”

Mazda Motorsports director John Doonan shares similar thoughts, noting that costs have to remain the driving force.

“If they do hybrid, it would need to be a standardized off-the-shelf system,” Doonan said. “As soon as we get into the pandora’s box of developing a system of your own, the costs graph goes straight to the moon.

“I think we need to be smart here, keep the regulations as consistent as we can, for as long as we can, and focus on the marketing… and to try and grow the audience [that way].”

The same opinion, however, is not fully shared by Ford, which has continued to explore a possible LMP1 and/or DPi program following the conclusion of its factory Ford GT effort.

Newly appointed Ford Performance Motorsports Global Director Mark Rushbrook says he’d like to see a mix of spec and bespoke components, in order to control costs yet also help drive development to its lineup of production vehicles.

Ford recently announced plans to offer 40 all-electric or hybrid vehicles by 2022.

“That’s part of that discussion in finding that balance,” he said. “If you make it totally wide open you’ll have the LMP1 budgets of today and there’s no progress made there.

“If you go everything fully spec then it’s obviously gone too much.

“It’s finding that balance of where can you still have the innovation but still have the costs at a reasonable level.”

IMSA Open to Hybrid Powertrains

With a shift towards electrification on the road, IMSA President Scott Atherton has acknowledged the importance of relevant technology for its premier class, particularly given the timeline. 

IMSA’s current DPi platform, which was recently extended by one year, is now locked in until the end of the 2021 season. 

“The difficulty for some is trying to transpose themselves forward four or five years and what will market conditions, what will the priorities be, what will global technology enable,” Atherton told Sportscar365.

“As we sit here trying to craft rules and regulations that will get us to that point, if you come out of Detroit auto show or the LA auto show or the Geneva auto show, there’s a lot of electrification in just about every presentation. We’re conscious of that as well.”

Atherton said trying to forecast the automotive landscape makes an already complicated situation “even more complex” in attempting to find common ground with all parties.

“I think at the end of the day it has to be relevant to a manufacturer, to a product that they’re delivering to consumers,” he said.

“It doesn’t have to be a direct link but there has to be a connection.”

“It’s already omnipresent in the LMP1 category. It doesn’t exist at all at the DPi level. When we think forward and talk to the manufacturers that are already involved in DPi, it’s not unanimous, but everyone thinks for a next generation evolution it probably needs to be there. “

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 Channel, and contributes to other publications worldwide. Contact John



  1. Old Trombone

    April 2, 2018 at 11:29 am

    BMW Art Car Road Atlanta 1999:


    Eriksen: “We have to protect ourselves against ourselves”

    That Jenny Holzer is smarter than most folks thought…

  2. time machine

    April 2, 2018 at 11:30 am

    damn it

  3. StreetSpeed641

    April 2, 2018 at 11:40 am

    All this Hybrid BS is gonna cause me to become a NASCRAP fan haha

    • Nick

      April 2, 2018 at 11:50 am

      NASCAR is testing laser guided self driving Cruze control for the super speedways. JK lol

  4. Old Trombone

    April 2, 2018 at 11:52 am

    A lot depends on the 2020 US Presidential election. That’s the big reason IMSA delayed the new rules til 2021.

    – If the Dems win, expect a wholesale return to low-mpg targets and US cities banning ICE. That would prompt IMSA to model itself on FE, with spec chassis locked down minutely between the 4 suppliers, ICE engines pre-bopped (as described in Indycar above), and the battery spec, and the electric motor will be mostly free, and probably a deal will be struck with FE to allow IMSA OEMs to use their FE motors in a parallel development system. This would be low-cost.

    – If Trump gets put in again (geddit?) expect IMSA to quietly forget this whole thing and extend the current formula another 4 years. This would also be low-cost.

    – If the Reps dump Trump and stand somebody else, and that person wins, expect uncertainty as that person swings wildly between camps depending on that day’s polls. Most likely IMSA would have to focus on the entertainment angle and abandon the engineering angle, and use their NASCAR business partners to give them a model.

    • Haskellb

      April 2, 2018 at 12:19 pm

      OK no more 24hr news channels for you.

    • Bwangi Kilonzo

      April 11, 2018 at 2:11 pm

      I do not get why Democrats are so nasty when it comes to cars

  5. Matt

    April 2, 2018 at 12:16 pm

    As long as it’s not an exhaust recovery hybrid system that makes the cars sound like absolute shit I’m ok with it. A spec system is pointless though.

  6. jason

    April 2, 2018 at 12:18 pm

    Anything that involves us losing that engine sounds we get from the Porsche 911 RSR I am against. Will hybrid’s reproduce that? Nope.

    • Doug

      April 2, 2018 at 12:24 pm

      Of the several IMSA events I’ve been to, I can tell you what I DON’T want to hear…and that is the Ford GT sound which sounds like somebody farting as it goes by.

      The Corvette and the old FLM09 (which had a corvette engine) sounded AWESOME.

      Other than the sound I love the look of the Ford GT.

      • Dave Henrie

        April 2, 2018 at 1:21 pm

        POPCORN! I love the Gibson’s(Zytek) sound as it downshifts into a corner…pop-pop-pop… Turbo’s tend to mute much of that so we already are seeing the decline of sound even in IMSA/WEC/LM racing. Perhaps we can do what BMW is aready doing with it’s street cars and placing a speaker in the engine bay to simulate a proper sounding race engine.

        • Mike S.

          April 2, 2018 at 1:29 pm

          Bolt-ons for sound. Fakies for

      • Mike S.

        April 2, 2018 at 1:24 pm

        Turbo queef is the best.

      • fourloko

        April 2, 2018 at 3:21 pm

        it’s because the exhausts dont join post turbos, effectively sounding like two 3 cylinders. if they would of had the exhaust routed the same as the street car it would negatively affect the CG. Then again the purpose of a race car is to go fast. at least it’s not gutless sounding like the bmw. No other car has an angry anti lag sound though.

      • goodgried

        April 2, 2018 at 9:18 pm

        Gee, Doug don’t wanna hear the Ford GT but just looooooooooves him some GM crap.


        • Bwangi Kilonzo

          April 11, 2018 at 2:24 pm

          Well, I got to say a Corvette V8 sounds like nothing else. Love or hate it, its very distinctive..
          Yeah, and those corvettes are fast, especially when the BOP mafia lay off

    • gtgianlu

      April 2, 2018 at 4:14 pm

      The Toyota Ts040 was N/A and Hybrid and loud

  7. Haskellb

    April 2, 2018 at 12:29 pm

    Have a spec energy storage system and only allow the teams to work on the electric motors. That would control costs, give the manufactures a “bespoke” component, and allow people to think that any form of racing is green. And before anyone launches into a disussion about the virtues of F1 or Formula E let me ask you one question: how do they move all those people and all that equipment from location to location. A) magic fairies and dragons B) electric drones C) green house gas spewing airplanes that run on fossil fuels.

  8. sunset bend

    April 2, 2018 at 12:47 pm

    We just need to bring back the Michelin GreenX Challenge!

    • The Brad

      April 2, 2018 at 1:47 pm

      Yeah, that was relevant and added so much to the TV broadcast. Great use of time, so many fans looked forward to hearing about gas mileage. Look at how many biobutanol cars are on the road today, thanks Mazda!

  9. Bob

    April 2, 2018 at 12:48 pm

    Ford should have stuck with the V8 Ford GT – for sure! It’s too bad. The race car looks great. The sound is horrible. The Doran built, prev gen, Ford GT race cars sounded good. & from what I read & hear, the ecoboost turbo 6 is not making better mpg vs a V8. So what’s the point? Marketing I guess. Supporting Ford’s ecoboost engines in all their street vehicles.

  10. The_Esses

    April 2, 2018 at 1:00 pm

    I’m with ford. These manufacturers that just wanna race something they had little to no hand in constructing don’t deserve to have their name atop premier endurance racing events. The whole point of the LMP1 rules was to develop hybrids, not just bolt one on and pair it with some shallow marketing campaign. There has to be a balance between costs and development, this idea of either spec-ing everything or nothing seems to be the problem.

    Something else that I think is really important is allowing for parity between hybrid and non-hybrid tech. This could allow for participation from privateers (as we see this year) as well as from less ambitious manufacturers like Mazda, who are less invested in hybrid overall than say a Ford or Toyota. John Doonan (yawn…) says Mazda doesn’t wanna go down the development rabbit hole that befell the LMP1 teams, but what if they could put together a global program that focused on their skyactive project for a fraction of the costs. A major focus of the negotiations ought to be how to make that possible. It would be:

    A) Relevant to their road cars
    B) Great marketing/brand development
    C) More appealing to the fans and boost the sport and its audience

  11. Jose

    April 2, 2018 at 1:03 pm

    So using a spec hybrid system would benefit how? Oh that’s right the OEM’s could market and say even their racecars are hybrids. It gives them the moral high ground without actually having any skin in the game.

  12. daedalus

    April 2, 2018 at 1:11 pm

    The debate should not be spec vs free for all. Just limit the max power output to something even the cheapest off the shelf system can meet and then anybody can run any hybrid system that does not exceed the max power output.

    The privaters could use a off the shelf system whilst the manufactures could build their own or use one from one of their road cars for marketing reasons.

    The only thing standard would be a standard electronic hybrid controller so IMSA can catch the cheats like they do with standard ECUs.

    That would give us diversity of systems and equality of performance (without BOP) and without sending costs through the roof.

    • Haskellb

      April 2, 2018 at 1:19 pm

      LMP1-H cars had HP and energy restrictions on their hybrid systems and costs still went to the moon.

      • daedalus

        April 3, 2018 at 12:19 pm

        But there was not a off the shelf system available as a cheaper option for those that wanted it. That’s what will keep costs down.

    • kv

      April 5, 2018 at 12:16 pm

      WELL said DAEDALUS,LIMIT POWER,and let OEMs,develope capacitors that last and develop endurence on the road ,as these will be 24HR SPORTSCARS !EN


      • Rhett Butler

        April 9, 2018 at 3:12 pm

        Minor problem with big capacitors. If a capacitor is charged and you hit it hard enough it will explode like a bomb.

  13. Slicks in the wet

    April 2, 2018 at 1:27 pm

    It’ll free up 4ish hours of my time 15 weeks a year though.

    Goodbye racing.

  14. Mike S.

    April 2, 2018 at 1:28 pm

    Caddie doesn’t have any experience in hybrids. That might be the lobby push against it in DPi. Acura/Honda, Mazda, Nissan all have experience in hybrids. Unless its just some slap in spec system that IMSA mandates.

    • Haskellb

      April 2, 2018 at 7:37 pm

      The Cadillac ELR was an upscale version of the Volt. Look up the commercial for a quick laugh. You can also get the CT6 as plugin hybrid.

    • Patrick Brown

      April 3, 2018 at 2:33 pm

      Cadillac is heading toward hybrids and full electrification like most manufacturers-

    • kv

      April 7, 2018 at 12:02 pm

      GM ELRCTROMOTIVE,AND THE VOLT give GM A WEALTH OF KNOWLEDGE in hybrid tech !ELECTRIC DRIVE IS IN BUSES and saving millions in fuel costs !

    • Bwangi Kilonzo

      April 11, 2018 at 2:27 pm

      Mike S. You are kidding right? GM was the first company to build a commercially available EV. Honda uses their Hydrogen technology, and they even built Hybrid SUV’s whose technology BMW and Mercedes use in the 7 and S Class.

      When it comes to innovation, there is not a company that is as good and GM. They brought the first truly usable EV to market, for the masses. the Bolt EV.

  15. N8

    April 2, 2018 at 1:46 pm

    What’s the goal? Will IMSA take away fuel and compensate it with ERS, or is this just adding ERS to the current platform to raise the performance level?

  16. Mike S.

    April 2, 2018 at 2:27 pm

    Performance level to get to LeMans and WEC has to be the goal here by IMSA but the ACO can still smuggy buggy its nose at the DPi platform like it has so far. So its a risk from that standpoint.

    • TF110

      April 2, 2018 at 3:13 pm

      Ok that’s not making sense because those dpi’s use the ACO’s cars (lmp2). The risk is that the big guys like Ford and Toyota are going to forgo IMSA because they are not interested in running spec components in their cars and want a global platform to race at Le Mans. The ACO holds that key race over IMSA. Daytona is not on the level of LM 24 so it might come down to which is more important. I wouldn’t want to tell these guys to pick and choose. It’s best if both series run the same rules and give them a performance balances for the bigger and lower hybrids.

  17. John Ramella

    April 2, 2018 at 2:38 pm

    Geezers on here need to calm down. All automotive development being done today is on electric motors. Period.

    • Slicks in the wet

      April 2, 2018 at 3:08 pm

      I mean, in the scheme of things NOTHING matters because we are just atoms destined to decay into matter the universe will use for something else.

      Electric vehicles and driver aid tech SUCKS.

      • Andy Flinn

        April 3, 2018 at 4:44 pm

        Driver aid tech:

        Making good people dumber drivers.

    • MalthusUnderstimated

      April 2, 2018 at 10:07 pm

      Clearly you don’t follow technology. CO2-to-liquid fuels research continues along with biofuel research. Liquid fuels are inherently more energy dense than batteries, offer vastly greater storage potential/options and will likely develop as more environmentally sound on emissions as well as production grounds.

      As for all automotive development being “electric motors. Period.” I’ll refer you to but one example – there are a number of others –

    • John

      April 2, 2018 at 10:46 pm

      I guess Mazda and Nissan didn’t get the memo.

      Both are still exploring principles related to the fundamentals of ICE technology.

      Skyactiv-X is in development, and the VC-T engine just hit the market.

  18. yeah the future

    April 2, 2018 at 3:27 pm


    all cars should be electric or hybrid ai drones

  19. Richard Reeves

    April 2, 2018 at 3:36 pm

    I have driven a hybrid Honda for over 7 years now. I LOVE this car. It is quick as a bat. I enhanced it with a short-ram intake. Sounds awesome. I paid less than $25,000 for it when new. I have never had a single mechanical issue with it aside from a faulty external engine sensor.

    It follows logically that major manufacturers could build economically feasible hybrid power units without going the ludicrously expensive P1-hybrid or F1 route. Better get on it soon. As I’ve argued for years, the retreat of major racing series such as IMSA and WEC P2 (and now P1) in the name of “economy” to traditional ICU’s will consign them to the dustbin of history. Motor racing is supposed to LEAD road-car technology, not follow along like a dog’s wagging tail…

    • The Brad

      April 4, 2018 at 7:05 pm

      My friend had a Honda hybrid, it went thru 4 batteries and 2 motors under warranty. Luckily they would only lease them at that time, he was fortunate to give the lemon back.

      What gets accomplished with a bunch of same spec off the shelf hybrids are raced? The manufacturers actually LOSE brand identity with that, plugging in someone elses hybrid.

      And when the manuf. can build their own hybrid race systems, it gets too expensive. Can we shelve this idea?

  20. DanO

    April 2, 2018 at 5:12 pm


  21. Degner

    April 2, 2018 at 8:45 pm

    Going to a hybrid formula in whatever form is a stupid idea driven by greed and virulent political correctness manipulated by a few for their own self interest.

    Racing’s purpose is not to save the planet. Racing will never save the planet. Nor will billions of batteries or electric motors or electric vehicles. Racing is sport and entertainment, nothing more.

    Hybrid technology employed for racing has produced no significant advancements for road vehicles using hybrid technology – it’s quite the reverse actually. Ford’s Mark Rushbrook is spinning fiction if he thinks LMP1 hybrids or DPi-hybrids willl drive development for road cars.

    The degree to which manufacturers are actually interested hybrid prototypes is driven by their product lineups – which are in turn driven by extremely narrow interests and myopic legislation.

    Racing should go in one of two directions:

    1) A true formula-libre where NO single technology is favored. Bring the best of ANY technology to the table and may the best win. Period. To hell with favoritism for profit and political correctness.

    2) Allow racing to be what it is – sport and entertainment. Craft an economical formula that encourages a large volume of entrants. Allow the cars to be powerful with strict limits on downforce and development. Make them very challenging to master and let driver TALENT be the primary differentiator. Make them loud, fire-breathing ICE brutes that send chills through spectators. Make it accessible to fans and promote the hell out it

    There’s a successful formula for racing.

    • Slicks in the wet

      April 3, 2018 at 3:36 am

      Sport and entertainment.

      Yes. Exactly.

      It’s why I can enjoy the high nosed snobbery of F1 and enjoy the hell out of some clapped out V8 sedans racing on the local dirt track.

  22. Jenner

    April 2, 2018 at 8:49 pm

    Hilarious that everyone here said the ACO’s hybrid path was stupid, asinine, and the worst thing for Sportcars’s future.

    Now that the IMSA manufactures want to go the hybrid route too, now its the best thing to happen to IMSA since sliced bread. HAHAHAHAHA!!!!

    And you guys think Ford, Cadillac, Nissan, and Mazda are gonna agree on a “Spec” hybrid system to bolt on to their engines? What are you guys smoking? Every manufacture is gonna have their own ideas on how to build their hybrid systems, it’s what engineers do. And guess what, it’s gonna cost some serious $$$$$$$$$$$$$ if you want to win.

    Welcome to the Space Race!!!

  23. John

    April 2, 2018 at 10:51 pm


    But getting people/manufacturers/teams/series to all agree on things is still like herding cats.

    Wake me if/when an agreement is finally reached and signed, and the car intros occur.

  24. Roger

    April 3, 2018 at 10:16 am

    If you want to race (prototype) hybrid technology, then go to Formula E……

  25. Dave

    April 3, 2018 at 10:22 am

    This is a disaster. If everyone employs the same hybrid parts, it adds nothing to the competition. If they are left to develop their own, the costs will spiral out of control – it’s been tried before. It will also effectively kill the idea that the P2 cars can compete for the win – well unless the HY cars all have reliability issues that put the P2 on the top of the podium, but who wants to win like that? This smells like ACO wants to have universal platform, but also win the technology argument. You have the upper hand IMSA, don’t squander it in the name of political correctness!


    April 3, 2018 at 10:34 am

    They take ur jobs.

    They take ur guns.

    An now tey wanna take away V8 GM. Hell no sir.

    Ait got no time for that BS and go V6 like that there Ford Sand-baggin wagon.

    Aint gone stand for that!

  27. Grand Am Fan

    April 3, 2018 at 11:10 am

    I just want the tube frame sexy coupes back. Close competition and banging around. No need to do expensive body work because branding can be done with decals to save teams cost.

    • Andy Flinn

      April 3, 2018 at 4:51 pm

      Give me hyper-expensive hybrid LMP1 race cars.

      It doesn’t matter that one only lasted one race (Nissan), two lready quit the WEC (Audi and and Porsche), another is still afraid to commit (Peugeot) and the last factory left standing (Toyota) is STILL trying to win Le Mans.

  28. Roger Capone

    April 3, 2018 at 12:58 pm

    So many people have lost sight of the fact that racing is about the competition and spectacle. Nobody thinks oh cool, that race car’s a hybrid, just like my car. The casual fan wants to be entertained by good racing, not how many mega-joules the cars have. This kind of nonsense has ruined F1 and LMP1.

    • Andy Flinn

      April 3, 2018 at 4:54 pm

      Roger, I agree completely.

      Most fan surveys – except the fudged ones – consistently rank “competition” as the most important element in a motor race.

    • Tracklimits

      April 3, 2018 at 5:59 pm

      You have a point there. But the manufacturers surely don`t race because they want to make “a great show”. It`s all marketing. Thats why we have the whole BoP-thing. If they aren`t competitive they pull out because that would be bad marketing.
      And trust me: as a long time visitor of various racing series I know that a big amount of the “casual fans” even don`t know what kind of technology “their” manufactuarer is using or they don´t understand it at all. And it isn´t important either (thats why they want the spec-hybrid). They only know: Hey that XY won again. (I know that people like you and I are better informed though, but I also assume that a well informed fan don`t buys a car on Monday because it won on Sunday 😉 )
      But if manufactueres have the hybrid sticker on their race-car the marketing effect is way higher than with an N/A car and they don´t have to argue with their shareholders about reasonable efforts.

  29. kv

    April 5, 2018 at 12:26 pm

    ROAD CAR DEVELOPEMENT,is the purpose for racing,hybrid and AERO are real incentives and battery and capacitors are key to enhance ment, POWER as in horsepower IS NOT THE ISSUE here,consumer value IS !

  30. Franklin Chiu

    April 12, 2018 at 4:02 pm

    There is not denying that the world is moving away from the ICE world. I find it adding a standardize hybrid system to a DPi car is nothing but a publicity stunt. It always sounds like IMSA just to explain to the world that the series is featuring an engineering system that is not obsolete the political world?

    If incorporating a hybrid system is the only solution to keep the manufacturers interested and the series relevant, then a non-standardized hybrid system sounds awesome, considering every manufacturer in the series already have an electric program in their company.

    It is so awesome to see a NA 6.2 V8 vs twin turbo v6 vs turbo inline-4 vs… in the series. However, I would love to see DPi manufacturers have an engine program that continues to further develop in higher efficiency engines. Engine with higher thermal efficiency, volumetric efficiency, less mechanical loss, more power… Everyone can squeeze more power with a big turbo or big motor, but that should not be what an engine manufacturer should be striving for right?

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