McLaren’s possible entry into the top class of sports car racing now rests solely on the ACO and IMSA agreeing to a global platform for DPi 2.0, according to McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown, who has ruled out a project around the newly confirmed Le Mans Hypercar regulations.
The British manufacturer, which had been evaluating both platforms in recent months, has shifted its focus to IMSA’s so-called DPi 2022 model but only if it will be eligible to also compete in the FIA World Endurance Championship.
Brown spoke to assembled media in Bahrain on Saturday, site of the fourth round of the 2019-20 WEC season.
“If we can create a global sports car series, Hypercar/DPi 2.0, or whatever you call it, I think that’s a big win for sports car racing around the world, so I’m very supportive of IMSA and ACO aligning around a common set of rules,” Brown said.
“Our biggest concern is the current budgets. We have a great program in North America now with with IndyCar, so where we really want to be is the World Endurance Championship.”
When asked by Sportscar365 if McLaren has ruled out building a bespoke Le Mans Hypercar, Brown said the current costs, which he estimated to be in the $40 million range, would be prohibitive for the manufacturer.
“As they exist today, I think we would struggle to get there economically,” Brown said.
“I have to be really responsible for taking on, especially with Formula One, which is going to take a few years to reduce its losses.
“So I can’t enter any new form of motor racing in the short term that would run at any meaningful loss.”
Brown said a proposed program would center around a factory effort in the WEC but also some of the key races on the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
He would envision the car being available to teams to race full-time in IMSA, either as a semi-works or customer capacity.
“The priority would be on WEC but I could see us go into Daytona, Sebring, Petit, and then I could see us having [customer teams in IMSA],” Brown said.
“So I could definitely see us having an IMSA program. Whether it was an out-and-out works program would maybe be a bit sponsorship-dependent but I would anticipate if there was a global platform that you would see McLaren racing in WEC and in IMSA.”
Another condition on its commitment would be ensuring IMSA’s DPi 2.0 platform to be able to feature “some real McLaren DNA” in it.
“Styling engine, gearbox, hybrid show we’re open-minded,” said Brown, who hinted that McLaren Applied Technologies has placed a tender for the spec hybrid contract for DPi 2.0.
“What we wouldn’t be interested in is the current DPi formula. I don’t think that has enough [freedoms]. I don’t think we can put enough McLaren DNA into that car.
“I think where DPi 2.0 is trying to go… Everyone’s trying to compromise of how do you keep budgets low and competitive, which IMSA has done extremely well.
“How do you blend in the authenticity of what ACO is done, which real manufacturer-driven. How can you bring those two together?
“We’re prepared to make some compromises. But it still has to have a lot of McLaren DNA.”
Brown said they are “open minded” to chassis construction and a spec chassis would not be a “show stopper” for the program.
McLaren Could Still Debut in 2021/22 Season
Should an agreement between the ACO and IMSA be reached shortly, Brown indicated that McLaren could be on the grid by as soon as the 2021-22 WEC season.
“If it kicked in in North America in 2022, which means the end of 2021 for WEC, I think if we know that pretty quickly, that’s not unachievable,” he said.
“It depends how sophisticated the rules are. If you start getting into things like common tubs, that will start shortening the lead time.
“To build a full-blown [Le Mans] Hypercar is currently takes a couple of years. If they go to a simpler platform that would probably accelerate how quickly you can get a car done.”