Convergence in top-class prototype regulations would make for a “compelling” reason for Lexus to commit to a DPi program according to Toyota Racing Development president and general manager David Wilson, who has expressed a desire to see the brand take on the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The luxury automaker, as well nearly a dozen other OEMs, have been part of IMSA’s steering group committee meetings to shape the so-called DPi 2022 regulations, which is scheduled to be finalized in draft form by the end of March.
With IMSA and the ACO reportedly close to an agreement that would see next-generation DPis and Le Mans Hypercars compete in a single class by as early as 2022, TRD’s Wilson is hopeful of the discussions becoming a reality and helping rekindle the past, where the same specification of prototypes were eligible to compete in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring and 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Wilson explained that Lexus has yet to decide on its long-term future in sports car racing, with considerations on the manufacturer’s production car roadmap and shape of the next-gen DPi regulations both being factors for a commitment beyond its current participation in the GT Daytona class.
“The biggest elephant in the room continues to be the regulations set that could be common, globally,” Wilson told Sportscar365.
“Lexus is very happy with GT racing. Then again, that’s product dependent. What happens after the current RC F cycle? [We] don’t know.
“There are some cars in the works that could potentially lend themselves to a continued GT presence.
“If there comes a point in time wherein we could take a car from the Rolex  and run it at Le Mans, that would be a game changer.
“I still remember in 1993 when we won our first Rolex 24 with Dan Gurney, and then we went on to win Sebring and we didn’t go to Le Mans. I look back on that and think that we could have… It took our company almost 30 years to win its first Le Mans.
“As an enthusiast, as someone who cut his teeth in sports car racing as an engineer, I dream about having another crack at it.
“The good news is that we’ve been maintaining great communication with Jim France and now with John Doonan. We continue to keep tabs. Of course, our colleagues in Europe are moving ahead with their plans.”
Wilson said Lexus and TRD have been “quietly” involved in the steering group meetings, in order to gain a better understanding of the platform’s future direction.
“Part of our responsibility is to advise our top management at Toyota and Lexus about the state of the sport, and where DPi is going philosophically,” he said.
“We’re supportive of [DPi] 2.0 from a technological relevancy perspective, from a styling perspective, and I don’t know how much they’ve shown in terms of renderings but with prototype racing, one of the issues is styling relevancy.
“To be fair, one of the pillars of success for DPi 2.0 is better styling relevancy. That, combined with the technological relevancy, continues to move the bar for our potential consideration.”
Should convergence become a reality, Wilson said it would be “doubtful” that TRD would take Toyota’s GR Super Sport-developed Le Mans Hypercar and race it in IMSA, largely due to the costs associated with the TMG-developed project.
Sportscar365 understands that the program budget of Toyota’s yet-to-be-named prototype Hypercar, which will debut in the 2020-21 FIA World Endurance Championship season, is in the $50 million range.
“The expense involved in a Hypercar, even with the new formula, would be pretty prohibitive,” Wilson said of racing in IMSA.
“That’s obviously where this convergence issue is challenged, because arguably the DPi is a great formula. They shouldn’t compromise that significantly just to get to Le Mans.”
Toyota, Lexus Could Co-Exist in Top Class at Le Mans in “Respectful Manner”
Wilson said he doesn’t foresee any major issues should Lexus green-light a DPi program and take it to Le Mans, which would compete directly alongside parent company Toyota with its Hypercar.
“It would probably be something that we would sort out with our top management and obviously do it in an appropriate and respectful manner,” he said.
“The bigger point in all this consideration is contemplating the potential for Lexus to go DPi, a convergence in ruleset would have a significant impact on that contemplation.
“It would be much more compelling. But I’m not saying it’s not possible without it.”