The 17th century French author Francois de la Rochefoucauld couldn’t have envisioned IMSA, but when he wrote: “The only thing constant in life is change,” he nailed IMSA’s WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s upcoming season.
The new year kicked off this month with the annual pre-season test, the Roar Before the 24, Jan. 6-8 on Daytona Int’l Speedway’s 3.56-mile road course in Daytona Beach, Fla., in preparation for the series’ premier event, the 55th running of the Rolex 24 Jan. 28-29 at the same track.
It was at the end of the 2002 season that Sports Racing Prototypes were sent to the ranks of vintage racing and other series in other countries in favor of Grand-Am’s Daytona Prototypes.
Daytona Prototype Gen2 cars followed in 2008 and Gen3 cars debuted in 2012. Things were complicated even more when the Rolex Sports Car Series merged with the American Le Mans Series under the IMSA banner in 2014, and for a while Daytona Prototypes raced alongside the ALMS’ LM P2 prototypes.
That’s all history. Starting this season, another new generation of Daytona Prototypes, called Daytona Prototype Int’l (DPi), replaces the original Daytona Prototypes. The primary goal in developing these new cars was to race something in America that could also be eligible for the LM P2 class at Le Mans. So far that hasn’t occurred, but it’s definitely a possibility.
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The strategic alliances between IMSA and the Automobile Club de l’Ouest, which sanctions the 24 Hours of Le Mans, are ongoing as both groups try to increase the growth of sports car racing worldwide.
“We have analyzed trends in the global motorsports landscape to arrive at what we believe is the most logical strategy,” Ed Bennett, IMSA’s chief executive officer, said last August at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. “While it’s impossible to make decisions that will satisfy the interests and needs of everyone, we feel confident that our plans for the future are sound and position our platforms for continued growth, stability and interest.”
The new cars are based on four homologated LM P2 Prototype chassis from four constructors — Dallara, Onroak Automotive (Ligier), Oreca and Riley/Multimatic — that are blessed by the ACO and run in the Federation Int’l de l’Automobile World Endurance Championship.
Each participating DPi manufacturer must partner with one of the four approved constructors and commit to a bodywork and engine package to create recognition for its specific brand. These areas include the nose and sidepod areas, rear-wheel arches, and rear valance. The target power level for engines is 600 horsepower.
Manufacturers can run factory teams or make their cars available to privateer teams. Ultimately, it is hoped that with only a few changes, these cars could be used in multiple championships, making them more appealing to team owners.
The controversies surrounding Balance of Performance regulations and driver ratings inherent in the current sports car racing world are expected to continue if not expand, however.
This year, the new DPi cars are in the Prototype class along with 2017 Le Mans Prototype 2 race cars and closed-cockpit 2016 LM P2 cars with IMSA-homologated engines.