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New LMDh Cars Signal Bright Future for Prototype Racing
Posted by: ASkyler on Dec 19, 2020 - 07:55 AM
Feature Articles
New LMDh Cars Signal Bright Future for Prototype Racing


By Jeff Olson IMSA Wire Service

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- It has been, to say the least, a positive few weeks of news for the future of global sports car racing.

First, Audi disclosed in late November that it planned to build a new LMDh prototype sports car when it debuts in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2023 and also return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which it won 13 times before departing in 2016.

Then, on Tuesday, Porsche AG announced similar plans to build its own LMDh car to compete in IMSA and the FIA World Endurance Championship

 


More positive news surrounding 2023 is expected shortly, IMSA President John Doonan said Wednesday.

“You want it to be the right business model, but the other piece is when you have people step up to the plate and make a commitment,” Doonan said. “I don’t know if it will be before the end of the year, but definitely in the first quarter of 2021, fingers crossed, we’ll have a few more announcements.”

Plans for the new LMDh class were announced by IMSA and Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) officials at Daytona International Speedway on the eve of the 58th Rolex 24 At Daytona. It will replace IMSA’s top prototype class, Daytona Prototype international (DPi), for the 2023 season.

The LMDh will have the same spine -- the car without bodywork, engine or hybrid system -- as the next generation of the Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) car. Four constructors – Dallara, Ligier, Multimatic and ORECA -- will build the spines, with individual manufacturers providing engines and bodywork.

Bosch, Williams Advanced Engineering and Xtrac will work together to provide the spec hybrid powertrain systems, with a combined power output of more than 670 horsepower (500 kilowatts).

Manufacturers are keen on the hybrid platform because of increasing sales of hybrid production vehicles. More than 5 million hybrid cars were on the road in the U.S. at the end of 2019, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

“One of the things that has made all of us so happy and proud of LMDh is that it emulates what the manufacturers … have wanted for a while,” Doonan said. “It emulates what our audience has wanted for a while, and that is the ability for the best drivers, the best manufacturers and the best cars to compete on a global stage in and behind the same ruleset.”

The new class has been a long time in the making. After extensive talks among manufacturers, constructors and sanctioning bodies, the plan to include hybrid engine technology as part of a top prototype class was announced in January 2020.

“No decisions were made in a vacuum,” Doonan said. “It was a sort of all hands on deck, meaning the ACO and IMSA leading the way, the manufacturers and the chassis constructors from LMP2 -- Dallara, Ligier, Multimatic and ORECA -- and everybody around the table initially had mental skin in the game to do the right thing for the sport.”

Porsche’s announcement was greeted with almost universal praise from drivers, teams and manufacturers, including people likely to be competing against Porsche when the new class debuts in 2023, and those likely to be piloting the new car.

“Porsche will join LMDh in 2023,” tweeted Porsche factory driver Laurens Vanthoor. “Fighting for overall victory in @FIAWEC and @IMSA! My dream to win Le Mans/Daytona might come true after all. Super exciting news for all of us.”

Doonan said more than a dozen manufacturers have been involved in the LMDh discussions, and he expects more to join Porsche and Audi in committing to the class. The DPi class currently includes Acura, Cadillac and Mazda.

“Several others have indicated that they are moving down the process of approval,” Doonan said. “(That) gives all of us hope that come 2023 there could be a full grid of prototypes representing many manufacturers. To date, the table of the technical working groups has been around 15 manufacturers. You have an opportunity to have an historic battle at the front.

“If you have 15 manufacturers at the table and you got even 50 percent of that kind of participation? Think about that happening. That makes the hair on my arms stand up. It’s positive. Very positive.”

With the LMDh class, manufacturers will be able to use the elements currently employed in the DPi class that relate to their production vehicles, like engines and styling cues, and apply it to a class that would showcase a hybrid engine.

“That puts us into a league that further emulates road-car relevant technology,” Doonan said.

The buzz surrounding the LMDh switch in 2023 comes as IMSA gears up for next month’s Rolex 24 At Daytona and the kick-off of the 2021 WeatherTech Championship. A stacked DPi class field is expected, along with an impressive field of LMP2 cars and the introduction of the LMP3 class into the WeatherTech Championship.

There should be no shortage of prototype action the next two years. For now, though, the talk is about 2023 and beyond.

“Somebody always has to be first, and to have this become official last night by Porsche and Audi’s comments last week and knowing that there are all these others at the table gives us tremendous optimism and tremendous momentum,” Doonan said. “After a few step up and make these announcements, others tend to follow.”

The Roar Before the Rolex 24 is scheduled for Jan. 22-24, with the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona set for Jan. 27-31.

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