ACO Open to Common DPi/LMP1 Platform (2nd Update)

Scott Atherton
Scott Atherton

UPDATE Scott Atherton says there’s “genuine interest" from IMSA and the ACO to achieve a common set of global prototype regulations for 2020, with preliminary discussions between both organizations already underway.

The IMSA President, meanwhile, revealed they’d be open to the possible integration of cost-effective hybrid powertrains in the next-generation platform, which he hopes would be an “evolution" from its current DPi formula.

The development comes in the wake of a planned overhaul to the initially announced LMP1 regulations for 2020, which called for fast-charging hybrid plug-ins and stretches of all-electric driving, that has since been abandoned in the wake of Porsche’s exit from the FIA World Endurance Championship’s top class at the end of this season.

It’s resulted in a complete re-think of LMP1, that could see a shared platform with the next generation of IMSA’s DPi regulations, which is due out in 2021.

Atherton confirmed that option was initially discussed late last month, although admitted there’s still “a lot more questions than answers" at this point.

“It’s good that we’re together and we’re discussing it as an opportunity," Atherton told Sportscar365.

“We see it, as an organization, as only being a positive if we could bring the rulebooks together and have the top prototype category in America, racing in the WeatherTech Championship, [to] be aligned, consistent with what races at Le Mans and in the WEC.

“There’s a genuine interest on both sides of the equation, the ACO and IMSA, to do all we can to fulfill that."

A push for a common set of future LMP1/DPi regulations has been made by a number of manufacturers, including McLaren and Ford, which have both indicated interest in mounting factory prototype efforts should it be able to fight for overall wins at Daytona, Sebring and Le Mans with the same car.

While Atherton said he hasn’t been in any specific discussions with manufacturers, he admitted it’s a desirable option that would likely expand global prototype involvement.

“If you’re able to look around the next corner to the 2020/2021 timeframe and have the alignment occur, I think it would only serve to accelerate that and attract others that are not currently involved," he said. “That’s the ultimate goal."

IMSA Open to Hybrid Powertrains

While the FIA and ACO’s desire to continue with hybrid technology appeared to initially be a potential roadblock for a common platform, Atherton revealed that IMSA is open to that possibility, as long as it can be done in a cost-effective manner.

“What’s called for in the current LMP1 rulebook has proven to be unsustainable, so you wouldn’t want to engage in a similar set of circumstances, even if you had someone willing to say we’ll compete at that level," he said.

“It would [have to] be based upon practical availability, affordability and sustainability."

he admitted hybrids could be an option for the next set of regulations in the prototype class.

“From IMSA’s perspective, it’s not a question of if but when hybridization becomes part of everything we’re doing," Atherton said.

“If you look at every major automobile manufacturer, they’re either talking about an all-hybrid lineup of vehicles or an all-electric lineup of vehicles in the not-too-distant future, 2025, 2030.

“I think all forms of motorsport need to be cognizant of that so you don’t box yourself in with a set of rules that out of sync with the practical application of the automobile from the manufacturers and in the eyes of the consumer."

Atherton said his initial impressions of the ACO’s Equivalence of Technology, which will balance turbocharged and normally aspirated engines, along with hybrid technology, into a single interim LMP1 class for 2018/19, has been positive.

“On the surface, that sounds attractive," he said. “It sounds like a good fit for what is today a DPi example.

“Right now we do not have a formula that calls for hybrid technology in DPi. If you’re talking about the next generation, and seeing what’s happening around us, it seems like the logical next step."

Evolution of DPi Regulations Optimal

With involvement from Cadillac, Mazda, Nissan and soon-to-be Acura in DPi, Atherton said he would envision the next set of prototype regulations to be an evolution, rather than a complete new approach.

“I think [DPi] has proven to be an attractive opportunity for manufacturers," he said.

“We think the cars are delivering what the fans want. They have a visual uniqueness to them. Their powertrains are generating excellent competitive results, albeit [in different ways].

“There’s a level of affordability as a result of using four constructors, bodywork kits and allowing OEMs to bring powertrains to the mix that seems to work.

“Looking forward, from our perspective, an evolution of what is today’s DPi would be optimal."

Atherton said he would expect a transition period of 1-2 years, in allowing current DPi machinery to continue to compete in the class alongside new-generation cars, which could enter competition globally in 2020.

The current DPi regulations are guaranteed through the end of the 2020 WeatherTech Championship season.

“There’s questions in our mind right now about the timing of how the ‘Super Season’ and the impact that has on existing homologations," Atherton said.

“Our commitment to our DPi constructors is unwavering, in that this is a four-year homologation, so that takes us through the 2020 season.

“That could be that blended scenario of having existing, still eligible [DPi cars], but also allowing the next-generation specification to cycle in. But all of this is speculative."

With the FIA and ACO having declared plans to finalize the regulations by the end of this year, Atherton said IMSA would be ready to step up to help determine the unified platform, should talks move forward in the coming weeks.

“The vision there, from our perspective, would be a joint process," he said. “If the goal is to have common regulations, then both parties would need to be actively involved in crafting them.

“Our technical team would absolutely make it a priority." Sportscar365

Might we see the DPIs at LeMans?
Might we see the DPIs at LeMans?

09/04/17

UPDATE ACO President Pierre Fillon and FIA World Endurance Championship CEO Gerard Neveu have expressed their desire to have a common LMP1 and DPi platform with IMSA for the next set of regulations, due in 2020.

The FIA and ACO revealed changes to its LMP1 regulations last weekend, alongside a switch to a winter calendar beginning with a 18-month “Super Season" for the WEC, which kicks off in May.

With the adjusted LMP1 rules locked in for the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons, technical delegates and prospective manufacturers are set to meet in the coming weeks to begin discussions for a “substantially altered" set of 2020 regs.

That could include an evolution of IMSA’s DPi platform, with Fillon open to the potential of common LMP1-DPi regulations.

“We have to open the discussion," Fillon told Sportscar365 in Mexico City. “What is the future of LMP1 and what is the future of DPi?

“Remember that I was very enthusiastic about a common prototype between [ACO and IMSA] and for me it’s not a dream. I think we can work on that."

While Fillon felt IMSA’s DPi concept drifted too far away from the FIA and ACO’s new-for-2017 LMP2 regulations, he now sees a potential opportunity with LMP1.

IMSA’s four-year homologation cycle for its current DPi platform ends in 2020, which coincides with the launch of the new LMP1 regulations later that year.

“I hope we will go in this direction," Neveu told Sportscar365. “If this partnership works very well between IMSA and the ACO, when we are looking for the long-term, in 2020, why we cannot imagine to have a [joint set of regulations] or something like this between these cars.

“It could be an interesting way. The DPi could be with LMP1.

“I don’t know how it would work; that’s not my question today. But we stay totally open to discuss.

“Our interest is to see a very strong WeatherTech Championship with a very high level. We have to find the best way to run together and to do a clear development."

It’s understood a number of manufacturers, including McLaren, are behind the concept of common regulations that would allow the same base prototype to compete for overall wins in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Rolex 24 at Daytona and Twelve Hours of Sebring.

McLaren Technology Group Executive Director Zak Brown said they would “seriously consider" mounting a prototype effort should there be a global platform eligible in both championships.

“If we could come up with a formula that works for all, I think that would be great for the world of sports car racing," he told Sportscar365.

Neveu and Fillon, meanwhile, have downplayed the prospects of current-generation DPis being part of the WEC, or have its own class in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the short-term.

“DPi is a very interesting model," Neveu said. “It’s working today in North America for the WeatherTech Championship.

“This car is fighting with LMP2s. I have no space in the WEC to welcome an additional category.

“If the question is, we don’t have LMP1 so we can maybe imagine DPi. But that’s not the case. We have Toyota, we still have Peugeot working seriously to arrive. There’s other manufacturers that are interested.

“We have at least 4-5 LMP1s coming next year with privateers. This category clearly exists.

“I cannot say to Dallara and the other people building [LMP1 non-hybrids] for [the class] to disappear. That’s not the question."

Fillon noted that the DPi interest level for Le Mans may not be as high as initially suspected.

With being nearly 100kg heavier than LMP1 non-hybrids and producing 100 horsepower less, it’s unlikely the cars, in its current configuration, would be able to challenge for the overall win in the French endurance classic, should it be allowed.

“The performance of DPi is [very similar] to P2," Fillon said. “Do you think if DPi would want to go to Le Mans without fighting for the [overall win]? This is a very good question." Sportscar365

Not many people watch WEC and costs are too high
Not many people watch WEC and costs are too high

08/30/17 The FIA World Endurance Championship is poised to feature a reduced schedule in 2018, with the elimination of up to three rounds, a possible post-Le Mans start to the season and evolution to a winter championship.

Increasing questions, meanwhile, surround the future of its traditional season-opener at Silverstone.

Multiple sources have indicated to Sportscar365 that the famed British circuit, which has been on the calendar since the championship’s formation in 2012, is unlikely to return.

Silverstone is believed to be one of a potential three races on the chopping block, which could reduce the season to a six-round championship amid the recent LMP1 fallout.

Events at Circuit of The Americas and Mexico City are understood to be among those also in question, with contracts at both circuits expiring this year.

As a result, a more drastic change to a winter season, which had been under consideration in recent years, could be made, with French media reporting the 2018 season may not begin until after next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.

WEC CEO Gerard Neveu revealed in May that changes to the calendar and race formats were under consideration, including a possible reduction to eight rounds at that time, as well as the addition of qualifying races for GTE-Pro cars.

While plans for qualifying races for the top production-based class, which welcomes BMW next year, appear to still be on track, the likely changes to the overall calendar are believed to have been prompted by the developing LMP1 situation.

Toyota, the lone remaining factory squad in LMP1, could take part in a limited season next year, which would leave multiple events without a manufacturer entry in the top class.

It’s understood at least six rounds, on three continents, are required for the WEC to retain World Championship status, which it intends to do so thanks to the new-for-2017 world titles for GTE manufacturers and drivers.

The series launched in 2012 with an eight-round season before adding a ninth event, in Mexico, last year.

Both Neveu and ACO President Pierre Fillion have been unavailable for comment since Porsche’s announcement last month, although a press conference has been scheduled for Friday in Mexico City, which could reveal further details on the championship’s future. Sportscar365

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