Manufacturers and Teams Are Raving about the Top Prototype Class Set to Debut in 2023
By Jeff Olson
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Wayne Taylor calls it “a good first step.” Mike Krack says it’s “the perfect match.” For Tim Cindric, it’s “an opportunity we haven’t seen in our lifetime.”
In little more than a year, the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will unveil a new version of its highest class. In conjunction with Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO), LMDh cars will replace Daytona Prototype international (DPi), turning IMSA’s fastest and most technically advanced racing cars into a platform for hybrid technology that matches global sports car formats.
It’s a grand, expansive and complicated undertaking. It’s also enjoying a positive afterglow in the months since its announcement. Five manufacturers – Acura, Audi, BMW, Cadillac and Porsche – have committed to building LMDh cars. So far, three teams in the WeatherTech Championship have announced plans to field LMDh entries beginning with the Rolex 24 At Daytona in January 2023.
More are expected to announce LMDh plans in the coming months.
“It has the potential of having the equipment and regulations common across IMSA and the ACO,” said Team Penske President Tim Cindric, who’s preparing his team to partner with Porsche in its IMSA LMDh plans. “It’s an opportunity we haven’t seen in our lifetime, I don’t think. As a team, we wanted to be involved.”
In the next few weeks, IMSA NewsWire and IMSA.com will delve into LMDh from the perspective of team owners and managers. Some of the most influential minds in IMSA will examine the response, the potential and the expectations of LMDh.
So far, the plan has met an affirmative response.
“We come now from a long GT era, and we have now the possibility to do a cost-effective (LMDh program to compete) for an overall win,” said Krack, Head of BMW M Motorsport. “This is very attractive, and at the same time you can sell technology. These two go well together.”
Announced in January 2020, LMDh generated more momentum last month when Cadillac announced its development of an LMDh program with two established and successful DPi teams – Chip Ganassi Racing and Action Express Racing.
“We were really hoping this would happen,” said Gary Nelson, manager of Action Express. “The format really got our attention. In my mind, trophies should be hard to get. I like tough competition, and that’s what this looks like it will provide.”
The class is based on a cost-capped car generating more than 670 horsepower from the combined output of an internal combustion engine and a hybrid powertrain. Four constructors – Dallara, Ligier, Multimatic and ORECA – will build chassis, and manufacturers will be allowed to brand engines and stylize the bodywork.
“When there’s a big technology change, you’re starting from a clean sheet of paper,” said Wayne Taylor, whose Wayne Taylor Racing is part of Acura’s current DPi program and considered a front-runner to continue in Acura’s LMDh plans. “With the pressure to use and create clean energy, this is a good first step.”
As auto manufacturers continue to hone hybrid technology and move toward electric production vehicles, racing offers the ideal proving ground and stage for the change. It’s not surprising, then, that LMDh has received an endorsement of participation.
“IMSA has always made sure that they have the constructors on board, their teams on board and their audience,” Krack said. “It’s a package that all of us need. For us, it’s the perfect match.”
Next in the series: Four team leaders discuss the significance of LMDh specs matching across international sanction. Will matching specs encourage more participation in IMSA’s top class? Will crossover between IMSA and the World Endurance Championship (WEC) increase?