Mercedes-Benz, that luxury marque from Germany that is currently owning Formula 1. There they are famous for their recent domination despite the fact that their drivers best efforts to take each other out. RACER.com recently reported Mercedes is close to fielding a DPi effort for the 2017 IMSA Weather Tech Sportscar Championship. Starting in 2017 DPi or Daytona Prototype international will be the top-tier in North American Sportscar racing. It will use the base chassis from a Le Mans Prototype 2 with 2 major exceptions. In the rest of the world LMP2 cars are restricted to 4 chassis manufacturers and 1 spec engine. The DPi’s will have the freedom to choose their own engine and utilize the body work associated with the engine manufacturer.
Cadillac and Mazda have already confirmed they will be racing in DPi next season. Marques like Bentley, Nissan, DeltaWing (Panoz) and Honda have expressed interest. For various reasons they have yet express anything more than interest. According to multiple sources Mercedes-Benz has now thrown its hat into the ring. If they can find a suitable partner they can be on the grid for the start of the 2017 season. Reports indicate that they have been in talks with multiple teams for several months. The hold up seems to center around money and what exactly Mercedes AMG will actually provide. While Mazda and Cadillac will not only supply the engines and bodywork they will also be supplementing a large chunk of the operating expenses. Mercedes is reported to only supply teams with the Engine (the 6.2 Liter beast currently calling the AMG GT3 home) and the brand specific body work. Teams would be on the hook for everything else, including the full cost of the chassis.
This is all hugely exciting. I believe if a deal is struck and Mercedes races it would be a huge win for IMSA. I think a lot of the “interested” manufacturers are adopting a wait and see approach. Bentley for example was very keen on the idea of building a DPi right up to the point parent company, Volkswagen, had their little emissions boondoggle. The resulting financial crisis tightened the reigns on Bentley’s racing budget. However, hope is not lost on the Bentley front as they recently wooed Leena Gade away from sister company Audi. Leena is a Le Mans winning engineer becoming the first woman to do so. She is among the best in the business. Leena is used to working on the hybrid spaceships in LMP1. Given the fact that she will not be working directly with any of the GT teams one would thing there are bigger things on her horizon. This fuels the rumors that Bentley is adopting a wait and see approach to the new 2017 DPi class. I think this is a practice being used by a lot of the “interested” teams. Which is why if IMSA can somehow convince a team to come to terms with Mercedes it might make DPi all the more desirable.
Mercedes is used to winning Grand Prix’s, if they can see the value in IMSA that may convince other Manufacturers to follow suit. The lure of fighting for overall victories against the likes of Mazda, Cadillac and Mercedes might be too good a proposition to pass up. Add in another marque and it just might begin to snowball. Think about it, potentially 7 different manufacturers dueling it out and suddenly you’re back in the glory days of IMSA GT.