Today’s Hybrid LMP1 machinery are technical marvels. They are crammed with so much tech that Formula 1 cars are jealous. Multiple hybrid systems, 1000 combined horsepower they are modern automotive spaceships. From an engineering perspective they are without equal. However with all that technology comes cost and cost will eventually lead to their demise. Porsche is involved at the grace of their sister company Audi bowing out. Their only true playmate in the WEC is Toyota. Toyota’s budget is nowhere near Porsche’s. After another year of getting their noses kicked in by Porsche I don’t think they are long for LMP1. I honestly don’t see any factory teams coming in given the costs associated, especially when you look across the pond at IMSA’s growing DPi class.
DPi is on a roll. The cars from Cadillac and Mazda look great and even the Nissan DPi is starting to grow on me. More importantly the DPi formula let manufacturers fight for overall victories at a mere fraction the cost of a LMP1 H machine. Given the size of the American market and car companies looking to get the absolute most out of their investments DPi just makes more sense than LMP1. While the WEC is struggling for Manufacturer LMP1 interest, relying on Privateers to fill the grid in 2018, IMSA just scored 2 more heavy hitters for next season in the form of Honda and Penske.
It has been no secret that Penske has wanted back into sportscar racing. Ever since the rules makers forced out the glorious RS Spyder Penske has been searching for a partner to come back. This week they have found that partner in Honda. Honda, like Penske has been searching for a partner to race in North America. For many years that partner had been Scott Sharp and Extreme Speed Motorsports. Unfortunately that partnership dissolved, mostly due to the failure that was the Honda ARX-04B chassis. That failure set ESM back big time leading them into the all to welcoming hands of Nissan. ESM now campaigns Nissan’s DPi prototype. Fortunately for Honda 2017 marks a clean slate for everyone. New regulations mean their old failures are now no longer relevant and they can start over with one of if not the greatest name in North American Motorsports, Penske.
Penske doesn’t do anything half ass, if he does something it is to the highest possible quality. His Chevy engined IndyCars are constantly competing for championships. Same applies to his Fords in NASCAR. I don’t need to know anything else about the program, expect Penske to be competitive immediately. Just to make certain of that fact he is bringing in multiple time Indy 500 champions Juan Pablo Montoya and Helio Castroneves. Montoya who has experience in sportscars has won the Rolex 24 at Daytona 2 times. Though both drivers might be at the twilight of their careers they still have speed in them. Plus their veteran presence will only help develop the new car. The new car is expected to be based on the Oreca 07 LMP2 chassis with some variation of Honda’s twin turbocharged V6. Likely the same basic unit found in their New NSX GT3 machine.
That gives IMSA 4 Manufacturers playing in DPi in 2018. Honda will be joining the likes of Cadillac, Mazda and Nissan. 4 cars to the WEC’s 2 Factory back LMP1 cars. Plus lets not forget there is a certain team that is a legend around Le Mans. This team has free time since the Audi program closed its doors. This team has shown some considerable interest in DPi and is believed to be shopping for a manufacturer to partner with. I am talking about Team Joest. Joest conquered all while partnered with Porsche, when that program ended they came back even stronger and were the driving force behind Audi’s run of dominance. Now they seem keen to play in IMSA’s DPi platform. Not to mention Bentley is sniffing around DPi as is Alfa Romeo.
To those of you keeping score Joest’s inclusion would give DPi 5 manufacturers and names like Penske and Joest calling their platform home. All the while the WEC struggles to field factory efforts. Like I said before Toyota may not be long for the WEC, if they leave that only leaves Porsche. You think Volkswagen is going to spend the money so Porsche can go out and play by themselves? I don’t think so.
It may only be 1 race old but the DPi platform is already on the verge of surpassing its more technical big brother. I for one say bring it on, racing is always better when multiple manufacturers are fighting it out amongst multiple rivals. DPi is trending up while LMP1 is going in the opposite direction.