“The Daytona DPI rules could replace LMP1”
ust to the left of this column you can read about the potential future of the Le Mans 24 Hours and the FIA World Endurance Championship. Well, at least to those of us blessed with common sense it very well could be.
The news of Mazda unveiling what is essentially a budget, turn-key manufacturer project for the American IMSA sportscar championship may not have made huge waves over here just yet. But it could do very soon.
As much as I adore the FIA World Endurance Championship, it has a problem. And that problem is LMP1.
Ever since the championship – rather sensibly at the time – branded itself as a playground for modern technologies and put an emphasis on hybrid powertrains, costs have started to escalate.
The WEC enjoyed arguably its golden era when Porsche announced it would be rejoining the top ranks of world motorsport to compete alongside Audi and Toyota. Three of the world’s biggest brands, in one arena, each running cutting edge new technology and pushing engineering limitations – it was magic.
But that environment has become a dangerously expensive playground, which has raised questions over its sustainability.
Audi has gone. Leaving just Porsche and Toyota. How long until one of those programmes falls over and what will the FIA and ACO do then when just one brand stands alone at the top with nobody to race with?
This is why the DPI rules make sense. They allow a manufacturer to buy an off-the-shelf LMP2 chassis and simply redesign its bodywork in their own image and have tuning input into an engine range.
The result? A custom-designed prototype with more power and aerodynamics than an LMP2 car and, perhaps more importantly, its own identity made in any manufacturer’s set image. Perfect. LMP1 was attracting interest from some other major players during its golden era too, with BMW and Renault both hotly tipped to bring projects. But both appear to have seen the rather expensive iceberg and have refocused on Formula E – a series where a manufacturer can buy an off-the-shelf chassis and develop and fit its own engine technology... Sound familiar yet? Allowing certain spec parts, such as the chassis and engine block, makes a full factory programme far more appealing by drastically reducing the costs involved. Sure, aero work is still expensive, but thanks to systems like CFD, design work is nowhere near as expensive as the process of chassis construction, crash testing and such.
If it’s affordable and exciting, then it can work. Mazda’s prototype looks stunning, and there’s more to come with strong interest from Honda (HPD), Cadillac, Nissan and perhaps even Bentley. Imagine all of those brands lined up at La Sarthe? Not only that, imagine pitting them on a level playing field where being at the front doesn’t demand an F1 budget!
Should LMP1 die out in its current guise, the covers have just been pulled off what would appear a ready-made replacement that could bring manufacturers flooding back.