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IMSA & ACO Agree Route To Top Class Prototype Convergence

The most significant announcement of the modern era in Sportscar racing

IMSA and the Automobile Club l’Ouest have confirmed today that they have entered into an agreement that will bring the potential for both the ACO ‘Hypercars’ and the next generation of DPi machinery to compete together in a unified top class in races for both the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and in the FIA WEC, including the Le Mans 24 Hours.

The agreement sees a small but potentially seismic shift in the timeline for introduction of the second generation of DPi machinery allowing full season second generation ‘DPi’ machinery (to be renamed LMDh) to compete in the full 2021/22 FIA WEC alongside the ACO-regulated Le Mans ‘Hypercars’ – Hypercar and LMDh will be able to race together in a single class, with Balance of Performance set to be used to provide a level playing field.

IMSA meanwhile will completely replace the current generation of DPi machinery with LMDh from the start of their 2022 season with a discussion still open as to whether the ACO-Le Mans Hypercars will be eligible in IMSA races,

The LMDh formula, which stands for Le Mans Daytona (and awaits confirmation of how the ‘h’ will be defined), is scheduled for a staggered rollout. LMDh will debut in September of 2021 alongside Hypercars in Europe, and in IMSA, LMDh will replace the current DPi formula in January of 2022 at the onset of the new WeatherTech Championship season.

The conference, held at Daytona, featured a room full of key players including: Porsche, Hyundai, Lamborghini, Ferrari, Michelin, Ligier, ORECA, BMW, Caddy, Dallara, Audi, Multimatic and Lexus.

Jim France – IMSA co-founder and Chairman:

“When my father, Bill France Sr., brought the first Daytona Continental sports car race here to Daytona International Speedway back in 1962, he wanted to bring together sports car drivers, teams and manufacturers from around the world.

“With the ACO, IMSA and manufacturers aligned, today’s announcement proudly takes my father’s vision to the next level.”

ACO President Pierre Fillon, understood by DSC to have been a major driver for the current convergence agreement said:

“This announcement today is the crucial starting point for a joint endurance racing future, supported by both the ACO and IMSA.

“The platform represents the convergence achieved by both organizations which is a great success story for endurance racing. A manufacturer will soon be able to compete in the top category of two championships, the FIA WEC and the WeatherTech Championship.  We can’t emphasise enough, as it’s exceptional, how many opportunities this long-term sporting and marketing vision will open up.”

WEC Managing Director Gerard Neveu:

“The big winner today is endurance racing as the door is now opened to many additional competitors to compete at the highest level on both sides of the Atlantic with the same car.

“The two sanctioning bodies should be congratulated for their vision and spirit of collaboration. Le Mans Hypercars and the new LMDh cars racing together at Le Mans or Daytona will be an incredibly exciting prospect for endurance fans across the world.”

IMSA President John Doonan:

“On the eve of IMSA’s 51st season of competition, future race fans will regard today as one of the most significant of all time for IMSA, the ACO and the world of sports car racing.

“Providing a common platform for top-level prototype racing globally has been a goal for the sanctioning bodies, our manufacturers – and most importantly, sports car racing fans everywhere – for many years, and we are proud to say the opportunity has finally arrived. We are grateful for the collaboration with our partners at the ACO and the open dialogue with our manufacturer partners that led us to today’s introduction of the LMDh platform.”

What Happens Next?

DSC understands that the plans revealed today will be voted on at the next FIA World Motorsport Council meeting 6 March in Geneva), where Hypercar and LMDh should be ratified for the 2021-2022 WEC calendar.

Thereafter a raft of further detail is likely to emerge at the ‘Super Sebring’ meeting including a new name for the combined Hypercar and LMDh class, technical regulations and very likely a decision on whether the Hypercars will feature as options for IMSA races.

Hybrid or No Hybrid for LMDh?

A spec. rear axle harvesting KERS system (40-50 bhp) looks certain to be mandatory for the new LMDh breed, harvesting to be achieved under braking and energy to delivered back through the rear.

There is no news yet on the progress with the process to tender and/ or source a supplier for the system.

Will Grandfathered LMP1s and/ or Gen 1 DPis be allowed?

No mention has been made of whether or not older top classs cars from either Championship will be permitted in competition once the new combined class is launched.

That determination will likely be made based on declarations of interest from interested parties in the coming days, weeks and months.

Which chassis will be available for the new LMDh class

LMDh will continue to be based on spec LMP2 chassis with new chassis designs to come from all four current suppliers (Dallara, Ligier, Multimatic and ORECA) – that is set to effectively reset the clock in LMP2 in an attempt to re-open a more competitive LMP2 marketplace after recent ORECA dominance but will likely disappoint a small group of potential chassis suppliers that would have liked to be part of consideration for the next generation of LMP2 chassis supply.

Will the LMDhs retain the ‘look of DPi?

No, the intention is that the new cars will feature much more extensive road car styling cues – rather oddly not far short of what ‘Hypercar’ was intended to produce!

The days of DPis looking very similar to their LMP2 brethren are numbered.

Who is interested in the new formula?

A refreshingly lengthy list is in the mix.

In addition to likely re-commitment from Acura, Mazda, and hopefully Cadillac/ GM there is known interest in either North American and/ or global programmes from Ford, Lamborghini, Lexus, McLaren, and Porsche with others also in the wings.

The convergence also offers the opportunity and prospect of parallel programmes to add additional cars for either full-season, or selected races in support of major endurance race programmes.

Industry sources have also confirmed that the Peugeot programme, slated for 2022 introduction, is now likely to switch from Hypercar to LMDh.

How long will the homologation of LMDh last?

A minimum of five years is envisaged for LMDh cars, with Pierre Fillon confirming a commitment to the new LMP2 regulations for a decade.