IMSA releases further details about 2017 DPi platform in Q&A

Photo courtesy of IMSA

The 2017 Daytona Prototype international (DPi) concept has drawn interest as it prepares for its competition debut in next January’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona.

DPi cars are intended to be virtually identical to the LM P2 currently competing in the FIA World Endurance Championship and other championships governed by Automobile Club de Al’Ouest (ACO) technical regulations; however, final technical regulations for the DPi platform compare to the 2017 LM P2 regulations are yet to be finalized.

Given the level of interest among teams, drivers, sponsors, fans and media about the DPi, IMSA published a question-and-answer synopsis of the new platform.

Here are some of the highlights from that Q&A session:

What is exactly an IMSA DPi car? A 2017 IMSA DPi car is a standard ACO/FIA homologated 2017 LM P2 Prototype chassis from one of the four approved constructors (Dallara, Onroak Automotive, ORECA or Riley/Multimatic) fitted with IMSA-homologated, manufacturer-designed and branded bodywork and engines. Each participating DPi manufacturer must partner with one of the four approved constructors and commit to a bodywork and engine package.

How is this different from the standard 2017 LM P2 car? The standard ACO/FIA homologated 2017 LM P2 car must use each constructor’s specific bodywork (and at Le Mans, the “low downforce” bodywork kit version is required) with no modifications and a Gibson V8 engine with a standard-specification Cosworth electronics package controlling car systems and engine management.

For DPi cars, IMSA has defined specific areas of the bodywork regulations to allow manufacturers design and stylistic freedom to create recognition of their specific brands. These areas include the nose and sidepod areas, rear-wheel arch and rear valance. Manufacturers will use this stylized package in conjunction with their eligible specific engine and electronic systems. However, the expanded bodywork freedom will not create a situation of confusion in identification between DPi cars and GT cars.

What cars are eligible in the 2017 WeatherTech Championship Prototype class? DPi cars, 2017 LM P2 cars and closed-cockpit 2016 LM P2 cars with IMSA-homologated engines will be eligible. After the 2017 season, 2016 LM P2 cars no longer will be eligible.

Will customer versions of the DPi car be permitted? Manufacturers have the freedom to run factory teams or make their car available to customers as they desire.

What fuel and tires will be used? In the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, all cars competing in the Prototype class will use Continental tires and E20 fuel provided by VP Racing Fuels.

How will IMSA balance the differences in the two versions of the 2017 car? All DPi and LM P2 cars will undergo comprehensive wind-tunnel testing programs to ensure competitive balance from an aerodynamic perspective. Teams fielding DPi cars and LM P2 cars will have the ability to use some approved aerodynamic add-ons, enabling them to tune their cars to each track. This will promote diversity in car setup and stimulate competition.

Each engine also will undergo IMSA’s standard engine testing and verification. The target power level is 600 bhp and a comparable level of power and torque will be determined for each option.

Have there been changes made to the DPi or LM P2 platform since the four chassis constructors were selected and announced by IMSA, the ACO and the FIA last year?

Shortly after the selection of the four approved chassis constructors last summer, IMSA received feedback from interested manufacturers that resulted in a need to make a slight alteration to the car dimensions in order to accommodate engines of a certain length. IMSA has worked closely with the ACO and the FIA to confirm the required dimensions. In addition, prospective DPi manufacturers have revealed a desire to use their own electronics providers rather than using the “spec” Cosworth ECU and related electronics that will be used in the Gibson-powered LM P2 cars.

When will the DPi regulations be finalized? IMSA expects the technical regulations for both DPi and LM P2 to be finalized this month to enable constructors and manufacturers the ability to move forward with the project and meet established deadlines. These cars will make their competition debut next January in the 55th Rolex 24 At Daytona.

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Meyer Shank Racing wins Petit Le Mans to take final DPi championship in dramatic finale

Petit Le Mans championship

Meyer Shank Racing outdueled Wayne Taylor Racing to win the Petit Le Mans and clinch the championship in a thrilling final race for the DPi division.

Tom Blomqvist, who started from the pole position, drove the No. 60 Acura ARX-05 to a 4.369-second victory over Pipo Derani in the No. 31 Action Express Cadillac.

“That was incredible,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports’ Matt Yocum. “I’ve never dug so deep in my life. The adrenaline. I did that for the guys. I was so motivated to win this thing this weekend. But I’ve got to thank everyone on the whole team.”

With co-drivers Oliver Jarvis and Helio Castroneves, Blomqvist helped MSR bookend its season-opening victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona by winning Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale at Michelin Road Atlanta.

In between those two victories, the No. 60 earned five runner-up finishes to stay in the thick of the championship hunt and trail WTR’s No. 10 Acura by 14 points entering Saturday’s race.

WTR’s Filipe Albuquerque had a lead of more than 10 seconds over Blomqvist with less than 50 minutes remaining in the 10-hour race.

But a Turn 1 crash between the Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillacs brought out a yellow that sent both Acuras into the pits from the top two positions.

Though he entered in second, Blomqvist barely beat Albuquerque out of the pits, and he held the lead for the final 45 minutes.

Blomqvist said he gained the lead because of a shorter fuel fill after he had worked on being efficient in the second-to-last stint.

“The team asked a big job of me with the fuel; I had a big fuel number to hit,” Blomqvist said. “We knew that was probably our only chance. The yellow came at the right time and obviously we had a bit less fuel to fill up, so I was able to jump him and then it was just a matter of going gung-ho and not leaving anything on the line. And obviously, the opposition had to try too hard to make it work. I’m so thankful.”

Albuquerque closed within a few car lengths of Blomqvist with 14 minutes remaining, but he damaged his suspension because of contact with a GT car in Turn 1.

It’s the first prototype championship for Meyer Shank Racing, which also won the 2021 Indy 500 with Castroneves.

“We’ve had in the last four years, three championships for Acura, the Indy 500 win and the Rolex 24, it doesn’t get any better,” team co-owner Mike Shank told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee.

It’s the third consecutive runner-up finish in the points standings for Wayne Taylor Racing, which won the first Daytona Prototype international championship in 2017. The premier category will be rebranded as the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class with the LMDh cars that will establish a bridge to racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Kamui Kobayashi finished third in the No. 48 Cadillac of Action Express that also includes Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller.

The podium showing marked Johnson’s last scheduled race in IMSA’s top prototype division. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has raced in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac lineup as the Action Express entry has run the Endurance Cup races.

Johnson said a lack of inventory will preclude him having a 2023 ride in the top category. But he still is hopeful of racing the Garage 56 Next Gen Camaro in next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans and possibly running in a lower class for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“I’d love to be at Le Mans next year,” Johnson told NBC Sports’ Dillon Welch after his final stint Saturday. “I’d love to be at the Rolex 24. The series is going through a shake-up with the reconfiguration of the rules and classes, so I don’t have anything locked down yet, but I’m so thankful for this experience with Action. The support Ally has given us, Mr. Hendrick, Chad Knaus, all of Hendrick Motorsports. It’s been a fun two years, and I certainly hope I’m on the grid again next year.”