Ford to Focus on IMSA DPi Program with Return to Top-Level Sportscar Racing
There's a lot going on in the American sportscar racing scene right now, specifically the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship. Michelin is replacing Continental as the tire for the 2019 season, Tequila Patron is retiring it's sponsorship from both the ESM-run Ligier-NISMO DPi's and the North American Endurance Championship, a rickety BoP has caused LMP2's to overcome their stronger DPi cousins for overall wins in the past three races (Watkins Glen, Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, and Road America), Mazda teased a customer program for their RT24-P but quickly ruled it out a day later, JDC-Miller Motorsports is switching to the dominant Cadillac DPi-V.Rs, DPi and LMP2 are splitting in the 2019 season, Aston Martin is targeting a factory effort in GTLM, and natural aspiration in the GTLM grid lies within the Porsche 911 RSR with the Corvette C8.R going turbocharged. But most important to note is the FIA's pressure for IMSA to adopt the 2020 Hypercar/LMGT1 class, creating a true international top class. Multiple manufacturers have been involved in meetings and rule-making over the new hypercar rules, but Ferrari and Ford have both seemed to rule out an entry in the class by confirming a lack of attendance from the meetings. With the GT program coming to an end in the 2019 season, Ford has their eyes set on American prototype racing to carry on their sportscar legacy.
What to Expect
With the GT program coming up onto its final season in 2019, Ford is looking to give team owner Chip Ganassi another entry for the WSC, but this time making the jump again to top-level prototype. This most likely means the introduction of a Ford DPi, as long as Ford Chip Ganassi Racing agrees to run the car. FCGR started racing with the Riley-Ford Daytona Prototype the inaugural season of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, now the IMSA WSC. Prototype class still existed at the top at the time, but the cars were different from the modern day DPi's. The class consisted of manufacturer prototypes that shared styling with LMP2 whereas some were more of a NASCAR-Prototype lovechild, the Daytona Prototype class. The DP cars lasted thirteen and went through three generations of approved chassis, starting in 2003 and ending after the 2016 season. For the 2017 season, IMSA wanted to switch to a more cost-effective appealing prototype program. This lead to the running of global, FIA/ACO-specified LMP2s alongside their manufacturer upgraded DPis. The new DPi concept were prototypes based off of four LMP2 chassis, the Oreca 07, Ligier JSP217, Dallara P217, and the RIley-Multimatic Mk.XXX, with manufacturer engines and styling. Cadillac has seen the most success with the program, but Nissan, Mazda, and Acura all have their own DPis as well. The formula started to gain interest before the WEC Hypercar rules were announced, with even McLaren and Alfa Romeo showing interest in it. Ford is still one of the brands that seems to have kept their focus on DPi rather than switch to an LMGT1, with their prototype coming no later than 2020 and as early as the next season. But questions exist about Ford's plan for the car and what it could be capable of.
Possible Chassis and Engine Configurations
Considering Ford's ties to Multimatic, it would only make sense for them to base their DPi off of the Riley-Multimatic Mk.XXX, the only American-built P2. Unfortunately, this same P2 has also seen the worst results. Both Visit Florida Racing (Now, and originally, Spirit of Daytona Racing) and Bar1 Motorsports (They even just put their chassis on sale for $625,000 off) missed out on decent finishes with the car, and Mazda, which their DPi is based off of, haven't had the best luck either, but it's more complicated for them.
The Riley-Multimatic Mk.XXX before VisitFLorida Racing Exchanged the car for a Ligier JSP217 and Now a Cadillac DPi-V.R
It's unfair to say the base P2 and another manufacturer's DPi performance are reasons to shy away from the Mk.XXX, but Ford might have to put a little more development into an aero kit for it assuming that they will most likely use the chassis.
Chassis selection is a big deal, but one that is almost guaranteed by the companies relation to Multimatic, whereas the engine situation is different. FCGR has had success with the V6 3.5L TT EcoBoost in racing, but the push for the Mustang to be the marque of the production lineup makes me think we might see a 5.0L Coyote sat in the Riley-Multimatic carbon monocoque. It would be the perfect engine for an American racing car, a big old muscle car V8 to compete directly with Cadillac's dominant 6.2L (Sadly now detuned to 6.0L) engine. Hell, and it might be dreaming, but the 5.2L Voodoo in the Mustang GT4 could just as well exist in the DPi as the Coyote could. But the already race proven EcoBoost might have already secured its spot in the car. Time will tell, there are fans of both engines, and I loved what the V6 EcoBoost did in the GT since it gave off such a European style. But this'll be an American racecar, it needs a V8, and in all seriousness it'll help win races on Sunday and sell the now more important than ever Mustangs on Monday.
When it's Coming
As previously mentioned, the car will come no later than 2020, that is if FCGR agrees to field it. Otherwise, there is speculation the car will run a test season similar to the GT's first season where Chip manages teams dedicated to each class of racing.
The Ford EcoBoost DP and GTLM Ran Alongside Each Other in the 2016 Season, Similar to What Could Happen with a DPi (Image Courtesy: MotorAuthority)
Again, time will tell, just as with everything else about the project. If previous DPi campaigns have told us anything, we'll most likely hear an official announcement from Ford early to mid fall and see the car testing by December before the Rolex 24. Maybe more will be revealed sooner as auto show season is coming up, but no matter what, patience is key.
All in my opinion, the WSC sits as the best sportscar racing right now due to boring Toyota domination and terrible BoPs in the WEC (As well as that STUNNING Six Hours of the Glen), but which do prefer? And would you have preferred Ford to make a WEC Hypercar or continue with this DPi program? What other manufacturers would you like to see in either series?