Team Penske president Tim Cindric is looking forward to confirming one of the worst-kept secrets in the IMSA paddock. As RACER first revealed in August 2016, an alliance between Roger Penske and Honda to field a Daytona Prototype international has now been brewing for almost a year, and the wraps should come off the relationship next month around the Monterey Classic Car Week and its famed Pebble Beach Concourse d’Elegance.
“It’s been our ambition since we exited sports cars in 2009 to get back and we’re closer than ever to doing that, and hopefully in the next month we can clarify our intentions there,” Cindric told RACER. “I think the DPi formula will continue to be more and more attractive to manufacturers.”
Although chassis manufacturer ORECA declined to confirm its role as the supplier for the Penske-Honda program in February, it’s believed the French firm met with Cindric and IMSA last weekend at Watkins Glen where further discussions on its upcoming entry were held.
Despite his heavy focus on Penske’s Verizon IndyCar Series program, Cindric has been keeping an eye on the DPi class where Cadillac’s DPi-V.R has swept all six races so far this year, and offered his thoughts on how the Balance of Performance structure would work best in Prototype.
“The Prototype class had been a bit different; when you look at GTD and GTLM, the success has been spread across a lot of manufacturers and teams, and in Prototype, Cadillac has won every race so far,” he said. “I think it’s like any year of a new regulation where the most prepared team is the one that does the most winning. I think the Wayne Taylor team has done that and they’ve had the best results. I don’t think that’s surprising in any way.
“I think as long as the series continues to focus on balancing the various manufacturers, and balancing the performance and not the results, I think you have something more and more people will be attracted to. If the cars are all the same, the best executed should be the winner. That’s the kind of series we want to be involved in.”
According to Cindric, Team Penske has started prepping its former ALMS/Grand-Am pit equipment while waiting for cars to arrive.
“We have nothing in our possession,” he said. “We’re digging out some of our old sports car equipment to prepare things as time allows. There’s no cars here, there’s no engines here, there’s no testing we’ve been a part of. And I’m not aware of any car testing that isn’t already racing.”
With rumors circulating in June that Team Penske and Honda could debut its DPi at the season-ending 10-hour Petit Le Mans race at Road Atlanta, Cindric spoke to the viability of trying to get a head start on its 2018 Prototype campaign.
“From our standpoint, it’s a pretty big unknown,” he said. “If we were to put something together for next year, it depends on what the workload is. The sooner, the better, from where I sit.”
Provided the program makes it to Petit Le Mans, it would follow the same plan Penske and former ALMS LMP2 partner Porsche unveiled at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in 2005 (pictured).
With its new RS Spyders entered at the 2005 season finale, the team and manufacturer were able to make considerable headway on developing and improving the cars that went on to score three consecutive LMP2 championships.
“It’s well documented that’s how we approached the Porsche program at Laguna Seca in 2005,” he continued. “It proved invaluable when we did that in a lot of way, so should we get back into sports car racing, and I’m optimistic that will come together once we get a couple of loose ends tied up, the sooner we can get on the race track, the more we’ll understand what we don’t know. We have very good people, and experience on that front, but the game has changed a lot since we were a part of it.”
Considering how Cadillac has trounced the DPi field by getting its program on track and testing well before Mazda and Nissan, the Penske-Honda DPi project should benefit from a similarly advanced timeline. Cindric, however, has a different view.
“I look at it differently,” he said. “I look at it as being a year behind. You want to get in as early as possible to compete. I’d have rather been in it this year and compete early on. The competition is continuing to grow.”