Roger Penske is immensely happy with what he’s found in IMSA and its Daytona Prototype international formula and wouldn’t mind taking it on the road – across the Atlantic – to a little town due west from Paris in the coming years.
Penske, a championship-winning team owner in IndyCar, Can-Am, Trans-Am, NASCAR, and the ALMS, is hoping to add an IMSA crown to Team Penske’s legacy with Acura and its ARX-05 DPis, and with the positive momentum building behind the series’ top class, barnstorming the 24 Hours of Le Mans with Acura is another goal to pursue. Outside of the team’s unsuccessful 1971 run with a Ferrari 512M/P, the famous French event stands as one of few major races Penske has yet to win.
“To me, what they’ve been able to put together, I take my hat off to [IMSA president] Scott Atherton, and hopefully this is going to be a precursor for us to go to Le Mans, maybe in 2020,” Penske told RACER.
“Once they see the number of cars, the number of manufacturers, and the costs associated with it, which are minimal compared to what we’ve seen at Le Mans in the past, maybe there will be some hybrids or things like that they’ll throw in, but to me, I feel like we’re right back in the same business and with a lot more competition.”
Ongoing discussions between IMSA, the ACO – organizers of the Le Mans race – and the FIA World Endurance Championship on the next set of common prototype regulations could, as Penske desires, create a path for the American DPis to compete at the 24-hour classic for the first time.
Under the current rules employed by the ACO/FIA, the custom engines, bodywork, and electronics that make DPis unique compared to their spec WEC LMP2 counterparts are not permitted in the event. The recent rise of popularity within DPi, which opens 2018 with four auto manufacturers invested in the formula, lives in stark contrast to the waning strength of the ACO/FIA’s offerings in LMP1 and LMP2; provided the trend continues, Penske believes the French sanctioning bodies will have no choice but to change their tune on IMSA’s marquee creation.
“It’ll be interesting, but that’s a number of years ahead,” he continued. “But I think this [DPi growth] is a precursor to that, and with the opportunity to compete, you know, these long-distance races, which we love.”
Penske also found the perfect lobbyist for the Acura-ARX-05-to-Le-Mans concept within his team.
“Well, I’ve got a French driver, don’t I, with [Simon] Pagenaud… you need that,” he said with a grin. “So we’ll get him to do the work for us.”