United Autosports team owner Zak Brown is among those who are eager to learn whether IMSA will split its Prototype class into separate DPi and spec P2 points structures starting in 2019.
Brown’s P2 team, which contests the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s North American Endurance Cup events using a spec Ligier JS P217, was among the most vocal in calling for IMSA to improve its balancing of the two prototype formulas when P2s were dominated by DPis for the first half of the season.
Of late, all has changed on that front as Pro-Am spec P2 lineups from JDC-Miller/GAINSCO and CORE autosport have taken down the all-pro DPis with back-to-back wins on smooth, flowing, high-speed circuits. The factory DPis also face the possibility of losing three in a row after this weekend’s race at Road America.
Looking to 2019, DPi manufacturers are keen to have the Balance of Performance restrictions removed so they can race among themselves, most P2 entrants have expressed a desire to have their own points championship if they are unable to beat the DPis on a consistent basis, and in the middle, Brown offered a different perspective as a spec P2 entrant using pro-caliber drivers.
With IMSA’s annual State of the Series set for Friday, when its plans for next season will be unveiled, and a growing belief split that DPi and P2 points will be announced, some entrants are going to come away happier than others.
“We love IMSA and we’d love to be in full-time,” Brown told RACER. “The LMP2s, up until the last two races, have not been competitive. I think there’s a good balance between the cars sitting here today, but that was also the case at Petit Le Mans last year, and it went away going into Daytona [in January] with the competitive balance. Personally, we like racing for the overall win, so if they go the path of two separate classes, and LMP2 becomes a second class, I don’t have a great view whether that’s good or bad, but that’s not something United would be interested in.”
IMSA’s DPis comprise the vast majority of its Prototype grid. Brown wonders if there would be enough P2s to warrant a separate points structure, or if acquiring a DPi would be the right move for United Autosports.
“I don’t know if splitting the points would attract enough P2 cars because the costs are almost identical to DPi,” he added. “If we had the sponsorship and the budget, we’d go buy a DPi to race in America, which is something we’re talking about. The European Le Mans Series and Le Mans is our first priority, so with so few P2s on the [IMSA] grid, if they’re not going to balance the two and the DPis are so strong, it’s better to focus on getting a DPi and racing it.”
With Brown’s longstanding ties to a number of the DPi manufacturers, he’s confident UA would be able to gain access to a factory car where other P2 entrants have been denied.
“I think we can do a DPi, we want to do more IMSA racing, and we’re ready to make the commitments,” he said. “And we’d need a DPi car so there’s nothing holding us back. It feels like an uphill battle taking on the DPis with a P2, and we love the DPi formula, so if we’re going to commit to a full season, we’d look to do it with a DPi.”
If and when UA joins IMSA as a full-time entrant, Brown’s business partner Michael Andretti of Andretti Autosport would top the list for home base options.
“If we were to go full-time IMSA racing, we’d have a full-time operation, but that could likely be with Michael,” he said. “All our [IMSA] trucks and trailers are based permanently in the U.S., the car we’ve been racing in the U.S. is a dedicated chassis that stays in the U.S., and if we we’re to do it, Andretti Autosport would be our preferred partners.”