Ford could be venturing down a path toward building a Daytona Prototype international as the successor to its GT Le Mans program. If so, it would represent an interesting change of direction that directly benefits IMSA.
It would also chart a different path offered earlier in the year by Mark Rushbrook, Ford’s global director of motorsports, on the conditions the brand is seeking to green-light a DPi-style project when new regulations come into play around 2021-2022.
In recent weeks, sources have offered conflicting information on whether Ford will follow its GTLM program that is set to conclude after the 2019 season with a dedicated IMSA DPi effort, and according to the Blue Oval, the matter remains unsettled.
“A final decision has not been made at this point, and there is still a possibility that we could be involved in the 2020 season,” a Ford spokesperson told RACER.
Rushbrook has been an open fan of IMSA’s cost-effective DPi regulations, and in a meeting with RACER and a small group of reporters in March, he acknowledged an interest in returning to prototypes. The trigger, at that time, centered on having the global prototype platform being developed by the French ACO and FIA sanctioning bodies, along with IMSA, adopted by all parties.
With a universal prototype formula put in place within the next few years, Ford and other manufacturers would be able to participate in North America and Europe with the same car.
“Like the GT, we can take that same [car] and apply it racing in IMSA and WEC around the world very efficiently,” he said. “Ultimately, what we’d like to see in prototype, that would make us interested, would be a common set of rules so we can run it in WEC, run it in IMSA, and run three or four cars at Le Mans.”
Rushbrook’s comments, however, came prior to the June announcements by the ACO/FIA involving the ‘Hypercar’ prototype concept. With an estimated annual budget of $30 million per entry, the outline from the ACO/FIA was the opposite of what IMSA and its Prototype entrants were expecting – especially with a suggested budget that is three to five times higher than the costs to field a current DPi entry.
And while IMSA has said it will participate in the global prototype regulation discussions to the end, few expect the French sanctioning bodies to reverse course and align with IMSA’s DPi wishes.
In light of the philosophical divide that has emerged between IMSA and the ACO/FIA WEC since June, the adoption of DPi as a global solution could be a lost cause. Ford’s new statement is of particular interest because it untethers the brand from making prototype decisions involving the ACO/FIA, and wherever they might be headed with Hypercars.