A bad news story for IMSA’s LMP2 class for the remainder of 2018 and into 2019 looks set to transform into a very good news story for DPi in 2020.
RACER has learned that the UK-based, but U.S.-flagged United Autosports team, co-owned by McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown and Richard Dean, is to park its Andretti Autosport-supported North American Endurance Championship campaign with immediate effect. The Ligier JS P217 Gibson that contested the Rolex 24 At Daytona (alongside a second UA-entered Ligier), the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring and the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen will not complete the four-race series at Petit Le Mans in October.
Dean also confirmed to RACER that the team will not enter any IMSA events in 2019 due to its business model not being in accordance with the recently-announced split of the Prototype class; the factory-supported DPi Prototypes being set to benefit from substantial performance breaks next season in comparison with the Gibson V8-engined ‘Global’ LMP2s.
“The class split does not work for us,” said Dean. “We are not interested in contesting in a class that won’t be in contention for overall wins.”
The 2019 hiatus, though, is set to give United the room it requires to return to IMSA in the future – potentially as a full-time entrant with a Ligier-based DPi. However Dean dismissed the possibility of a last-minute 2019 program, whether it be with a new-build, purchased, or converted Nissan-powered DPi.
“If we could be in a DPi next year we would be, but only if the conditions are right,” he told RACER. “And at present, we aren’t there, and it’s now too late to do that properly for next season. So our plans are looking at 2020.”
The 12-month delay is explained by the team as being entirely commercially-based, but a reluctance to commit does leave some questions with regard to the intellectual property rights to the Nissan-engined DPi held by Ligier, with which United has a close relationship, and with the current Nissan entrants Extreme Speed Motorsports, which requires a new backer for 2019 due to the impending exit of current sponsor Tequila Patron.
That leaves more than a possibility that the targeted program is with a different partner. Brown made it clear in recent months that he has not given up on the prospect of McLaren powered DPi. Indeed, well-placed industry sources have indicated to RACER that Ligier, United Autosports and McLaren are currently involved in talks aimed at evaluating a potential 2020 package that would sit alongside the team’s current and planned programs in the European Le Mans Series and other ACO-sanctioned events.