The numbers in IMSA’s Daytona Prototype international class for this weekend’s 10-hour Petit Le Mans event serve as a celebration of Cadillac’s sales-driven approach to its DPi-V.R. For the first time in decades, a single manufacturer has made significant numbers of its factory prototype available to interested customers, and so far, it has transformed the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s marquee category.
Launched in 2017, the luxury-performance brand kept its factory prototype family small and familiar as Action Express Racing and Wayne Taylor Racing were the only teams trusted with the Dallara-built machines. The closed ranks continued in 2018 as AXR and WTR delivered back-to-back championships for Cadillac, and as 2019 approached, a decision was taken to increase the DPi-V.R’s footprint with the addition of JDC-Miller Motorsports and Juncos Racing to the stable.
Akin to Porsche’s legendary 962 prototype that ruled a large portion of IMSA’s rich 1980s GTP scene (pictured above), Cadillac’s DPi-V.R has come to account for more than half the DPi field at major events like Petit Le Mans. Six Cadillacs will take the green flag on Saturday as the General Motors brand attempts to win its third consecutive Manufacturers’ championship.
Acura (two), Mazda (two), and Nissan (one) comprise the other five entries at Road Atlanta, and have yet to make a similar impact — by choice, for some, and by coincidence, for others — to double or triple its presence in DPi through customer sales. In assessing its first year supporting four teams, Cadillac Racing program manager Laura Wontrop Klauser says she’s pleased with the positive impact it’s made in DPi.
“I’d say overall, we are extremely proud of how the family grew,” she told RACER. “To me, how quickly the JDC-Miller and Juncos teams got up to speed with their cars really is a testament to the design and the support that we provide through our partners. These things are not easy to run, and of course I think the hardest part of racing a DPi is finding the budget to do it, which the teams all have to take on their own.
“But even then, once you get the car, figuring it out; they can be quirky, and they were able to come up to speed quickly. They had a lot of success early on in the fact they were finishing the big endurance races and then now I think especially with JDC as a full-time team, we’re starting to see them rise to the top of the field and we are really excited to see what everyone’s going to do next year.”
Starting with WTR’s big win in January at the Rolex 24 At Daytona, and the two from AXR that followed in Sebring and Long Beach, the DPi-V.R owned the early part of the season. Punishing levels of Balance of Performance penalties were handed down after the trio of wins, and as a result, Cadillac has not seen victory lane since April.
A recent willingness to dial back some of the BoP sanctions, mostly in reducing excessive ballast, helped the DPi-V.R show flashes of competitiveness in Monterey, but it wasn’t enough to prevent Acura from earning a 1-2 finish. In the never-ending saga of BoP imbalances, Cadillac was triumphant to open 2019, and since then, Acura and Mazda have won the last six races in convincing fashion.
Having won the 2017 and 2018 titles with relative ease, there’s little sympathy to be found in the paddock for Cadillac’s BoP-related performance struggles. Nonetheless, Wontrop’s appreciation for the perseverance shown by its DPi-V.R foursome has only grown as the technical difficulties have mounted.
“I would say I still truly believe our cars are extremely strong and the various conditions that we ran in throughout this year, especially when it seemed like every IMSA race was going to have rain at the beginning of the year,” she said. “And then, yes, the settings for the BoP challenged us quite a bit.
“But we still took what we were given and we did the best that we could with it. And in some cases, we were very heavy and yet the teams were figuring out how they could maximize the life out of the tires. And I thought they did a great job working with it. So, considering all that, very proud of the car and what the teams were able to do with it.”
Wontrop cites the process of working with JDC-Miller and Juncos for the first time as another aspect of the 2019 that has strengthened Cadillac’s program.
“Every time you launch a new team, you have a different set of people with different methods and processes,” she said. “And by seeing their different methods, we were able to find areas that maybe it was working great with our first two teams, but when the more that we add, it’s like, ‘You know, we could probably make maybe a more user-friendly way to do this or rethink how we had a certain bit set up.’ No major changes of course — with the car being homologated, there’s only so much you can do. But it was a good way for us to learn better communication skills as well as creating that user manual and helping people when they get the car.
“One of the best things about the way we’re set up in this situation by having the strong technical partnerships with Dallara ECR Engines is the teams not only have my phone number to call when they need something, but they can call directly into both partners when they need help. So, they really have three opportunities to chat with someone to solve their problems. And I think that’s one of the key things for how quickly they were able to get up to speed is they weren’t left out on an island. We were right there walking with them.”
Having expanded the DPi-V.R stable to four teams and six cars, Cadillac wouldn’t be opposed to welcoming more new members to the fold.
“We have never turned away an inquiry if someone is interested in looking at joining the Cadillac family,” Wontrop said. “However, we are selective in that we want to make sure that you have someone who is interested and in it for the long haul. We don’t want someone to pop in for the Rolex 24 and that’s it. So we want to make sure that any additions make sense.
“But we also promised IMSA when we started this platform that we would offer customer cars. And we believe that means if someone’s interested, that they’re available to come and chat with us and we’ll work through it and see if it would be a good partnership going forward.”