PRUETT: Countdown to IMSA's LMDh hybrid era

Paul Laguette illustration

PRUETT: Countdown to IMSA's LMDh hybrid era

Insights & Analysis

PRUETT: Countdown to IMSA's LMDh hybrid era

By

This story first appeared in the Fall 2021 issue of RACER magazine. Click here to get your copy, or set yourself up for a full year of stellar motorsport writing and photography with a print or digital subscription.

A new era for IMSA is tantalizingly close as five manufacturers prepare their new hybrid prototypes for competition at the Rolex 24 At Daytona in January of 2023. More auto brands are expected to follow along in 2024, giving the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship a monumental engineering and administrative task to manage as the custom LMDhs come to life.

From the manufacturers’ side, they’re keeping the details of their cars stamped “Top Secret” during this gestation period. One brand went as far as refusing to talk about the progress of its LMDh program in any capacity, and in a follow-up exchange, the manufacturer refused to talk about why… it was refusing to talk…

It leaves us to work the shadows for information, all while gaining deeper understandings from the series’ side on how IMSA will prep the ground for LMDh through 2022 as those elusive manufacturers get up to speed in the background.

The rundown so far has Porsche in the lead for timeline and development. Partnered with Canada’s Multimatic as its vehicle supplier, three new LMDh chassis are said to have been delivered to Porsche Penske Motorsports in November.

PPM is on target to test the first car in late December and, if our intel is accurate, the twin-turbo V8-powered car will run at Sebring in January before it heads to the Rolex 24 At Daytona for a public unveiling and demonstration laps ahead of IMSA’s season opener. Interest by customers is said to be high, which should give fans more than just the factory cars on the grid in 2023.

With dual IMSA and FIA World Endurance Championship campaigns to run, PPM will need to use a dozen drivers or more. Dane Cameron, Matt Campbell and Mathieu Jaminet are among the many primed for confirmation. Porsche’s sister brand Audi has changed direction on its LMDh plans and will only focus on the WEC with its factory effort, but a number of American and European teams have held discussions on purchasing cars and holding semi-factory status in IMSA.

Acura is continuing its relationship with chassis supplier ORECA, which makes its current ARX-05 DPi. The brand’s proven twin-turbo V6 motor is said to have yet another prototype to power.

Wayne Taylor Racing and Meyer Shank Racing have been confirmed to race an Acura ARX-06 in 2023. After that, it’s unclear if single entries across the two teams or a consolidation of two factory cars with one team is on the horizon for 2024 and beyond. Sales of Acura’s LMDh to FIA WEC teams, while initially panned by the brand, continue to circulate as an option.

BMW’s long-awaited return to prototype racing will take place in IMSA with a two-car effort for BMW Team Rahal to lead. The Bavarian manufacturer’s embrace of sizable grilles – as seen on the new M4 GT3 – will be showcased at the front of its upcoming LMDh being built at Dallara. On the motive front, could BMW reach back to its naturally-aspirated, 4-liter V8 DTM motors that ran through 2018, but add a turbo or two?

And Cadillac, which has worked with Dallara since the debut of its DPi in 2017, will retain Chip Ganassi Racing and new DPi champions Action Express Racing, with CGR tabbed to field Cadillac LMDhs in IMSA and the WEC.

Similar to DPi, turbocharging will be the predominant choice in LMDh, but the General Motors brand could be an outlier as paddock chatter suggests Cadillac is opting to hold fast with another naturally-aspirated V8. Its current 5.5-liter DPi V8, built by Earnhardt Childress Racing, is said to be coming in-house for the LMDh program.

Beyond the initial five, McLaren has been inching closer to approving an LMDh project, albeit without an engine of its own. If the rumors are true, a McLaren-Ford could be a possibility with the Le Mans-winning twin-turbo V6 from the Ford GT as the powerplant. It’s also suggested that Lamborghini might finally be ready to confirm its 2024 LMDh plans, maybe as soon as January.

The answers start coming very soon. A wave of formal confirmations on when various LMDhs will break cover and start testing, along with driver nominations, team selections and customer chassis sales will make for a busy 2022.

TOMORROW: IMSA technical director Matt Kurdock on the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s path to hybrid prototypes.

More RACER