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IMSA Ascending

Mazda is joining IMSA Dpi in 2017. [Photo by Jack Webster]

Mazda is joining IMSA Dpi in 2017. [Photo by Jack Webster]

by Jack Webster & Eddie LePine

Today Volkswagen Group announced the end of Audi’s participation in the FIA-WEC series and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. This is a major blow to motorsports, and the FIA and ACO in particular.

For next year, the FIA and Le Mans are faced with only two manufacturers and four cars competing in the top LMP1-Hybrid class – Porsche and Toyota. LMP1 privateers are looking to the LMP2 class, since they cannot possibly win overall against the Hyrbid cars and the LMP2 class has shut out engine manufacturers as that class is now a spec class, with four chassis makers and one engine supplier. All the LMP2 cars will also look exactly the same, as the rules require the bodywork on all entries to be spec as well.

LMP1-Hybrid budgets are astronomical and with Audi’s withdraw, the future of this class looks iffy, at best.

With all that has happened, IMSA’s decision to go their own route with the new DPi class looks to be genius. Not only has IMSA decided to make the DPi class its top prototype class (and invite LMP2 cars from Europe to participate), they have invited any and all manufacturers who want to participate to come along for the ride as well. For a fraction of the budget to run an LMP1-Hybrid car in the FIA-WEC or at Le Mans, manufacturers can have brand identity in the IMSA WeatherTech series, with prototype race cars that will look different from one another and be on the largest possible worldwide stage – the US market.

Face it, a manufacturer can spend hundreds of millions of dollars to race in Europe and around the world in the FIA-WEC series and frankly only really get the benefit of possibly winning Le Mans, the only race in the series that draws big crowds and worldwide attention.

They can spend a fraction of that amount, and we do mean a fraction, and race in the US at internationally known races like the Rolex 24 at Daytona, the 12 Hours of Sebring, the 6 Hours of Watkins Glen and Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta.

When the manufacturers run their ads in USA Today after winning one of those races or the IMSA WeatherTech Championship, the impact will be just as great with the general public as winning Le Mans. That is the awful truth.

Perhaps that is why IMSA will be welcoming the likes of Cadillac, Mazda, Nissan and Honda to their Dpi ranks (not all officially confirmed, but all coming nonetheless). And in the future, who knows who else will see the benefit of IMSA’s large tent – Bentley, Toyota, Porsche and dare we say it – Audi? Also, take a look at some of the teams currently in the IMSA WeatherTech series and some of the teams looking to come to DPi – can you say Penske Racing?

It seems inevitable, more likely sooner than later, that the IMSA DPi formula will be welcomed by at least the ACO so the US teams can participate at Le Mans, for in the recent past upwards of 20% of the grid at Le Mans has been composed of US teams.

VW Groups withdraw of Audi from the world stage sets the table nicely for the continued health and growth of IMSA. Everyday that goes by makes IMSA’s move to the DPi class look to be genius.

Pure genius.

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Eddie LePine & Jack Webster
Jack Webster has been shooting motorsports since the early 1970's, covering Formula One, CanAm, F5000, TransAm, GrandAm and American Le Mans races, among others. In addition to his photography, he has also worked on racing teams, both in IMSA and IndyCar, so has a complete knowledge of the inner workings of motorsport. Both his photography and writing can be seen here on racingnation.com. Eddie LePine has been involved in motorsports for over 30 years as photographer, columnist, and driver. Eddie also is now a retired racer (well, retired unless a good ride pops up). You can usually find Eddie in the paddock area, deep in conversation with a driver.
Eddie LePine & Jack Webster

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