IMSA On Pole

IMSA has been able to see the forest through the trees. [Photo by Jack Webster]

IMSA has been able to see the forest through the trees. [Photo by Jack Webster]

By Jack Webster & Eddie LePine

With recent developments in the world of sports car racing, it seemed to us that it is a good time to update our article of October 26, 2016 which was entitled: “IMSA Ascending”.

At that time we mused about Audi’s withdraw from the FIA-WEC series and Le Mans and what that might mean to the future of sports car racing in general and the FIA-WEC and the ACO in particular. In addition, we speculated that these negative developments overseas may bring good things to IMSA and their WeatherTech SportsCar Championship series, as manufacturers looked to the US as a place to showcase their racing programs.

IMSA’s welcoming policy toward manufacturers, where all were invited and encouraged to participate in the new DPi prototype class has proven to be a winner, and potentially a huge winner. In contrast, the FIA-WEC and ACO P1 Hybrid class was pricing itself out of the market with out of control technology and budgets and the P2 class was legislated into becoming a single engine spec series. With only Porsche and Toyota fielding entries in the P1 Hybrid class, things were looking iffy at the start of the season.

In the last week, things have gotten much worse. Porsche has announced its intention to withdraw from the FIA-WEC series and Le Mans, effective at the end of this season, leaving Toyota as the only entrant in the P1 Hybrid class for next season, and that is if Toyota decides to continue on their own. How can a major car company justify a multi hundreds of millions of dollars program to compete only against themselves? Toyota also faces the real possibility of being beaten next season by a P2 class car or a non Hybrid P1 privateer entry at Le Mans (don’t laugh, it almost happened to Porsche this year).

To top everything off, the German DTM series looks to be on life support as well, with Mercedes announcing that they are withdrawing, leaving only Audi and BMW to do battle in that series.

In the meantime, things are looking very rosy for IMSA. Joest Racing just announced a partnership with Mazda to field their DPi cars. IMSA now has the winningest prototype endurance racing team in history joining their ranks, and Mazda has made a long-term commitment to winning by signing up Joest to run their program. In addition, Penske Racing has announced their return to sports car racing with a factory program with Acura, again a top-flight team with a manufacturer committed to a long-term deal.

What other teams and manufacturers are waiting in the wings to join the IMSA bandwagon? For certain, there are others and IMSA seems to keep going from strength to strength. At Road America this weekend, IMSA announced their 2018 schedule and it is a strong one, with all the classic venues returning. In addition, Mid-Ohio has been added for 2018 and beyond and that classic venue is sure to be a success for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar series.

As we stated last October, it is time for other sanctioning bodies to take a look at IMSA’s formula of success with their DPi class and take steps to incorporate it into international racing as well.

The future health of sports car racing worldwide depends on it.

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