It was a long time coming: A top-class Prototype car that teams could race at Daytona and Sebring in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in February and March, respectively, and then ship to the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans and race with no changes. Giving sponsors and manufacturers the ability to race on a budget, with one car, in the three most important endurance races in the world is a critical financial goal.
It still is, but we can now confirm the new LMDh race car been delayed due to…well, due to literally everything this year.
Called the LMDh for Le Mans Daytona hybrid, it was to kick off with the World Endurance Championship overseas in 2021, then debut at the Rolex 24 in January 2022. Now, according to IMSA President John Doonan, it’s more likely we’ll see it at Daytona’s marquee 24-hour race in January 2023. Given the pandemic, he said, “it just makes more sense” to delay the program to get everybody on board. At the time, Doonan said there were about a dozen manufacturers interested in the program, an interest he claims hasn’t wavered in the face of this year’s difficulties.
As it is, Prototypes like those that race in the North American-only IMSA series can’t race at Le Mans, or in the corresponding World Endurance Championship without a lot of changes. The U.S.-spec cars are similar to the Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) cars that race in Europe, but all those have a bespoke Gibson V-8 engine.
If Cadillac, for instance, wanted to race at Le Mans, it would have to swap the Cadillac V-8 for the Gibson, and no manufacturer wants that—there’s no point in going if you can’t advertise that you’ve won with your own equipment. While bodywork will be slightly different, manufacturers will have a choice of underpinnings made by one of several chassis manufacturers. And there will be a mild hybrid component to the cars.
Porsche, Mazda and Toyota are among the manufacturers that have expressed interest in the LMDh. But the wait continues for everyone.
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