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Cadillac: LMDh regs have “caught our attention”

General Motors’ new sports car racing program manager Laura Wontrop Klauser says the company is currently evaluating the continuation of its Cadillac program into IMSA’s LMDh era.

Cadillac: LMDh regs have “caught our attention”

Klauser, who has been brought in to head up both Cadillac and Corvette Racing’s IMSA programs has seen the Cadillac DPi-V.R prove immensely successful since its introduction into the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2017, scoring 18 wins and two Manufacturers’ titles.

However, it is not yet clear whether Cadillac will continue into IMSA’s LMDh Prototype era, which has been pushed back to 2023. GM is also currently assessing the new-for-2022 GTD Pro class, as the GTLM class in which the Corvette C8.Rs currently compete is to be dissolved at the end of this season.

“LMDh has caught our attention,” Klauser told Motorsport.com. “We’ve taken a good look at the rules, and what we’re doing now is looking through where we want to place ourselves in sportscar racing in its entirety.

“It’s a package deal in our mind, where in the past it was a little bit separated – Corvette Racing was its own thing in GTLM, Cadillac was its own thing in Prototypes. Now it’s a different story, and LMDh has been very much part of the evaluation. Does it make sense to be there? What brand does it make sense to run?

“The good news is that IMSA’s GTD Pro is also going to allow a bit of factory backing going forward. So all of these things we’ve looked at to try and figure out where we want to be.”

Asked to clarify that GM is assessing whether to retain IMSA programs in both Prototype and GT classes or reduce its participation to just one class, Klauser replied: “Exactly. Both those avenues are definitely options.

“Cadillac has really enjoyed the connection that racing gives them back to their product line, especially with the launch of the V Blackwing models [hyper-powerful versions of the V performance models in Cadillac’s range] that are coming out. So I foresee that we will figure out a way to incorporate racing with Cadillac in the future: it could be the top class, it could be something else.

“The portfolio that has been announced and shared with the public is very heavily electric, so there’s opportunity in that space too with the Cadillac brand. It’s going to come down to where we think racing best fits in with the strategy for each of the brands.”

Regarding whether a manufacturer should be in at the start of a new regulation era or can benefit from taking a year out for testing, Klauser said that was a question being debated within GM.

“You have to weigh the pros and cons because there are both for both scenarios,” she replied. “Being the first one has its benefits – we certainly found that with DPi regulations. Our DPi-V.R was ready to go, and we were confident that it would cross the line in its opening race [2017 Rolex 24], notwithstanding the outside factors that can affect you in a 24-hour event. In fact, we went on to win our first seven races.

“But we were able to do that because we showed up with a car that was ready to roll. If you tried to be in at the start but hadn’t given yourself enough time to put the program together, there’s a very high risk that you show up with a car that’s not ready. And then the way that homologations work, you’d be locked in – there are some things you can fix but some things that you’re stuck with for the rest of the program.

“So there is always the strong desire to make sure the timescale that you’ve allowed yourself means that everything is ready to roll – and, yes, that may play into waiting an extra year. It depends on what package you’re putting together for the program and what level of confidence you have in what you’re picking.”

Klauser praised IMSA’s DPi regulations, whereby the manufacturers clothed chassis built by Dallara (Cadillac’s choice), Riley, Oreca or Ligier with bodies containing marque-specific design cues. She said the DPi-V.R had not just been a halo marketing exercise but had instead proven inspirational for the designers of Cadillac street cars.

“We tried to use the DPi platform as a testbed,” she said. “With the DPi-V.R we allowed design themes and worked with Dallara to understand their aerodynamic impact. When we first launched the car, we talked about that, but we couldn’t yet reveal what our learning from the DPi-V.R was going to influence; obviously now we can reveal that it affected the designs of the CT4 and CT5.

“We’re very proud of that and I know our design team learned a ton from working through that process. For them, the racecar has been a huge inspiration; they kept the scale model of it in the design studio as they were working on the streetcars.”

Regarding the extension of the current regulations to 2022, Klauser said the DPi-V.R’s continuation for another year is entirely dependent on teams wishing to continue running the car.

“The way that our program works is as a customer program,” she observed. “We worked with Dallara to design the chassis, we worked with ECR [Earnhardt Childress Racing] to design the engine, but the teams buy the chassis from Dallara and lease the engines from ECR. We don’t dictate whether or not they race; really it comes down to whether our teams want to continue into next year.”

There are three Cadillacs running the full 2021 campaign – solo entries from Action Express Racing, Chip Ganassi Racing and JDC-Miller Motorsports. In addition, yesterday AXR confirmed it would continue running a second Cadillac – the Ally-backed car for Jimmie Johnson, Kamui Kobayashi and Simon Pagenaud – for the remaining endurance rounds. This #48 AXR entry finished second in January's Rolex 24 Hours. 

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