Chevrolet still evaluating IMSA Prototype future

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Chevrolet still evaluating IMSA Prototype future
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Mar 25, 2016, 5:38 PM

The imminent demise of the Daytona Prototypes from IMSA competition has left Chevy investigating whether to continue with the new DPi cars or focus on the Corvettes in GTLM.

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Mark Kent, director of GM racing
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Since the Corvette Daytona Prototype was introduced for 2012, it has scored 30 wins from 45 races, won three drivers’ championships and four manufacturers’ titles.

And it remains competitive. Wayne Taylor Racing’s example was a strong contender for victory until the final hour at Rolex 24 at Daytona this year, while the two Action Express ’Vette DPs only lost the Sebring 12 Hours in the final three laps of the race.

For 2017, however, Daytona Prototypes and open-cockpit LMP2 cars will be outlawed. Instead, IMSA, the FIA and the ACO have devised rules for the DPi [Daytona Prototype international] which will be built by Dallara, Onroak Automotive, ORECA and Riley/Multimatic.

In IMSA, DPi and new closed-cockpit LMP2 Gibson-powered cars will comprise the Prototype class, with the DPi cars not only having a choice of chassis but also powerplants. Balance of Performance will peg all prototypes to a maximum output of around 600 horsepower.

These radical changes to the Prototype class have left Chevrolet’s director of motorsports Mark Kent as yet undecided on whether to continue powering prototypes, or instead cut back to the Corvette Racing program.

He told Motorsport.com: “The GTLM Corvettes are our greatest example of technology transfer from racetrack to road, and that program will continue.

“On the prototype side, with the Daytona Prototypes not being legal next year, internally we’re working on plans. Does it make sense to continue in that class, or should we just focus on the GTLMs? If we were to continue in Prototypes, what brand would be best suited for that? Which teams would we align with?

“We don’t have all those answers today, we’re still studying it, so that’s as far as I can comment.”

Kent explained the dilemma.

“The regulations for the DPi create a lot of variables,” he said. “We race to win, not just to race. As we study all this, we have to have the details available to make an informed decision as to how to participate. There are strong potential partners out there, but we would have to connect the dots and check that it all made sense.”

No to GT Daytona

While Kent could neither confirm nor deny Prototype plans, he did rule out venturing into IMSA’s GT Daytona class, which has become dominated by GT3 cars, in a similar way to the GT class in Pirelli World Challenge.

“You will likely not see a GT3 car from us – like the Cadillac ATS-V – competing in GT Daytona,” said Kent, who has seen the Cadillac CTS-V and most recently ATS-V clean up four straight PWC GT titles. “We are really trying to have the Pirelli World Challenge as the place where the ATS-V races, and IMSA United SportsCar where the Corvette races, in GTLM.” 

Balance of Performance a “necessary element”

While many purists dislike the principle of Balance of Performance, whereby cars are made stronger or (more usually) weaker in order to equalize performance across a class, Kent said he accepts such modifications.

“In production-based racing, when you have this wide variety of car and engine architectures, you need a Balance of Performance to allow manufacturers to race relevant products against each other,” he said. “So take a flat-6 Porsche versus a V8 Corvette – if the only way to make them race together is to take performance away from the Corvette, then that needs to be done.

“As a manufacturer, all we want to do at each race is be competitive. We are not wanting to show up feeling we’re technically handicapped, nor at an advantage. We are looking for the opportunity to win. And that’s why we need to work real closely with the sanctioning bodies in their Balance of Performance process.

“The thing we ask of all sanctioning bodies is transparency on how they’re making the decisions. They’re never going to get everyone happy: they can get one manufacturer happy and 20 very unhappy, or if they get it right, they will have 21 all slightly unhappy!

“If the sanctioning body is transparent with the data and the process, you can at least walk away knowing how they got to the decision even if you don’t like it.”

Kent praised IMSA’s improvements in this particular area of regulation, and said it was not a worry or part of the consideration when deciding whether or not to move forward with the Prototype plan.

“IMSA’s process is becoming very transparent,” he said. “There are frequent conference calls with all the manufacturers, walking us through their process, data and adjustments. And the more time they go through that process, the smoother it will be, with more manufacturers nearer that happy line and accepting of what’s being done.”

 

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Series IMSA
Author David Malsher