The luxury brand returns to prototype racing after 14 years

Cadillac’s much rumored return to prototype racing has become reality in late 2016, when the American luxury brand unveiled its new race car for the IMSA series. Dubbed DPi-V.R, it’s Cadillac’s first prototype race car in 14 years and competes in IMSA’s new DPi class starting early 2017. The new category replaces 2016’s Prototype class in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and brings revised regulations to the series. One of the most important changes is that the IMSA now allows automakers to produce their own designs, meaning prototypes can have their own identities instead of sharing almost identical body shells. Mazda has already taken advantage of this with the RT24-P, which uses the company’s Kodo styling language, but Cadillac has also used cues seen on its road cars for the DPi racer.

Cadillac joined the 2017 IMSA series with three cars, two run by Action Express Racing and one by Wayne Taylor Racing. The No. 5 car of Action Express is driven by Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi, while the No. 31 vehicle is handled by Dane Cameron and Eric Curran. Wayne Taylor Racing’s No. 10 is driven by Jordan Taylor, Ricky Taylor, and Max Angelelli, but former NASCAR star Jeff Gordon also joined the team for the first race of the season. The 2017 IMSA season began on January 28 at Daytona and included events at Sebring, Long Beach, Circuit of the Americas, Watkins Glen, Road America, and Laguna Seca. The final race will take place on October 7 at Road Atlanta with the 10-hour Petit Le Mans.

Continue reading to find out more about the Cadillac DP1-V.R.

Brief Cadillac Racing History

A manufacturer that’s famous for producing luxury cars rather than racing vehicles, Cadillac made its first official venture into motorsport in 1950. That year, the American brand brought two cars at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The first one was a Coupe de Ville model with minor modifications compared to the standard production model, but the second entrant was a more radical looking vehicle that had nothing in common with the company’s design language. Dubbed Spider or Le Monstre, the race-spec Cadillac had then-modern aerodynamics, covered wheels, and a somewhat angular design compared to other race cars from the era. The Coupe de Ville finished the race 10th overall, while the Spider took the checkered flag in 11th position. Both cars were entered by Briggs Cunningham. In 1950, Cadillac also began to build Series 62 sedans for the Carrera Panamericana race. Specially prepped cars ran the event until 1954, scoring 2nd the 3rd place finishes in what was described as the most dangerous race of any type in the world.

2017 Cadillac DPi-V.R Exterior Computer Renderings and Photoshop
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Developed with help from Riley & Scott, the Northstar LMP raced a full season in 2000, including tracks such as Daytona and Sebring.

The luxury brand retired from racing in the 1950s and did not return until 2000, when the Northstar LMP project came to fruition. Named after the Northstar V-8 engine it used, this was a Le Mans Prototype race car built for the American Le Mans series, as well as Cadillac’s return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans after 50 years. Developed with help from Riley & Scott, the Northstar LMP raced a full season in 2000, including tracks such as Daytona, Sebring, Monza, Le Mans, Silverstone, Spa, and Nürburgring. However, the prototype failed to win races, with its best result being a fourth place at the 500-km Monza race. At Le Mans, the cars lacked the necessary pace to compete with the major manufacturers in their class and the three Northstar LMPs finished a disappointing 19th, 21st, and 22nd.

An upgraded model was introduced in 2001 right before Le Mans, but the Northstar LMP had to settle for a 15th place. On the other hand, the race car achieved its first podium at Mosport, as well as other top five finishes until the end of the year. The LMP was once again updated for 2002, but both Sebring and Le Mans brought disappointing results. Later that year, the prototype scored its best results, coming in second at Miami and third at Mosport and Petit Le Mans. The project was cancelled at the end of 2002 when General Motors decided to cancel the project to concentrate solely on their Chevrolet Corvette racing program.

But even though it left prototype racing, Cadillac gunned for success in other series such as the SCCA World Challenge. Using a race-spec CTS-V, Cadillac won the manufacturers’ championship in 2005, 2007, 2012, and 2013. Starting 2015, the CTS-V.R was replaced by the ATS-V.R. As you might have already noticed, the DPi and the aforementioned, production-based race cars share the "V.R" badge.

Exterior

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Even though DPi class regulations allow more freedom when it comes to design, the Cadillac DPi-V.R is still very similar to other IMSA-spec prototypes. The race car features the same canopy-like cockpit, massive fin that extends from the roof scoop toward the rear, and huge wing and diffuser assembly seen on other IMSA and Le Mans prototypes, but much like the Mazda RT24-P, it stands out from the pack thanks to its unique front fascia. Here, Cadillac managed to infuse some of its current design language into the aerodynamic bodywork. Arguably the most noticeable feature that comes from the company’s road cars are the headlamps, especially the vertical LED strips at the corner.

Arguably the most noticeable feature that comes from the company's road cars are the headlamps.

These seem to be borrowed from the CT6 sedan, but similar lights can be seen on the smaller CTS and ATS as well. The big Cadillac crest on the nose is also familiar. Onto the side, we can see V-Performance, double-five-spoke that mimic the designs seen on the ATS-V and CTS-V and are rather unusual for a race car. The presentation car also features the familiar "V" logos, as well as the black, white, and red colors of the company’s performance division. The actual race cars will get different liveries and a lot more sponsor logos.

COMPETING DESIGNS

Because race cars aren’t meant to be beautiful, but rather fast and reliable, I usually skip this comparison. However, I will make an exception here simply because the new DPi rules have allowed automakers to work more on the styling. Mazda, for instance, did a tremendous job with the RT24-P, which features even more influences from the company’s road cars. The Kodo design is visible in both the nose and the headlamps, making it the prototype that looks closest to the brand’s production models. Granted, this won’t make it run faster and win races, but it’s a good marketing move and as far as I’m concerned, it looks gorgeous from every angle.

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2017 Mazda RT24-P High Resolution Exterior
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Interior

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As usual, there’s no information as to what’s inside, but a picture of the rear-view mirror using the Rear Camera Mirror system from the CT6, XT5, and Escalade, shows a few details. The first thing that catches the eye is the enormous amount of carbon-fiber used throughout the cockpit. The lightweight composite is visible on the dashboard, which features an Alcantara top, but also on the pillars (and I have a hunch that the roof is carbon too). Much like all prototypes, the DPi-V.R has a simple dashboard with all sorts of switches and knobs, a race-spec driver seat, and a full roll cage. Although there isn’t much to see in a prototype race car, it’s a shame that automakers don’t publish high-quality interior photos. Some racing enthusiasts here at TopSpeed, me included, would definitely appreciate.

Drivetrain

Under that big, long hood with a massive fin on top lurks Cadillac’s familiar 6.2-liter V-8 engine. Naturally, some internals have been swapped for race-spec components for increased reliability, but the powerplant shares its main architecture with the production V-8 found in the road-going CTS-V sedan and Escalade SUV. Output is rated at approximately 600 horsepower, which is some 40 horses less than what you get with the CTS-V, but this rating is defined by IMSA-mandated air restrictors and not a choice Cadillac made. Also, the maximum allowable rpm is now 7,600 according to new DPi regulations. The engine transfers power to the rear wheels through an X-TRAC paddle-shift transmission.

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Output is rated at approximately 600 horsepower.

In order to get a fast and reliable race car, Cadillac worked closely with a number of companies that produce various performance parts. The V-8 was prepared with help from ECR Engines, while the chassis was designed and built by Dallara. Both the Wayne Taylor racing and Action Express Racing teams had a say in certain areas of development too. It’s worth noting that Cadillac isn’t the only DPi team using Dallara chassis, but some teams feature the Riley Mk30 underpinning, including Mazda. Stopping power comes from Brembo discs and calipers, but beyond that, Cadillac doesn’t offer any additional details.

COMPETING PERFORMANCE

Although the new regulations allow each automaker to develop its very own engine, the fact that output and curb weight have solid restrictions makes all prototypes very similar as far power-to-weight ratios go. On the other hand, it’s worth mentioning that the DPi class includes a wide variety of engines. For instance, the Gibson GK428 engine used by seven out of 11 teams is a 4.2-liter V-8, while Tequila Patron ESM has a Nissan-made 3.8-liter V-6 in its Ligier race car. Mazda, on the other hand, uses the smallest engine in the series, in the form of a turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder. All these units are rated at around 600 horsepower, with "around" depending on each car’s curb weight.

Competition

As of this writing, 11 teams have confirmed their participation for the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship. Two of them will use Cadillac race cars, leaving nine more teams to go against for the big title. Three teams – Jagonya Ayam with OAK Racing, PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports, Tequila Patron ESM – have chosen the Ligier JS P217, but while the first two went with the Gibson engine, Tequila Patron selected the Nismo-built 3.8-liter V-6. DragonSpeed, JDC-Miller Motorsports, and Rebellion Racing are running Oreca 07s, while Starworks Motorsport and Visit Florida Racing selected the Riley Mk30. All five teams use the Gibson V-8 engine. Finally, Mazda Motorsports joined the DPi class with the in-house-built MZ-2.0T engine.

Mazda RT24-P

Mazda Brings Gorgeous Prototype Race Car to L.A. High Resolution Exterior
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Also introduced for the 2017 season, the RT24-P replaces last year Mazda Prototype race car and hits the track with a new body and underpinnings. Most of the previous shell has been redesigned to include styling features seen on Mazda road cars, while the old Lola chassis has been ditched in favor of Riley underpinnings. The race car gets its juice from the same 2.0-liter turbo-four engine used in 2016. The unit was developed in collaboration with Advanced Engine Research (AER) and much like any other engine in the series, it is good for "approximately 600 horsepower." The RT24-P also includes drivetrain and chassis components developed by Multimatic, one of the most coveted motorsport teams responsible for many successful race cars, including the latest, Le Mans-winning Ford GT.

Read more about the Mazda RT24-P here.

Acura ARX-05 DPi

The ARX-05 didn’t hit the track in 2017, but it will join the IMSA championship starting 2018. Just like the Mazda and Cadillac, it has a typical Le Mans prototype body and a unique front end somewhat inspired by Acura’s current production models. Power comes from a twin-turbo, 3.5-liter V-6 based on the production unit found in the MDX, RDX, TLX, and RLX road cars. Called the AR35TT, this unit has powered class winners at the 12 Hours of Sebring between 2011 and 2014 and the LMP2 World Endurance Championship in 2012. Versions of this engine also powered entries to American Le Mans Series LMP2 titles in 2012 and 2013 and the overall winners at the Rolex 24, 12 Hours of Sebring, and Petit Le Mans in 2016. Based on these facts, the ARX-05 DPi should be Cadillac’s main challenger at the IMSA title in 2018.

Conclusion

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When the Cadillac DPi came out, I said I had enough reasons to believe that the American brand could win the IMSA championship. I quoted the reliable V-8 engine and Dallara chassis and the solid driver lineup. It’s been nearly a year and Cadillac is very close to winning both the drivers’ and manufacturers’ championship after taking first place in each and every race until now. There’s still three events to go as of August 2017, but the DPi-V.R can’t miss the title, which is a great achievement for its maiden season.

  • Leave it
    • Tough competition

Press Release

Cadillac revealed the all-new 2017 Cadillac DPi-V.R race car today and announced that it will compete in the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship series, Prototype (P) class.

The 2017 Cadillac DPi-V.R will first be driven competitively at the 2017 IMSA season opener — the Rolex 24 At Daytona on Jan. 28-29, 2017 — by teams from Wayne Taylor Racing and Action Express Racing.

2017 Cadillac DPi-V.R Exterior Computer Renderings and Photoshop
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THE PINNACLE OF PROTYPING RACING IN NORTH AMERICA
The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship series is the fastest and most technologically advanced sports car racing series in North America.

“Cadillac is proud to return to the pinnacle of prototype racing in North America after a 14-year absence,” said Johan de Nysschen, president of Cadillac. “Cadillac’s V-Performance production models — the ATS-V and CTS-V — are transforming our brand’s product substance, earning a place among the world’s elite high performance marques. The Cadillac DPi-V.R further strengthens our V-Performance portfolio, placing Cadillac into the highest series of sports car racing in North America.”

2017 Cadillac DPi-V.R Exterior Computer Renderings and Photoshop
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UNMISTAKABLE CADILLAC PRESENCE
The all-new Cadillac DPi-V.R has been designed to contribute to the functional performance of the prototype using elements gleaned from the current lineup of Cadillac V-Performance models, especially the CTS-V supersedan. Above all, the DPi-V.R was developed to perform, via testing in the wind tunnel and engineering development.

“The DPi-V.R race car was an exciting new canvas for the Cadillac design and sculpting team,” said Andrew Smith, Global Cadillac Design executive director. “The studio embraced the opportunity to interpret the Cadillac form language, line work and graphic signature for this premier prototype racing application. Every detail of the final design was selected to support the car’s on-track performance and unmistakable Cadillac presence.”

The design details giving the DPi-V.R car its distinctive Cadillac appearance and presence include the vertical lighting signature; the sheer, sculptural quality of the body and bold bodyside feature line; V-Performance wheels with Brembo brakes; V-Performance emblems; and a canopy graphic inspired by the Cadillac daylight opening. Even subtle cues such as the cooling vents and the air intake were designed in the studio, the latter in the trapezoidal shape of the Cadillac crest.

The DPi-V.R is equipped with the new Rear Camera Mirror first seen on the Cadillac CT6 Sedan and available on the Cadillac CTS, XT5 and Escalade for the 2017 model year.

2017 Cadillac DPi-V.R Exterior Computer Renderings and Photoshop
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CADILLAC 6.2L V-8 POWER
The Cadillac DPi-V.R is propelled by a race-prepared, normally aspirated Cadillac 6.2 liter V-8 engine that shares inherent architecture with the engines of the third-generation Cadillac CTS-V (640 horsepower) and fifth-generation Cadillac Escalade (420 horsepower). The engine produces approximately 600 horsepower when tuned for racing as defined by IMSA-mandated air restrictors, with a maximum allowable RPM of 7,600. The engine transfers power to the rear wheels through an X-TRAC paddle-shift transmission.

Cadillac and its designers collaborated with key partners including chassis builder Dallara, teams from Wayne Taylor Racing and Action Express Racing and ECR Engines to prepare the 6.2-liter V-8-powered Cadillac DPi-V.R over the past year.

Additional information about the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship series, including the 2017 schedule, can be viewed at imsa.com.

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