We’ve finally been given some leads on how IMSA’s prototype class will look from 2022

While racing is still on hiatus all around the world, news reached us of the very first technical details that have been published on the new-for-2022 LMDH category set to replace today’s DPi class in the IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship and also be eligible to compete at the sharp end in the FIA WEC. The other top-class cars of the WEC, known as LM Hypercars, will also be eligible to race Stateside.

Le Mans Hypercars will be balanced to run with the LMDH machinery

The world was different back in January, wasn’t it? The stars of international endurance racing assembled at Florida’s Daytona International Speedway for the annual Rolex 24 Hours, the perfect opportunity for IMSA, the FIA, and the ACO to announce some much-anticipated convergence plans with a 2022 due date stamped on the ruleset for a new type of cars that would be able, for the first time since 2002, to race at both Sebring and Daytona as well as Le Mans.

Then the 24-hour race got underway and we were told that we’d hear more about this new ’LMDH’ class (some folks don’t capitalize the ’h’ which likely stands for ’hybrid’, we thought we’d mention it to avoid confusion with other sources) come Sebring. But, in the ensuing month and a half, the pandemic struck, and the round-the-clock race on Sebring International Raceway never happened, nor did the news on the LMDH emerge.

Details emerge on the Hypercar-LMDH convergence plans in North America Exterior Computer Renderings and Photoshop
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Now, almost two months later, we’re finally given some tidbits of information on what is, essentially, the future of top-flight sports car racing for the next decade, maybe even decade and a half.

"The dream of many manufacturers is finally coming true. Le Mans Daytona h and Le Mans Hypercar will embody the top category of endurance racing. This is a historic and decisive moment for the future of our discipline," Pierre Fillon, the president of the ACO’s, said in a statement. Indeed, it’s been seven years since you could race the same sort of car at both Sebring and Le Mans but, with the death of the LMP1 class in North America due to the ever-increasing costs, IMSA and FIA/ACO seemed to walk down different paths with the American sanctioning body focused on securing big-name manufacturers as well as keeping costs down while the World Endurance Championship’s LMP1 class was all about innovation. Now, there’s common ground again.

Details emerge on the Hypercar-LMDH convergence plans in North America Exterior Computer Renderings and Photoshop
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For starters, the LMDH class (Le Mans Daytona Hybrid, that is) will feature rebodied LMP2 cars with new engines and hybrid systems.

As such, all of the upcoming LMDH cars will be based on either of the four homologated LMP2 chassis that will come in 2022. The four chassis constructors will remain the same as now: Dallara, Ligier, ORECA, and Multimatic.

An interested "mainstream OEM" (as the statement puts it) will have to pick one of these chassis, bolt an engine with its name on it in the back and the mandated hybrid system, as well as bespoke bodywork panels made to resemble with the OEM’s road-going products and then the car’s ready to race.

The minimum weight of the new LMDH cars will be 2,271 pounds while the combined power figure (from the internal combustion engine and the hybrid system) will be 670 horsepower (500 kW), down from a claimed 785 horsepower.

The smaller power figure comes about as all the parties involved wish to see LMDH cars race competitively against the LM Hypercars that, initially, were supposed to be more powerful thanks to manufacturer-specific kinetic energy recovery systems (KERS) and racing engines. With the drop in the max power figure, OEMs currently involved with the DPi (Daytona Prototype International) formula, namely Nissan, Mazda, Cadillac, and Acura will still be able to use the current +600 horsepower units, some of which are based on GT3 engines (in Nissan’s case).

The manufacturer-specific bodywork will, apparently, be a key aspect in the whole process as the LMDH prototype will have to look a lot more like whatever each participating OEM actually produces en masse. This means that skittish changes like those made to the ORECA 07 and the Ligier JS P2 17 to morph them into the HPD ARX-05 and the Nissan GT-R DPi respectively won’t cut it. Expect GT1 levels of road car relevance although there is no necessity within the LMDH ruleset for the OEMs to build a road-going version of their race cars as is (seemingly) the case with LM Hypercars.

Details emerge on the Hypercar-LMDH convergence plans in North America High Resolution Exterior
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To keep costs down, only one tire supplier will work with all the LMDH teams and manufacturers and each of the cars will have to be fitted with a do-all body kit suited for both low-drag (Spa/Le Mans) and high-drag (Shanghai and many in the U.S.) tracks. While we know nothing about costs - more info is set to arrive during the Le Mans 24 Hours week this September - we expect LMDH to still be the cheaper formula to run as LM Hypercars require a bespoke chassis, engine, gearbox, and hybrid system.

Another issue with the LM Hypercar platform is down to its worldwide relevance. While LMDH cars will surely be allowed to do the full FIA WEC season from ’22 onwards (unless the global situation doesn’t allow it), the Hypercars are to be "further validated" by IMSA on America’s tracks before being given the green light to race in the Weathertech Sportscar series. In spite of the hurdles, Toyota is still keen to race across the Atlantic with its Hypercar. "We’d have an open mind to do more than the Rolex 24,” a Toyota source told Dailysportscar, "we wouldn’t be fixed on one race. We’d have a look to do other IMSA races, it would just depend on calendars and budgets."

Details emerge on the Hypercar-LMDH convergence plans in North America Exterior
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The interested manufacturers, of which there are plenty, have received a lot more info (the full specs of LMDH) than the press did and this allowed Porsche, for instance, to step ahead and say that "it’ll be possible to compete for overall victories in most important endurance series with one vehicle. We’re now getting underway with concept study commissioned by our board of directors,” through the voice of Fritz Enzinger. If Porsche does come back with an LMDH car, it’ll obviously be no sooner than in 2022 (the current LMP1 rules won’t go away at the end of this season and will still be in place in 2021 due to the pandemic and the fact that, basically, only Toyota would’ve been ready with the car in the original schedule). By ’22, Peugeot Sport will also join the freight with a Hypercar of its own.

Having said that, it’s worth underlining yet again that the introduction of the Hypercar/LMDH ruleset could be delayed further if the global situation dictates it. "The market will decide," is how the FIA put it and it’s a very sensible wording in the light of all that’s been going on.

Details emerge on the Hypercar-LMDH convergence plans in North America
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Nothing is yet crystal clear and, given the pandemic, we’ll have to wait a few good months to see how things pan out before we can come out with more answers (currently, there are many more questions than there are answers) but, clearly, sports car racing is not yet dead and shall live on for many years to come in both GT and prototype form!

Source: Dailysportscar

Michael Fira
Associate Editor and Motorsport Expert - fira@topspeed.com
Mihai Fira started out writing about long-distance racing like the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans. As the years went by, his area of interest grew wider and wider and he ever branched beyond the usual confines of an automotive writer. However, his heart is still close to anything car-related and he's most at home retelling the story of some long-since-forgotten moment from the history of auto racing. He'll also take time to explain why the cars of the '60s and '70s are more fascinating than anything on the road today.  Read More
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