Insight: LMDh Coming into Focus
Latest insider developments on manufacturers' movements, plans for 2023 and beyond...
With just 18 months until the platform’s launch at the 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona, the pieces in the LMDh puzzle are coming together, and at a rapid rate.
Audi and Porsche were the first to commit to the new global IMSA-ACO formula and we’ve since had confirmations from Acura and most recently BMW, with Cadillac understood to be next in the pipeline and at least one other likely before the summer’s out.
While mostly happening behind closed doors, here are some the key developments we’ve been unable to uncover in recent weeks.
Multimatic Prepping for Up to 16 LMDh Cars for 2023
There could be up to 16 cars in the initial batch of Porsche and Audi LMDh cars, when taking into account factory and customer entries between the FIA World Endurance Championship and IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
Sportscar365 has learned that both Porsche and Audi are likely to allocate up to two customer cars per series, at least for 2023.
When combined with the two-car Porsche Penske Motorsport effort in both WEC and IMSA, and Audi’s expected two-car factory program in the two series, it adds up to a staggering initial production run of LMDh machinery from Multimatic — representing just two manufacturers.
Strong Customer Interest on Porsche LMDh Cars
Securing the four customer cars between the two series should be an easy task, at least for Porsche, with what’s already believed to be a higher demand than initial supply from the German manufacturer.
Proton Competition team principal Christian Ried told Sportscar365 that he’s inquired about a potential order of four chassis alone, although won’t commit until knowing the price and operating costs for the car, which is understood to still not yet be determined.
Porsche is believed to have a rather large list of inquiries already, which will make the decision process even more difficult on who gets one of the first cars in time for the 2023 season.
Audi Forming Factory LMDh Teams
Audi’s Allan McNish, who is heading up the German brand’s return to top-flight sports car racing is expected to be on-site at this week’s WeatherTech 240 at The Glen for discussions with prospective factory and customer teams.
Sportscar365 believes that a decision on its WEC partner has already been taken and that it could be decorated GT3 outfit Team WRT, which is currently campaigning LMP2 cars in both the WEC and European Le Mans Series.
All Volkswagen Group Manufacturers to Utilize Common Platform
While Audi and Porsche will utilize the same base chassis and engine package, look for any other Volkswagen Group brands to do the same, should they commit to the platform.
It would thus enable a manufacturer such as Lamborghini to arrive with a lower cost of entry in needing only to develop bespoke bodywork rather than a complete package that other manufacturers outside of the group would need to invest in.
This play could also help the VW’s position in Balance of Performance, in having multiple manufacturers on the same platform with only bodywork (aero) variations.
“No Active LMDh Project” for Bentley… For Now
Bentley, which has been rumored to follow Audi, Porsche and potentially Lamborghini with a LMDh program of its own, appears to be dead in the water, at least for now.
A manufacturer spokesperson told Sportscar365 that there is currently “no active projects” in the pipeline, indicating that a decision has either been made to not move forward or to revisit the possibility at a later date.
Both potential Bentley and Lamborghini projects were not slated to come online until 2024 at the earliest.
IMSA Poised for Five LMDh Manufacturers for 2023
With deadlines already having passed to be ready for the launch year, look for Acura, Audi, BMW, Cadillac and Porsche to be the five manufacturers on the grid in the WeatherTech Championship at the start of the 2023 season.
Audi and Porsche will also have a full-time presence in the WEC, with the three other brands unlikely to be in the globe-trotting championship, at least on a full-time basis.
Lamborghini, McLaren Decisions Pending
While it would’t be until 2024 at the earliest, decisions from both Lamborghini and McLaren are still pending.
Sportscar365 understands that should the green-light be given, the manufacturers could be represented in both IMSA and the WEC with varying levels of factory and/or customer support.
BMW Essentially Rules Out Customer Cars, at Least for Now
A conversation with BMW M Motorsport boss Mike Krack revealed that the German brand’s two-car factory WeatherTech Championship program will likely be its primary focus in 2023, with customer cars not in the pipeline at least for the first season.
Krack made multiple references of BMW’s factory teams not racing against its customers, which would thus rule out privateer BMW LMDh cars in IMSA, at least for now.
While there are no current plans for a factory WEC program, Krack told Sportscar365 that it’s “too early to say” if they will tackle the 24 Hours of Le Mans with its IMSA-based program in 2023.
Two Factory Teams for Cadillac?
Chip Ganassi Racing and Action Express Racing appear to be in pole position to represent Cadillac with its yet-to-be-announced LMDh project, although few details have emerged on the extent of the program.
Cadillac has traditionally utilized a customer model for it DPi-V.R program, although CGR currently receives factory funding for its single-car entry this year. Whether that expands into a two-car CGR effort for 2023 remains unclear, as well as how Action Express fits into the equation.
Acura to Continue With ORECA
While not yet officially announced, Acura, HPD and ORECA are set to continue its partnerships into the LMDh era, with design work understood to be at the advanced stages for its new prototype.
Wayne Taylor Racing and Meyer Shank Racing currently have long-term contracts that would bring both teams into the new LMDh era in 2023.
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I guess Ford is out for now, which is not be a big surprise as they only make one "car" the Mustang, Although the hybrid format suits their power-train direction.
For a fan's prospective the key will be how the cars look mainly. Sound will be the other factor. Hope the Porsche will have a 911 body work shape to it and hope for Audi to have an R8 LMS style look to it. No espcaping the shark fin though?