Wednesday, Dec 08

Building Your Brand - LMDh Offers Global Opportunity for Manufacturers

Wednesday, Sep 29 552
By Jeff Olson
IMSA Wire Service
 
 
 If you’ve ever been in the infield at Sebring, you know the dress code. Wear your favorite car on your hat or shirt.
 
Not necessarily your favorite driver. Your favorite car.
 
Some people are BMW fans. Some favor Mercedes. Others love Acura. Or Porsche. Or Ferrari.
 
It’s a phenomenon unique to sports car racing; to fans, the cars are as intriguing as the people who race them. Fans are drawn to their favorite brand. They’re loyal to the manufacturer, often because they own – or want to own – one of the manufacturer’s production cars.
 
“When you go to an IMSA race, fans hang on the fence with a T-shirt that represents the brand,” said Mike Hull, managing director of Chip Ganassi Racing, which fields the No. 01 V Performance Academy Cadillac DPi-V.R in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. “You’ve got world-class race car drivers who just drive a Cadillac. … That’s what’s so special about this series.”
 
Brand loyalty is one aspect that sports car racing shares across borders and sanctioning bodies. It’s also what makes the new LMDh platform, set to roll out in IMSA in 2023, so critical to increasing international crossover between racing series.
 
LMDh is a shared platform between IMSA and Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO) for the top class of endurance racing, replacing the current Daytona Prototype international class (DPi) in the WeatherTech Championship in 2023. The cars will use cost-controlled chassis built by one of four approved constructors.
 
Each participating manufacturer will select its own chassis constructor and will use unique internal combustion engines matched to a spec hybrid powertrain. Each LMDh car also will have manufacturer-specific bodywork styling.
 
More than a year before it launches, LMDh is being greeted enthusiastically.
 
“It’s something we’ve all talked about, but for different reasons it hadn’t happened,” said Tim Cindric, who will oversee Team Penske’s transition to LMDh with Porsche. “That was interesting for everybody. It seems like it’s on track to see that through.”
 
Theoretically, IMSA teams and manufacturers will be more easily able to cross over to World Endurance Championship races or compete regularly in the top class of the 24 Hours of Le Mans with the new class. Part of that appeal is the reward teams and manufacturers get for winning.
 
Case in point: the reaction to Toyota Gazoo Racing winning at Le Mans in August with Mike Conway, Jose Maria Lopez and Kamui Kobayashi.
 
“When I read about the 24 Hours of Le Mans, it was all about the Toyota that won the race,” Hull said. “(Brand recognition) is unique to sports car racing and even more so now to the fact that there will be so many manufacturers (in the LMDh format). I don’t even want to project how many will be in this category. Seven, eight, nine, 10? All with at least two cars each. Who knows? If you add multiple entries for both continents, it’s more than that. That’s what’s really neat about it.”
 
So far, five manufacturers and three teams have confirmed plans to begin fielding LMDh cars in 2023, but rumblings abound of other possible participants. When Porsche and Team Penske began talking about teaming up for LMDh, the matching specs across different sanctioning bodies appealed to both.
 
“You knew that meant the efficiencies and the exposure the manufacturers and teams receive (would increase),” Cindric said. “It becomes more of a global approach to sports car racing.”
 
Crossover is at the fore of the plans for those considering and already committed to LMDh. Cadillac, which announced its LMDh plans in August and named Chip Ganassi Racing and Action Express Racing as its teams, stated its intent to use the format to prepare for Le Mans.
 
“The prospect of Cadillac returning to Le Mans in the large category is really, really great,” Hull said. “In our case, working hand in hand with Action Express and Cadillac and (chassis constructor) Dallara to race competitively in a global manner is really special. Cadillac has a terrific winning heritage, and it will be great to continue that.”
 
NEXT IN THE SERIES: A look at the complications facing teams as they prepare to field a brand-new hybrid car. “I don’t think it’s as daunting as people want to make it,” said Wayne Taylor, whose Wayne Taylor Racing is thought to be part of Acura’s LMDh plans. “It’s not that daunting. The only thing that’s daunting is the question of whether we’ve designed and built a car that can win all the races.”
Adam Sinclair

Adam has been a race fan since the first time he went through the tunnel under the Daytona International Speedway more than 30 years ago. He has had the privilege of traveling to races all across the state of Florida (as well as one race in Ohio), watching nearly everything with a motor compete for fame and glory, as well as participating in various racing schools to get the feel of what racecar drivers go through every week.  

Adam spent several years covering motorsports for Examiner.com., where he had the opportunity to see the racing world from behind the scenes as well as the grandstands. He invites everyone to follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus, and looks forward to sharing his enthusiasm for all things racing with the readers of SpeedwayDigest.com.

Be sure to tune in for his sports talk program, Thursday Night Thunder, where he discusses the latest in motorsports news with drivers, crew members, and fans. The show takes place (almost) every Thursday at 8:00 pm EST on the Speedway Digest Radio Network. 

Contact Adam: Email  

  

 

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