DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The 25th anniversary Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta on Oct. 1 will serve as the 59th and final race for the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) class in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
Four manufacturers have fielded cars over the course of six seasons of DPi competition: Cadillac, which has achieved 27 race wins and three driver’s championships to date; Acura, with 16 wins and consecutive titles in 2019 and ’20; Mazda, notching seven wins; and finally, Nissan, which took four wins in 2017 and ’18, launching the IMSA career of future champion Pipo Derani.
Only one driver has raced in all four DPi cars: Olivier Pla. And while professional ethics (not to mention non-disclosure clauses in contracts!) prevent the 40-year-old Frenchman from specifically analyzing the pros and cons of each of those four machines in a public forum, he was kind enough to discuss the general challenge of learning and adjusting to the different racing cars.
“It’s actually interesting going from one car to another because you always learn something and it’s an interesting process,” Pla remarked. “These cars are very sophisticated, with a lot of electronics and settings that can affect the engine specification. It’s a lot of information to learn, but it’s our job. You really have to adapt quickly.”
Pla’s first DPi experience came in 2018 with Nissan, when he ran three endurance races for the Tequila Patrón ESM team. It wasn’t a huge adjustment for the veteran sports car pilot. He was already quite familiar with the Ligier Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) chassis that the Nissan was based on. DPi rules stipulate the use of a homologated LMP2 chassis combined with an outside manufacturer’s engine and unique bodywork.
Pla and his teammates failed to finish any of his three races in the Nissan.
“I knew that car quite well because the chassis was a Ligier similar to what I had driven for many years,” he said. “The engine had a lot of power, but the reliability was the weakness of that car. And of course, that’s one of the biggest things!”
‘Every Car Feels Very Different’