Wednesday, 02 November 2016
Marshall Pruett (words and image)
Team Penske's return to sports car racing continues to gain momentum.
Roger Penske and team president Tim Cindric have made numerous comments regarding their interest in joining forces with a manufacturer to rejoin North American prototype racing, and according to Cindric, the sight of Penske transporters in IMSA's WeatherTech SportsCar Championship paddock could soon become a reality.
"I feel like there's enough interest out there from manufacturers that we're planning as though we're going to be part [of DPi]," Cindric told RACER. "The specifics of which brand we'd use has yet to be seen, but all that could change tomorrow."
Rumors continue to link Penske with an ORECA-built Honda Daytona Prototype international effort for late 2017 or early 2018, and whether it's an alliance with the Japanese brand or another manufacturer, Cindric is inspired by the momentum building around DPi.
"There's enough interest from manufacturers for what IMSA's putting together in North America with DPi to be encouraged," he said. "And with the amount of manufacturers that seem to have an interest to get in either next year or the year after, I've never been more optimistic we're going to be able to put ourselves back in the sports car world in the next few years."
Although the championship-winning organization is best known for its IndyCar and NASCAR programs, Penske's team made its start in sports car racing 50 years ago at Daytona. More recently, as the backbone behind Porsche's return to prototype racing, Penske Racing secured three consecutive American Le Mans Series LMP2 titles with the brand's RS Spyder from 2006-2008 (above).
Penske switched to a Porsche-powered Grand-Am Rolex Series Daytona Prototype effort in 2009 while awaiting the German brand's decision on whether it would enter LMP1 competition, and once that topic was tabled, the Porsche DP program was scuttled at the end of the season.
Penske has been clear about his lack of interest in GT competition, and with the emergence of IMSA's DPi formula, the chance to play a central role in representing a manufacturer in prototype racing (without assembling another massive RS Spyder-style operation) has been appealing.
"It wouldn't be like the Porsche days where we were part of their infrastructure," Cindric said. "I almost look at [DPi] as a modern IndyCar model for sports cars. There's an aero kit for each manufacturer and an engine that's provided to use in a common platform. In IndyCar there's obviously only one chassis and in DPi there's four, but it's still about the OEM providing a homologated and ready engine and bodywork that has been developed for the car.
"The race team brings expertise and could maybe help at design level while the car's coming together, but ultimately, it's on the manufacturer to produce a ready product to use. In anything we do in DPi, our role would be as a race team more than a manufacturer resource like we've been in the past."
Provided a Team Penske DPi program comes together and it holds an interest for Juan Pablo Montoya, the two-time Indy 500 winner could be a prime candidate to lead the team. Penske's Helio Castroneves, a three-time Indy 500 winner and former ALMS RS Spyder pilot, has also been connected to a future with the team in sports cars once he calls time on his open-wheel career.
Ford Planning Four-Car Rolex 24 Effort (sportscar365.com)
John Dagys | 9 November, 2016
Following its 24 Hours of Le Mans triumph last June, Ford is pulling out all the stops in quest of class victory in another twice-around-the-clock endurance classic, with the American manufacturer planning a four-car Ford GT effort for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
Sportscar365 has learned that Ford Chip Ganassi Racing is preparing to enter all four of its cars in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season opener on Jan. 28-29, in what would mark the team’s biggest single-class, single-race effort in North America.
While a formal commitment or announcement has not yet been made, it’s understood preparations are underway, with the team’s FIA World Endurance Championship cars expected to be shipped to the U.S. following next weekend’s season finale in Bahrain for pre-race preparations.