Goodbye Daytona Prototype, Hello Daytona Prototype International

The Daytona Prototype cars have participated in 171 races over the 14 years in which they competed. A record of winning 163 of those races showed the Daytona Prototypes were cars to be taken seriously on the racing scene. But after 14 years of spectacular racing, the Daytona Prototypes as they were known have hung up their helmets for the last time. 2017 will no longer see the fleet that originally competed in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series, as the new Daytona Prototype Internationals (DPi) take their place in todays IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship.


Image: www.imsa.com

The Daytona Prototypes have had a long and successful life of racing. The class was initially started in a hope to reduce costs of running cars and teams. The number of participants for the Rolex 24 At Daytona was high but it was the expensive cost that saw teams put off of entering the series for a full season. The Grand American Road Racing Association (GARRA) saw, in 2002, that something needed to be done to increase the full-season entrant numbers. A new class of cars was introduced that would be a lot cheaper to run for a full season and also addressed the issue of the top speeds being too great around concrete-walled Rovel Speedways: the Daytona Prototypes.

Their introduction in 2002 was not easy; a lot of speculation surrounded the new Daytona Prototypes, especially with the reduced top speeds to make them safer. Grand-Am took the Daytona Prototypes and started a new, stand-alone North American racing series to introduce them to the Motorsport World. They kept the costs highly capped, meaning that manufacturer-owned teams were not allowed to compete in this series. Alike the FIA LMP2 class, there was a set car that teams purchased so they could race in the series with restricted development and modifications. Every Daytona Prototype ran a turboframe chassis from a series chosen chassis supplier and relatively high-powered engines that were derived from production engines from major production manufacturers.

Three generations of Daytona Prototypes were created before the introduction of the United SportsCar Championship in 2014. The popularity of the series grew as it started to gift some of the closest and most exciting wheel-to-wheel racing in any motorsport series.

The Daytona Prototype cars took part in 141 Rolex Sports Car Series races and 30 IMSA races (since 2014). Only having lost eight of the races that they took part in, the Daytona Prototypes could be one of the most successful sports car series of all time. Chip Garassi Racing is the team with the most Daytona Prototype wins. Felix Sabates helped take them to their 46 series wins. Scott Pruett, however, holds the record for the most wins by one driver, with 44 wins to his name. It was in 2006 that the Rolex 24 At Daytona 24 saw the most Daytona Prototypes on the track, with 30 competing in the series blue-ribbon event. In the 14 years of racing, 103 Daytona Prototypes were manufactured, with team Riley having produced the most with 47 cars to their team’s name.


Image: Mazda Racing

The Daytona Prototypes have raced alongside the Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) series of cars since the birth of the IMSA Sportscar Championship in 2014. The main reason for the change from the Daytona Prototypes to the DPis was to try and allow the DPis to be eligible to participate in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. IMSA worked with the ACO and FIA to try and make the regulations for the DPis class the same as those for the LMP2 entrants of Le Mans. Different business goals for IMSA and ACO/FIA did not ultimately make this achievable.

Whereas the Daytona Prototypes only shared similar regulations to the LMP2 series, the new DPis share the exact same regulations. All participating DPis must run one of the four selected manufacturer chassis and use the same standard specification of Cosworth electronic package. Engines, like they always have, will be selected from major road car production manufacturers and must be homologated by IMSA. The four chassis providers for the DPis differs from the LMP2 list, with Dallara, Onroak Automotive, ORECA, and Riley/Multimatic being the four chassis providers for the DPis.


Image: Ligier Racing

With the DPis being the top class of cars in IMSA, in comparison to LMP2s not being the top class of the FIA’s World Endurance Championship, the aims of the two classes in their respective series differs. Because of this, the DPi teams have a little more freedom in the modifications they can make to their bodywork. The bodywork used has to be an IMSA homologated manufacturer-designed and branded bodywork but the teams can make modifications to their nose, sidepods, rear-wheel arch, and rear valance to allow for variation through the field. If the DPis wish to enter into the Le Mans 24 Hours they must run a low downforce bodywork package for that event.

The same chassis of the LMP2s and the DPis will allow and encourage closer and fairer competition between the two car classes. The severe alterations to the Daytona Prototypes to make them Daytona Prototype International is to help integrate the DPis into more racing series so the opportunity to go racing is higher. The same ‘core car’ in both series will allow the two series to compete against each other in more IMSA and ACO competitions. What originally started out as a cost-efficient sports car racing class in America has now stepped up onto the international field, with more exciting competitions now within its reach.