Hypercars in IMSA? Bring it on, says team boss Wayne Taylor

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Le Mans Hypercars will be permitted to run against LMDh cars in IMSA from 2023, prompting fears the former could dominate – some aren't scared though, with team boss Wayne Taylor relishing the challenge

WTR lead

IMSA team boss Wayne Taylor has heralded the new era of sports car racing


Thanks to a transatlantic sports car truce, Ferrari, Toyota and Peugeot (with its Dodge brand) look set to enter their Hypercars in the US IMSA series, running against the native LMDh cars of BMW, Acura, Audi and Porsche.

It might summon memories of Mario Andretti and Jo Siffert battling it out on the banks of Daytona in respective 512 Ss and 917Ks, but it also threatens to be a walkover by the imported Le Mans Hypercars, which are afforded much greater technical freedom (at much greater cost) than the LMDh cars which make extensive use of spec parts.

Some fear that they could dominate on both sides of the pond. Firmly outside of that group is four-time Daytona-winning team boss Wayne Taylor, who’ll be running one of Acura’s LMDh challengers. Bring it on, he says.

“100% – I think it’s really good, for the crowds, for everybody,” he said in conversation with Motor Sport. “This is the first time I’ve seen IMSA have such a global vision.”

Taylor’s WTR quad took its fourth Rolex win this year in Florida, but is now looking to the future, as itself and Meyer Shank Racing both announced deals with Acura to help develop and run its LMDh cars from 2023, with the two squads getting a car each.

Taylor is a lifer in endurance racing. As a driver the South African won the Prototype class at Le Mans in ’98 and also took overall honours at the US-based Petit Le Mans, but he now believes this truly is a revolutionary moment by both IMSA and ACO – and it’s one he embraces.

WTR Petit Le Mans

Taylor (above) took a privateer Ferrari to success in IMSA in late ’90s, but doesn’t think a similar effort would be successful now


“I’ve been in sports cars my whole friggin’ life,” Taylor said. “I’ve seen the [IMSA] Camel [GTP] series, Exxon World Sports Cars, American Le Mans, Grand-Am and now DPi.

“But now we’re going through something that sports cars has never experienced, certainly in my lifetime, where we’re going to have so much manufacturer support.

“[However] we’re going to have limited budgets, in comparison to what manufacturers were spending [previously in IMSA and WEC but], it’s achievable.”

After IMSA’s DPi class having run its commercial course, Taylor feels something had to give.

“I do not know how this could have gone if we carried on running DPi,” he says. “Clearly no other manufacturer was interested in it, and you can’t get over that. So for next year in DPi, it will be down to two Acura cars and a couple of Cadillacs in privateer hands. If it wasn’t gonna go anywhere, it wasn’t going to attract the manufacturers.”

Thus the change came, with the announcement of a slightly slower top-class of cars, LMDh, based on LMP2 chassis which could be run in both IMSA and the WEC series, meaning more American teams had a shot at 24-hour glory at La Sarthe.

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At first the ‘convergence’ of rules didn’t work both ways – Le Mans Hypercars would not be permitted Stateside, but this has now changed, made possible by complex Balance of Performance regulations. Some might feel Hypercars run by the heavyweights of Toyota, Peugeot and Ferrari could trounce the more spec-part-built IMSA LMDh cars, with Hypercar privateer Jim Glickenhaus going as far as to say that the ACO “wouldn’t let a Porsche LMDh car win [and beat Le Mans Hypercars] at Le Mans”. Taylor isn’t so concerned. In fact, he’s welcoming the competition with open arms and is ready for the challenge of the French 24-hour race.

“If I thought we would have no chance at winning, I would not be doing it,” he says. “If you’ve followed my career, I’ve always had commercial partners on the race car. You can never guarantee a win in any series. But one of the things that I’ve been able to take to commercial partners in IMSA, unlike Formula 1 or NASCAR or IndyCar, is that you can guarantee that you’re going to be racing for the win in every race – and that’s the truth. I believe that if I can’t sell the model in the market, then there’s something wrong. I have confidence that this will happen.

“With all respect to Jim, he’s never been to Le Mans [as a competitor]! Having been in the sport like me for 50 years, in the circles and knowing what’s going on, I feel confident.”

Furthermore, being so well embedded in the American sports car fraternity, Taylor believes he has a good feel for which way the wind is blowing.

“I know IMSA very well, I’m very good friends with everybody over there,” he notes. “Like any sanctioning body, they do a lot of good things and a lot of bad things. It’s crucial that the sanctioning body should be talking to the team owners about what they see in the long term. When the convergence came, it sounded really, really good.

“You’re talking about four-wheel-drive going up against two-wheel-drive. So the BOP is going to be pretty difficult, but from what I’ve heard from IMSA and the ACO is that there’s already a working group and it’s all going very well. I think both parties wanted it to work. This is the first time I’ve seen IMSA have such a global vision. The fact that all the manufacturers are signed up, it’s good for them.”

However, Taylor warns that it’s not all sunshine and roses. One of the the great selling points of LMDh has been that top-level customer sports cars will be readily available to privateers. The ACO wants grids packed out a la ’80s Group B era – with potential giant-killing upsets on the cards. The South African thinks this might not be the case however, and has particular experience in this area to call upon.

WTR Daytona 2021

WTR won Daytona this year with an Acura DPi car, and is now helping it develop its new LMDh challenger


“I won Petit Le Mans in a privateer Ferrari in 1998, and appeared on the front of a magazine saying ‘I’m not scared of manufacturers,’” he recalls. “Well, it became evident very quickly that I couldn’t fight the factories, because they just have that much more.”

“The downside [with LMDh], let’s say, is that the team owner that doesn’t get a manufacturer program, it will be impossible for them to compete, because the numbers [involved in budgets] are still extremely high.

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“[If I were to be a full-privateer] I couldn’t survive [purely] on these commercial partners as I have done for all these years.

“That’s probably the most difficult thing, you know. But otherwise I just think this is exciting times.”

On this basis though, Taylor is particularly buoyant about his Acura LMDh tie-up, which began at the start of this season. The South African decided to split with GM and its Cadillac DPi car at the end of 2020 to join forces with the Honda brand, the results so far only filling him with confidence.

“Acura and HPD are extremely focused on this programme, and we work really, really well together,” he says. “Between my engineering groups, its engineering groups and ORECA [its chosen LMDh chassis builder], it makes a big difference, because we went through this when we came out with the first DPi car with Dallara. It’s very much the same this time round, except we all have more knowledge today.

6-7 Jun 1998: Impression of the Doyle-Risi Racing Ferrari 333SP driven by Wayne Taylor of South Africa, Eric van der Poele of Belgium and Fermin Velez of Spain during the Le Mans 24 Hour Endurance Race at the Circuit de la Sarthe in Le Mans, France. Taylor, Van de Poele and Velez finished in eighth place after 332 laps. \ Mandatory Credit: Stu Forster/Allsport

Taylor won the Prototype class at Le mans in ’98 – now he wants overall victory with his team

Stu Forster/Allsport

“I’m very confident that we are going to be able to race for wins. In 2023 we’ll do the full IMSA season, and the plan is to still go to Le Mans. It’ll be hard to beat the factory Hypercar teams at that point. But let’s see what happens at the end of the contract [which ends at the end of ’23].”