For a company that says it’s on a “path to an all-electric future,” it would seem obvious that General Motors might want to prove itself on the track and, it seems, that’s precisely what it has in mind with the exotic-looking LMDh race car it revealed today.
Developed in partnership with longtime motorsports affiliates, Chip Ganassi Racing and Action Express Racing, the Cadillac LMDh will make its track debut during the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona in January 2023 — and the “objective,” GM said in a statement, is to make a run at Le Mans.
“Finally! We can show and tell,” said GM President Mark Reuss, after the Detroit automaker had been dropping hints that something big was in the works in the last few months.
Actually, there isn’t a lot of either “show” or “tell.” For now, only this single, rear three-quarter image of the Cadillac LMDh prototype has been released. And GM isn’t saying very much about what will power the race car, its statement noting that, “A new GM developed engine will integrate with the LMDh common hybrid system.”
A transition in the making
“Like motorsport, Cadillac is making the transition into a future driven by alternative propulsion,” said Rory Harvey, Cadillac Global vice president. “The hybrid nature of the LMDh rules will help us to bridge our technology transfer to our all-electric future. We are excited to carry forward our success and continue to transfer our learnings and technology from the track to our production vehicles.”
GM certainly hopes that the age-old adage, “Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday,” carries over into the new era of electrification. True, there’s no attempt to make the LMDh look like a production vehicle. And it will use a hybrid drivetrain, rather than going all-electric, the direction that Cadillac — and the rest of GM will be taking.
But electrified racing, whether in the young Formula-E series or the two series where the LMDh will compete — IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the WEC Championship — can help demonstrate the potential of battery propulsion. Electric motors deliver maximum torque the moment they start spinning. That means incredible boosts to performance when coming out of corners, for one thing. And, with a hybrid, there’s none of the challenges posed by limited range and long charging times.
A “great” partnership
“We are looking forward to the new international prototype formula and running the Cadillac LMDh,” said Chip Ganassi. “We have had a great relationship across three different racing disciplines with GM and we are looking forward to developing the car with Cadillac and Dallara over the next year-and-a-half.”
Dallara is one of four suppliers licensed to build a chassis for LMDh race cars.
Four other manufacturers have so far committed to building hybrids meeting the new LMDh rules, including Porsche, Audi, Acura and BMW.
But Peugeot, Toyota, Ferrari and Glickenhaus have plans to compete alongside Cadillac under the new Le Mans Hypercar regulations.
Timing is everything
The decision to launch at Daytona in January 2023 means the Caddy will be set to run the full IMSA season.
It also will come at a time when GM rapidly accelerates its roll out of long-range battery-electric vehicles. The automaker has the GMC Hummer EV pickup coming late this year, the Cadillac Lyriq following early in 2022. Caddy so far has confirmed as many as four BEVs, including an alternative to the familiar Escalade flagship, as well as the ultra-exotic Celestiq.