This weekend marks the start of one of the world’s most famous motor races, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and just in time for the annual event, Cadillac has unveiled the new endurance racer it has been hinting at for more than a year.
If all goes according to plan, General Motors’ flagship brand will stage a return to the 8.5-mile French circuit a year from now with the new Project GTP Hypercar.
“Competing for the overall win at Le Mans with an iconic American brand like Cadillac is an honor,” Laura Wontrop Klauser, GM sports car racing program manager, said in a statement detailing the project. “The entire team is excited to continue building Cadillac’s racing legacy by competing against the very best internationally and in the world’s toughest race.”
Hoping to repeat success
Cadillac is a strong contender on the IMSA circuit. It has won three championships with its DPi-V.R, racer, among other things scoring four consecutive wins at the Rolex 24 at Daytona. But it has had a far more checkered history in France, last racing at Le Mans two decades ago after a previous program felt well short of the brand’s expectations.
Now, however, it’s ready to give it another go, starting in 2023, thanks to new regulations for endurance racing that have seen a flurry of interest from a variety of manufacturers, ranging from BMW to Porsche.
Cadillac plans to participate in both the 2023 IMSA program as well as the World Endurance Championship.
Whether it will fare better than it did with the old Northstar LMP, which last ran at Le Mans in 2002, is far from certain. But, if the final version of the new race car is anything to judge by, it certainly will generate a lot of attention.
What we know
What is technically known as an LMDh car looks long, low, dark and mysterious. You’d likely not be surprised if Batman were to pop out of it.
Caddy isn’t offering up many details. Its statement makes it clear that this is just a concept vehicle. But it is expected to closely resemble the final race car.
“Codeveloped by Cadillac Design, Cadillac Racing and Dallara, the Project GTP Hypercar incorporates key brand design characteristics. Elements of the brand’s heritage such as vertical lighting and floating blades are present throughout and connect the Project GTP Hypercar to the future of Cadillac,” said the release.
The new rules bring electrification to the endurance world. The final version of the Cadillac racer will feature 5.5-liter V-8 with a conventional hybrid system. Apparently, it will not be based on the flat-plank 5.5-liter V-8 powering the Corvette C8.R racer, but will be “brand-new,” according to Klasser.
The rules limit power to a maximum 697 horsepower. Manufacturers have the choice of deciding how much of that will come from the gas engine, how much from the hybrid drive’s electric motor. Curiously, the rules also set a noise limit of 110 decibels in drive-by testing.
Tough schedule ahead
Caddy could release more information when the actual race car begins testing this summer — though automakers are traditionally tight-lipped about details, hoping to retain a competitive edge.
The new racer will make its debut early next year at the 23 Hours of Endurance and then compete in both the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the FIA World Endurance Championship. While just one of many races to come, the 24 Hours of Le Mans will be the symbolic highlight of Cadillac’s new effort.
Caddy certainly hopes to make a splash at a critical time in its corporate life. It has been upping the performance ante with new models like the CT5-V Blackwing, and the Escalade-V coming out for 2023. But it’s also shifting to electric propulsion with this summer’s launch of its new Lyriq long-range battery-electric vehicle. Using a hybrid powertrain should offer a hint of what can be accomplished with an electrified drivetrain. The question is whether the GM halo brand will put an all-electric racer on the track, possibly as part of the increasingly popular Formula E series.