LOS ANGELES, Calif.—Unusually, Mazda and Porsche chose this year's LA Auto Show to reveal to the world their latest racing cars. In fact, a host of racing machinery was on display at the LA Convention Center, joining the regular mix of new production cars and cool concepts. Normally, race cars get unveiled at pre-season tests or at the beginning of the year, so for both companies to choose LA as their venue is a vote of confidence for the health—and importance—of their factory racing efforts.
Let's take a look at the Mazda RT24-P first. It's built to contest the IMSA's WeatherTech Sportscar Championship's Daytona Prototype International class, an offshoot of the LMP2 category that runs at Le Mans and in the World Endurance Championship. But LMP2 is a pro-am class. Although teams can choose a chassis from four different constructors, they all have to run the same kind of engine and electronics. IMSA's DPI category, on the other hand, is for OEM-supported teams, and it has given car companies like Mazda a little more freedom to use their own engines, ECUs, and body work.
Starting with the Riley/Multimatic LMP2 chassis, Mazda's stylists and Multimatic's aerodynamicists tweaked the car's looks, particularly the nose, giving it the same corporate grill you see affixed to a CX-5 or Mazda 3. Although the most aerodynamically important bits, like the front splitter and rear diffuser, are common across all the different DPI cars, Mazda's Director of Motorsport John Doonan told me that the team was able to find some aero benefit from the restyled side pods, which are scalloped in behind the front wheels.
Behind the cockpit is the same MZ2.0-T four-cylinder gasoline direct-injection turbo engine which Mazda raced in 2016. But the new rules allow for a little more horsepower than before—the cars will now get around 600hp/447kW. The team was on the cusp of victory on more than one occasion this past year, yet never converted that promise into a win, something Doonan described as "a dagger to the heart." He was bullish about Mazda's prospects next year though.
Porsche's 911 RSR, unlike the prototype Mazda, starts life as Porsche 911 road car before heavy modification for life in the WEC's GTE and IMSA's GTLM classes. Porsche has had years of success in GT racing with the 911, but competitors Ford, Ferrari, and Aston Martin all made much better use of 2016's rule set, particularly with regards to aerodynamics. The 911's rear-mounted engine, by contrast, proved to be an impediment, limiting the size of the rear diffuser (and therefore the amount of downforce the car could generate). So for 2017, the 911 RSR is no longer rear-engined—the power plant now sits fully ahead of the rear axle. (Porsche declined to tell us just how far forward the engine was moved compared to the old car.)
That engine is also new. Although there was plenty of speculation that the 911 RSR would be turbocharged (like the Ford GT and Ferrari 488 GTE, as well as Porsche's road cars), Weissach has stuck with natural aspiration. But the old "Mezger" flat-six is no more. Instead the engine is a 4.0L version of the direct-injection 9A1 flat-six first found in the back of the 997-generation 911, good for around 510hp (380kW).
IMSA's third class (after DPI and GTLM) is called GTD, and it uses cars homologated to the GT3 specification. Both Lexus and Mercedes-AMG (along with Acura) are joining GTD in 2017, and the Mercedes-AMG GT3 and Lexus RC F GT3 were on display in Los Angeles. Three teams will run the Mercedes-AMG GT3 next year, hoping to capitalize on a platform that has proven itself extremely competent in races abroad including the 24 hour race at the Nürburgring (where the three-pointed star finished in the top four spots).
The Lexus has had a more troubled gestation. It was originally due to race in 2016, but required several revisions before it was able to meet GT3's "balance of performance" process. But that's evidently been solved, and 3GT Racing will campaign a pair of RC F GT3s in 2017.
All four cars will make their racing debuts in January's Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway in Florida.
This post originated on Ars Technica
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