The world of endurance racing is buzzing with excitement for the 2023 season, where a new class of prototypes will compete for overall victories at the famous 24-hour endurance races at Daytona and Le Mans. Aptly named LMDh (Le Mans Daytona Hybrid), the class replaces the outgoing DPi prototypes and complies with both the IMSA Sports Car Championship and the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC).
Cadillac recently unveiled the Project GTP Hypercar, a concept version of the entry that will compete against competitors from Porsche, BMW and others as it strives for overall victory at some of the world’s most prestigious motorsport competitions.
“The exciting thing about the new class, and the fact that we can once again compete on a world stage, is that it’s ushering in a new golden age of racing where race cars can be beautiful,” said Chris Mikalauskas, Cadillac’s chief exterior designer. “This race car has great proportions, it’s much wider than the outgoing DPi car; it is lower and longer and very tight. It is a designer’s dream to work with those proportions.”
Significantly, this is the first time that Mikalauskas and the Cadillac design studio have had such an influence on one of the marque’s race cars. “In the past, because of all the rules and regulations, it didn’t allow so many OEM designers to be there because they were so performance-oriented and so strict,” said Mikalauskas, who previously only worked on production vehicles, including the new CT4-V and CT5-V. Blackwing performance sedans.
For the LMDh cars, Cadillac Racing teamed up with chassis supplier Dallara – who also developed the brand’s DPi cars – to not only make the new entry competitive, but also telegraph Cadillac’s unique design language. “It doesn’t feel like we’re all driving the same car,” says Mikalauskas. Even though in LMDh you have a common hybrid drive system and some other components, there’s a lot of freedom you get between the vehicles. And that’s why we wanted to make sure that Cadillac’s DNA was represented.”
According to Mikalauskas, he looked to the history of the brand as well as aerospace for inspiration, but through a contemporary lens. “You look back at some of the most memorable Cadillacs of all time and everyone usually associates them with fins and blades and really strong sayings, and these came from the space race at the time,” explains Mikalauskas. “When I was making this vehicle, I thought, if there was a space race today, how would we treat it?”
The result is a sinister machine that appears to have been born from a stealth fighter, but displays distinctive Cadillac elements. “We’re taking the same surface language that you see on our production cars, one that’s really sharp in places and leads to really sharp lines, but there’s also a lot of volume to it. It’s cool to be able to exaggerate everything we love about the brand,” says Mikalauskas.
At the heart of the Project GTP is the thin, vertical lighting that has become a hallmark of the brand. “That’s the main thing that Cadillac hits you with first, being able to see that illuminated signature from the road,” says Mikalauskas. He also points to the shield shape of the front grille, as well as the aerodynamic wings over the fenders, calling them an “opportunity to replicate the blade-like quality we’ve had on many of our iconic vehicles of the past.”
In terms of aerodynamics, Mikalauskas says: “If you look at the GTP and the way the ducts run on the inside of the fenders, you’re basically treating the whole car like a giant spoiler. That’s Aero 101, to get the air over as large a footprint as possible to press down on the vehicle. When we developed it, certain tricks had to be used to get air where we wanted it. That’s where it was helpful to have that direct line to Dallara and to have the feedback.
The GTP is powered by Cadillac’s new 5.5-liter V-8 engine and, per class regulations, will be paired with a special electric motor, transmission and battery pack. While the GTP is a concept and not the final version we’ll see on track, most of the elements will carry over, according to Mikalauskas.
“The tests, the regulations and the feedback from the drivers would eventually separate them,” he says. “But for us in the studio, our intention was always to make the ultimate design statement with this vehicle. And it’s not just about this race car in particular, it’s also a canvas for us to show that our performance cars won’t disappear in the future, and neither will the aesthetics that come with them.”
Click here to see the Cadillac Project GTP Hypercar in pictures.