The world of endurance racing is brimming with excitement for the 2023 season, where a new class of prototypes will battle it out for overall wins at the famed 24-hour endurance races at Daytona and Le Mans. Fittingly dubbed LMDh (Le Mans Daytona hybrid), the class will replace the outgoing DPi prototypes and conform to regulations for 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 go up against competitors from Porsche, BMW and others as it seeks to win overall victory at some of the world’s most prestigious motorsport contests.
“The exciting thing about the new class, and being able to compete on a world stage again, is that it’s forming a new golden era of racing where race cars can be beautiful,” says Chris Mikalauskas, Cadillac’s lead exterior designer. “This race car has amazing proportions, it’s much wider than the outgoing DPi car; it’s lower and longer and really sleek. It’s a designer’s dream to get those proportions to work with.”
Significantly, this is the first time Mikalauskas and the Cadillac design studio have had so much influence over one of the brand’s race cars. “In the past, because of all the rules and regulations, it didn’t allow for there to be so much of an OEM design presence because they were so performance-driven and so strict,” says Mikalauskas, who had previously worked only on production vehicles, including the new CT4-V and CT5-V Blackwing performance sedans.
For the LMDh cars, Cadillac Racing worked with chassis supplier Dallara—which also developed the brand’s DPi cars—to not only make the new entry competitive, but to telegraph Cadillac’s unique design language. “It doesn’t feel like we’re all doing the same cookie-cutter car,” Mikalauskas says. Even though, in LMDh, you have a common hybrid drivetrain system and some other components, there’s a lot of freedom you get between the vehicles. And because of that, we wanted to make sure Cadillac’s DNA was represented.”
According to Mikalauskas, he looked to the brand’s history as well as to aerospace for inspiration, but through a contemporary lens. “You look back at some of the most memorable Cadillacs of all time and everybody usually associates them with fins and blades and really strong statements, and these came—at the time—from the space race,” Mikalauskas explains. “When I was doing this vehicle, I thought, if a space race were to happen today, how would we treat that?”
The result is a sinister machine that seems born from a stealth fighter but displays distinctive Cadillac elements. “We’re taking the same surface language that you see on our production vehicles, one that’s really shear in some places and that leads up to really crisp lines, but there’s a good amount of volume in it, too. It’s cool to be able to exaggerate everything we love about the brand,” Mikalauskas says.
Front and center is the Project GTP’s thin, vertical lighting that has become a signature of the marque. “That’s the number one thing that Cadillac hits you with first, being able to see that lit signature from down the road,” Mikalauskas says. He also points out the shield shape to the front grille, as well as the aero-foil wings over the fenders, and refers to them as an “opportunity to play up the blade-like quality we’ve had on a lot of our iconic vehicles of the past.”
As for aerodynamics, Mikalauskas says: “If you look at the GTP and the way the channels go on the inboard side of the fenders, that’s essentially treating the entire car like a giant spoiler. That’s Aero 101, to get the air across as big of a footprint as possible to push down on the vehicle. As we developed it, certain tricks had to be used to get air where we wanted. That’s where it was helpful to have that direct line to Dallara and have the feedback.”
The GTP is powered by Cadillac’s new 5.5-liter V-8 engine and will be paired, per class regulations, with a spec electric motor as well as a spec transmission and battery pack. While the GTP is a concept and not the final version we’ll see on the track, most elements will carry over, according to Mikalauskas.
“The testing and regulations and driver feedback are what would separate them eventually,” he says. “But for us in the studio, our intent was always to come up with 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 showcase that our performance vehicles aren’t going away in the future, and neither is the aesthetic that comes with it.”
Click here to see the Cadillac Project GTP Hypercar in Photos.