Fiat Chrysler’s Alfa Romeo brand just announced something of a return to Formula 1 racing, in the form of a partnership with Switzerland’s Sauber F1 Team. Under a new agreement, Ferrari will continue supplying engines for Sauber’s F1 cars, and the outfit will rebrand itself the “Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team”, and start displaying the Alfa Romeo logo on its cars.
But we rather hope Alfa Romeo might consider adding an even more meaningful new motorsport project: a DPi (Daytona Prototype international) program to compete against the likes of Cadillac, Nissan, and Acura in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. Rumors of an Alfa Romeo DPi program have lingered for years, spurred on by IMSA President Scott Atherton’s claim last July that up to two new manufacturers were “imminent” in the SportsCar Championship’s highest tier of competition (according to Sportscar365).
Alas, those rumors have never really risen above the level of a murmur, and Alfa Romeo has, as of yet, given no definitive indication that it might indeed launch a DPi program. The Italian marque expressed interest several years ago, but that’s all.
Why It Would Be A Smart Move
The Alfa Romeo brand, which was only recently reintroduced to the North American market, needs to find some way to lure US buyers away from the go-to premium brands: BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Cadillac, and the like. A rivalry with Cadillac seems especially natural, and if it manifests on the racetrack, in North America’s premiere sportscar racing series, it could help put the Alfa Romeo brand out in front of new potential customers and demonstrate the savviness of the Italian marque’s engineers.
What’s more, getting a decent ROI with the program could be achievable because of how frugal the DPi class is designed to be. There are just four constructors that currently provide chassis for DPi competition, and the specifications are shared with the ACO’s LMP2 category. Manufacturers need only bring their own bodywork and engines in order to have a complete, rules-compliant race car.
IMSA just released a complete list of entries for sanctioned December testing at Daytona, and predictably, Alfa Romeo wasn’t on it. For 2019, we hope the Italian brand considers giving DPi a go.