Cadillac’s new LMDh-based “Project GTP Hypercar” prototype has curves, fins, blades, lightshows and a rumbling V8 soundtrack to take the General Motors brand into the future with IMSA and back to the 24 Hours of Le Mans in style.
Unveiled on Thursday, the hybrid GTP machine offers a visual leap in incorporating Cadillac road car styling elements into its halo creation for the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and FIA World Endurance Championship. Within the GM Racing family, the last factory prototype to bear such strong road-based styling cues was found in the mid-1980s with the Corvette GTP fielded by Hendrick Motorsports.
“It’s absolutely beautiful, it’s stunning — as Cadillac as we could make it,” GM sports car racing manager Laura Wontrop Klauser told RACER. “I think one of the most exciting things about the regulations was how much they opened up to the OEM to inject their own styling into the car. They started it with DP and I think all of us were thrilled with the way that car came out. But now, having so much more opportunity to change things and to modify surfaces, to make them our own, and then of course, put our own heartbeat in it — that is the recipe to success because it allows us to display something that represents our brand well, and really get people excited about the showroom cars.
“Yes, we’re not selling anything currently that looks like . However, you can see its brothers and sisters in it. And what’s really cool is it’s setting the tone for the future of Cadillac design as well. So we’re complementing what we have today and getting you ready for what’s coming tomorrow.”
From the nose and grille treatment to the ongoing use of Vs in the wheels — paying tribute to Cadillac’s high-performance V-series models — a lot of thought was put into the GTP’s looks without detracting from its ability to generate downforce and aerodynamic stability.
“The vertical fins that are on the car, those are paying homage back to the tail fins that we used to have on Cadillacs once upon a time,” Klauser added. “We wanted to reference our history, except we put it in a new twist, an updated version, where now they’re 180 degrees on the car and giving it that futuristic look. There’s also a lot of Cadillac in the way that the body lines are cut; you can see that it’s a perfect match of sharp lines and rounded corners, which just scream how we do Cadillac.”
Cadillac lead exterior creative designer Chris Mikalauskas is responsible for the GTP’s road car-inspired treatments.
“Chris said that was one of his favorite parts of the car was just the way that the body comes together on the side, and I agree. And then the shape of the front where the nose is, is definitely paying homage to Cadillac design,” Klauser noted. “And of course the vertical lights on both the front and the rear of the car are a huge reflection of what we have in today’s cars and also the cars of our past. There are Easter eggs all over and we’re excited for everyone to just start discovering things piece by piece.”
Turbocharging is a common theme found among the new LMDh/GTP models coming to race in 2023, but Cadillac has opted for a new version of the 5.5-liter naturally aspirated V8 that’s found in the current Cadillac DPi-V.R.
“A lot of it came down to timing,” Klauser said. “We made the decision to get on board with the LMDh platform when it was announced and if you think about that, that was Rolex 2021, which really was not that long ago. We’re starting with a brand-new engine, so we knew we had to make some decisions quickly, such as what architecture we’re using. We leaned on the heritage and the history that we have of building race motors at GM, to allow us to move swiftly, getting ready for the very new variable, which was the hybrid system.
“We wanted to make sure that we were setting ourselves up for success with a powerplant that we could make amazing, and that we could make sure was bulletproof. So when we get to the new part, the hybrid, we can focus on that and the integration of the two. It’s really important to endurance racing that you have bulletproof hardware. With adding this extra complication and technology of the hybrid system, it became critical that we were comfortable with the part of the car that we’ve been working on for decades. We know how to put engines in race cars, so that we could focus on the new part and make sure we had the ability to put all of our time and attention on that.”
As a tech-driven organization, getting to know the new 40hp spec energy recovery system made by Bosch and Williams Advance Engineering and how it works with the 5.5-liter V8 in GM Racing’s dyno cells has been an interesting and intensive process.
“It’s been an adventure, for sure,” Klauser acknowledged. “The learning is constant — you’re learning about things that don’t even have anything to do with running the race car. There’s a lot of pieces here that are coming with this, and I think it’s kind of added a little sense of newness to this job. It’s definitely a puzzle that has not been worked on yet at GM. So it’s giving us an opportunity to dip our toe into the water of something different, because it’s allowed us to bring in different types of people onto the team, people whose backgrounds might not have been working on the hybrid and the control side of things and that’s great. It’s bringing diversity to the group, which is fantastic.”
With two Cadillac GTPs committed to IMSA new year as Chip Ganassi Racing and Action Express Racing field one apiece, and one factory GTP set to run in the FIA WEC’s Hypercar class via Ganassi’s team, Klauser says Cadillac will open its account in both series with full works programs. Selling its hybrid prototype to independent team owners could be the next phase of the program.
“For next year, we are going forward with the two teams that we have announced at this point,” she confirmed. “Between supply chain and just general getting a new program up and running, it really does not make sense to be adding others to the group. As you can imagine, every team you add is a lot of work, so it made sense to focus, get the car on the road, work with the two that we’ve established, and then we can look and see what the future may hold from there. But for now, ’23 is what it is.”