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Cadillac Is Back In Le Mans, Is This Is A Mistake?

Or does GM have what it takes to make magic?

Leo Shvedsky
August 31 2021
Cadillac’s new hybrid Le Mans Racing Mock Up: Cadillac

Now that Cadillac has revealed that it plans to compete Le Mans Hypercar 2023 with their new LMDh- V.R, the racing community has been aflutter with talk and speculation about what GM is planning. What sort of budget does it have? How does it hope to be competitive in the grueling 24-hour endurance race? The mock-ups of the racer’s design look absolutely stunning, but does it have what it takes to actually win?

The Hypercar category itself is an interesting proposition for GM. The new category was born out of necessity following the exits of Volkswagon and Audi because of the emissions scandal in 2016-17. Then factor in the spiraling costs of bespoke prototypes in the LMP1 category, with costs sometimes hovering close to the $100 million mark, and the competition for many no longer stood as viable. The Hypercar LMDh class allows teams to choose from four pre-approved chassis builds, and a mandatory hybrid system. But while all of this feels like a daunting challenge for most carmakers, it actually seems like a possible advantage for Cadillac. Why you ask? It's all about that budget to performance ratio. 

The last time Cadillac raced at Le Mans was in 2002. It was a morose affair for Cadillac that was troubled by poor decision making on budgets – most were spending upwards of $60 million, while GM budgeted a measly $15 million - and a lackluster design for their LMP in general. Many now recognize that its bid was cursed from the outset compared to giants like BMW, Audi, and Toyota. The fact GM finished at all was a testament to their team, but the Northstar LMP-02 was utterly trounced by Audi’s R8, finishing 8th and 10th respectively. They were even beat by the PlayStation car 

Being able to get a competitive kit at around $20 million, thanks to the budgetary restrictions surrounding Le Mans current regulatory structure, could give Cadillac a bit of an edge, or at least a chance to compete. When other teams choose to go the LMDh route, and Audi and Porsche already have, the GM luxury brand can rest assured that they’re at least starting from the same base specs.  

So, to answer to whether Cadillac has what it takes to win La Mans is: It’s got the best shot now that it may ever have. 

Switching gears, we have to talk about that design. Even if Cadillac mucks everything else up, and let’s not put it past them, they will still win our hearts with that look – if the mock-ups are to be believed. From the razor thin tailfin lights that pay homage to the classic DeVilles (see: Ghostbusters car), to the cross-pattern foils that look like they were stolen off a Batmobile, we have a work of real art on our hands. I honestly don’t care if it wins, I just want it to exist for the love of all that is vehicular motion.  

The real silver lining, though, is not budget to performance getting GM a trophy, or the triumph of the art of car design but what it means for the future of the entire car industry. It’s no secret that main line production often follows lessons learned on the track. If Cadillac comes away with the lesson that a quick and reliable hybrid system can get positive PR, then we are all in for a treat in the years to come.



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