Exactly 50 years after Briggs Cunningham raced a near-standard Cadillac Coupe de Ville to 10th in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the American manufacturer returned to sports car racing in 2000. Times had obviously changed, and simply taking a car off the showroom floor would certainly no longer do. Instead Cadillac turned to specialist racing car constructor Riley & Scott to develop a prototype racer for an assault on both the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
To keep tabs on the competition from the likes of Audi and BMW, the design team headed by Bill Riley created his company's first carbon fibre and aluminium honeycomb monocoque chassis. On all four corners, the suspension consisted of double wishbones with push-rod actuated springs and dampers. The car was clothed in an angular body that included style cues from contemporary Cadillac production models like the grille on the nose. Unlike earlier Riley & Scotts and even though it was in theory a two-seater, the new car featured a single roll-over hoop.
In addition to the funding, Cadillac's main contribution to the project was the engine. This was a downsized and turbocharged version of the sophisticated 'Northstar' V8 also used for the road going models. This quad-cam competition engine was first used with an Oldsmobile badge at Indy with a lot of success. To make it more suitable to sports car racing, it was further reworked by McLaren Engines. Equipped with two IHI turbochargers and breathing through the mandatory restrictors, the 32-valve V8 produced close to 600 bhp. This was transferred to the rear wheels through an XTrac six-speed, sequential gearbox.
Hedging their bet, Cadillac opted to run a works team and also allocate two 'Northstar LMPs' to the experienced French DAMS squad to campaign in European races. Both teams would enter the major events like the Sebring 12 Hours and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Team Cadillac debuted the Northstar LMP at Daytona where they placed 12th and 14th. Despite Cadillac's sizeable effort, the results did not improve much during the rest of the season. The cars both lacked pace and reliability to match the by now dominant Audi R8s. A fourth and two fifth place finishes in minor European races for the DAMS team were the car's best results in 2000.
Undeterred by the difficult first season, Cadillac pressed on and called in the services of British engineer Nigel Stroud. He was tasked with developing a new car from scratch for 2002. As a stop-gap for 2001, Stroud also developed a new aero package for the existing Riley & Scott chassis. Known as the Norhstar LMP 01, the revised machine was fielded by Team Cadillac in select races like Le Mans where the sole survivor finished a lowly 15th. There were signs of progress in the subsequent rounds of the ALMS, where the now near bullet-proof Cadillacs were usually placed in the best of the rest position behind the Audis.
The highly anticipated and all-new Northstar LMP 02 debuted at Sebring in 2002 but it sadly did not live up to the expectations. A second at Miami late in the season would turn out to be the best result. Following three disappointing seasons, Cadillac pulled the plug on the project, instead shifting their focus on a competition program with the production based CTS.