Honda Performance Development Unveils ALMS Racer Car, Acura Branding Dropped

Honda Performance Development Unveils ALMS Racer Car, Acura Branding Dropped

Highcroft Racing has dominated the LMP2 class of the American Le Mans Series for the past 4 years, but the program didn’t seem to be doing much to promote the Acura brand. In light of that, the car will now be branded as a Honda Performance Development car, a move that signals both a positive shift for Honda’s in-house go-fast division, and a bad omen for the company’s beleaguered luxury division.

This year, Highcroft will be campaigning their new entry in the much tougher LMP1 class. Patron will also no longer be sponsoring the car, having decided to instead sponsor the ALMS series as a whole. Michelin will step up to provide the funding for Highcroft. The new car, dubbed ARX-01e, will share the same tub and 3.4L V8 as the LMP2 cars of years past, but everything from the suspension to the aerodynamic package will change to make the car more competitive for LMP1.

With legendary race cars like the Audi R15 and Peugeot 908HDi as the top dogs of LMP1, Highcroft will have a tough fight ahead of them if they want to gain any ground. The first race, held in Sebring, Florida, kicks off Saturday.

Hit the jump to read the official press release

HIGHCROFT’S HPD ARX-01e REVEALED

Highcroft Racing has unveiled its new Honda Performance Development ARX-01e LMP1 machine – the new car which the back-to-back American Le Mans Series champions will take into battle at next week’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.

MICHELIN® Pilot® Super Sport tire and the ALMS Michelin racing tireHPD’s latest entry into the overall LMP1 class is powered by a development of the 3.4-liter V8 engine which has been the mainstay of its sportscar activities since the debut of the Acura program in 2007.

The final driver to do battle alongside David Brabham and Marino Franchitti in the ARX-01e will be revealed tomorrow, but the three Highcroft drivers will have an additional vastly experienced “co-driver” riding beside them – the Michelin Man.

Known internationally as “Bibendum”, the Michelin Man and branding for the new MICHELIN® Pilot® Super Sport tire will appear prominently on the side of the #01 machine at Sebring.

The new MICHELIN® Pilot® Super Sport tire (Ultra High Performance street tires) will launch in the U.S. on April 1. These are the highest performing street tires that Michelin has ever offered. The new tires are “born from endurance racing” at places like Sebring and Le Mans.

While the tub and engine of the ARX-01e may have come from last year’s championship-winning LMP2 ARX-01c machine, that is where the similarities end.

The new car features a heavily revised aerodynamic and suspension package design and built by HPD’s partner, Wirth Research.

In LMP1 spec, the engine is fed by a larger air restrictor to combat the additional 50kg required for the LMP1 class (900kg).While the HPD engineers toiled away on the durability testing of the engine at the higher power specification, Wirth Research worked hard to develop the new aero package, which has been designed with an eye to the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Compared to the LMP2 car, the ARX-01e also features wider Michelin tires on both the front (wider by 1.18″) and rear (wider by 2.36″).

“The way the rules have gone this year, it seemed like a natural fit to take the engine that has been so successful in the LMP2 class and use the basis of that for the LMP1 class,” said Steve Eriksen, HPD Vice President.

“With the change in restrictor size and wheel/tire package available, we believed we could have a pretty competitive package, especially considering the ACO’s desire to better balance the performance of the diesel and petrol powered cars.

“This package represents a good, solid base to compete in LMP1.”

Since the commencement of the partnership between Honda Performance Development and Highcroft Racing in 2007, the Danbury, CT-based squad has recorded a major series of milestones for HPD – first overall ALMS win, first ALMS LMP1 victory, first LMP1 championship, first team to record back-to-back titles and the highest ALMS point-scoring team in every season of the initial Acura program.

“We are returning to the LMP1 class with an evolution of our original LMP2 car, and doing so with the team that started with us on chassis development in the beginning,” Eriksen said.

“Highcroft from the very beginning has worked hand-in-hand with our HPD engineers and our partners at Wirth Research to develop the ARX chassis and obviously has been very successful.

“There has been a lot work put in by the folks at Wirth Research on this chassis conversion. It is not just a case of bolting on LMP1-sized wheels and installing a bigger restrictor. The work completed by both Wirth and Highcroft in a short space of time has to be applauded, and I believe we should have a package which should be very aerodynamically efficient and should achieve very strong results.”

Highcroft Racing and HPD have been strong partners with Michelin since the commencement of the Acura program in 2007, and the forthcoming opening round of the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patron and the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup at Sebring presented an ideal opportunity to showcase the soon-to-be-released MICHELIN® Pilot® Super Sport tire.

Over the past four years, Highcroft Racing has clinched 11 ALMS wins, nine poles, 27 podiums and two championships on Michelin tires.

“Highcroft has been a tremendously successful partner with Michelin over the past four years and the forthcoming Sebring race presented an ideal opportunity to explain how the MICHELIN® Pilot® Super Sport tire (pictured right) was born from endurance racing,” said Silvia Mammone, Michelin & BFGoodrich Motorsports Manager.

“Two of the three most innovative technologies featured in the MICHELIN® Pilot® Super Sport tires are derived directly from endurance racing. Both the Twaron (twore-on) belt and the Bi-compound tread were actually developed in competition at Sebring and Le Mans.

“The impending launch of the MICHELIN® Pilot® Super Sport tire and the timing of the Twelve Hours of Sebring enabled us to take advantage of this opportunity to showcase the product though the American Le Mans Series’ new US television package.

“We’re delighted the Highcroft team will have the Michelin Man along for the ride for the 12 hours – further lessons learned from this Sebring race will make it into the road tires of the future.”

The Highcroft team is now en route to Sebring ready to shake down the machine at the historic airfield circuit. The team’s drivers have already completed several days of “virtual” laps on the Wirth Research simulator in preparation for the race.

“We are extremely proud of what we have achieved with our partners at HPD and Michelin over the past four years,” Highcroft owner, Duncan Dayton said.

“With these kinds of partnerships, HPD and Michelin don’t just provide us with a car and tires to go out and race. They have dedicated engineers who are part of the team on race weekends – these guys have really become part of the family.

“Together, we have been intricately involved in developing the race car to improve performance and reliability. These lessons learned go into the cars and tires of tomorrow.

“I’m tremendously proud of what our team has achieved with HPD, Wirth Research and Michelin with the creation of this car and can’t wait to see how it will perform.”

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