The Honda Performance Development (HPD) ARX-01e – the latest iteration of the Honda group's Le Mans racer – has been revealed a week before its competitive debut at the 12 Hours of Sebring with Highcroft Racing.
The car is a further development of the ARX-01c which won the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) LMP2 title last year. Despite using the same basic tub and 3.4 litre as last year's car the 2011 charge is perhaps the biggest developmental step for the 01 design that has been raced since 2007.
The move to the LMP1 class has made necessary a raft of changes. The V8 engine is fed by through a larger air restrictor, allowing the engine to develop greater power compared to the 480hp the 01c was able to develop.
“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.”
The car also features dramatically different suspension and aerodynamic packages, built by Wirth Research, HPD's long term design partner. The new car also features wider tyres front and rear promising more grip to help handle the additional power and 50kg required under LMP1 regulations.
Duncan Dayton‘s Highcroft Racing team have been with the HPD ALMS program since its beginning, winning 11 races and two titles with the marque – including a LMP1 title with the Acura badged 02a – and after an unsure off season team and manufacturer are reunited with a new challenge ahead.
“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.”
The no.01 car at Sebring will run with prominent branding from tyre supplier Michelin, showcasing the new Pilot Super Sport tyre, a high performance street tyre “born from endurance racing” in the words of 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 belt and the Bi-compound tread were actually developed in competition at Sebring and Le Mans.”
Highcroft stalwart David Brabham and Marino Franchitti are already confirmed among the team's drivers for Sebring. The third and final driver is expected to be named on Friday (March 11).