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2014 After Road America
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Pos Drivers Total
1 Joao Barbosa 285
1 Christian Fittipaldi 285
2 Jordan Taylor 269
2 Ricky Taylor 269
3 Michael Valiante 267
3 Richard Westbrook 267
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5 Scott Pruett 250
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29 Simon Pagenaud 52
30 Mike Rockenfeller 51
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31 Tony Kanaan 50
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32 Lucas Luhr 46
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34 David Hinton 41
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36 John Martin 31
37 Alex Popow 30
38 Roman Rusinov 26
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39 Kyle Larson 24
40 Frank Beck 23
41 Ben Devlin 22
41 Max Papis 22
41 Bradley Smith 22
42 Jamie McMurray 21
43 AJ Allmendinger 20
44 James Hinchcliffe 19
44 Jann Mardenborough 19
45 Alexander Rossi 16
45 Sebastian Saavedra 16
46 Brendon Hartley 15
46 E.J. Viso 15
47 Memo Gidley 14
47 Alex Gurney 14
48 Scott Mayer 1 3
49 Pierre Kaffer 1
49 Darren Law 1
Acura: Making history again

by David Phillips
Friday, March 20, 2009

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Gil de Ferran and Simon Pagenaud congratulate Acura teammate Scott Dixon for winning the pole for them
The Sebring record book reads like a Who’s Who of the great automotive marques of the late 20th and early 21st century: Porsche, Ferrari, Audi, Nissan, BMW, Ford, Jaguar and Maserati (in order of laps led). Am I missing any? How about Riley & Scott, Toyota, Chaparral, Lancia, Cunningham, Spice, Corvette and Aston Martin. There’s many more, but those marques have all led 100 laps or more at Sebring over the years.

Acura may not have led 100 laps at Sebring - yet - but it’s fair to say the Japanese automaker is already well on its way to taking its place among the legendary marques to compete at Sebring International Raceway. And that Sebring already holds an exalted place in the annals of Acura’s young sports car racing program and, of course, that of its illustrious parent company, Honda and its American subsidiary, Honda Performance Development.

It was here in 2007 that Acura won the LMP2 class in its American Le Mans Series debut, a victory then-president of HPD Robert Clarke unhesitatingly described as the most significant victory in the history of HPD.  Given that HPD had dominated Indy car racing from the latter half of the ’90s into the 21st century (amassing nine drivers championships and seven manufacturers championships in CART and the Indy Racing League against the likes of Mercedes-Benz, Ford/Cosworth, Chevrolet and arch-rival Toyota) that was a pretty strong statement.  But it was also a valid statement given that much of Honda’s success in Indy car racing was achieved with California-based HPD essentially servicing engines designed and built in Japan.

But not the Acura engine that powered Andretti Green Racing to the LMP2 class win at Sebring in 2007.  That engine was largely the product of HPD and, as such, represented a significant milestone in the history of American Honda, particularly given that it defeated Porsche, Mazda, AER and Judd on its maiden outing.

Segue, if you will, to venerable Sebring International Raceway on Thursday afternoon where Acura and HPD took yet another gigantic step in their racing history.  Against the combined might of Audi and Peugeot (and with a helping hand from Scott Dixon and de Ferran Motorsports), Acura scored another momentous “victory” in the form of claiming the pole position in their LMP1 debut.  As was the case in Acura’s 2007 Sebring success, the engine that powered Dixon to the pole was conceived, designed and built by HPD in California.  But unlike the Courage-based ARX-01a chassis that Tony Kanaan, Dario Franchitti and Bryan Herta drove to the class win in ’07, the ARX-02a that enabled Dixon to pip Audi’s Tom Kristensen for pole by .082s was conceived, designed and built by Acura; more precisely as part of a joint program headed by Wirth Research in England which had conducted extensive aerodynamic and mechanical development on the earlier LMP2 chassis.  And the Acura LM-AR7, V8 that powered the pole-winning car and its sister entry from Patr¢n Highcroft Racing?  Conceived, designed and built by HPD.

Thus, even more so than the LMP2 class-winning car in 2007, the LMP1 Acura that won the pole Thursday in its competition debut represents the continuing maturation of Honda Performance Development as a powerful force on the  American motorsports scene.  One that, for the 25 minutes of qualifying, went toe-to-toe with two justifiably renowned manufacturers who have owned the LMP1 class recently and, in the case of Audi, since the dawn of the 21st century.

That Acura achieved this result with an E10 gasoline-powered engine in the face of regulations that everyone readily admits favor the diesel engines used by Audi and Peugeot is all the more remarkable, and not solely because it validates the ARX-02a’s innovative design featuring front and rear tires of the same dimension and a 50/50 front/rear balance.  The ARX-02a’s initial success also underscores the commitment made by Acura back in 2007 to “graduate” from LMP2 to LMP1, in accordance with the philosophy of the American Le Mans Series (or more precisely that of its guiding partner, the Automobile Club de l’Ouest) that LMP1 is properly domain of manufacturer-supported teams, leaving a level playing field for privateers in LMP2. 

As well, the success of the ARX 02a underscores the commitment by Acura (and Honda) to compete with technology relevant to the products it markets to the public.  Although Honda does make diesel-powered cars, they are a small part of its product line and only available in Europe.  Not for American Honda to pursue a technology devoid of relevance to the products it sells in North America.

Of course, nobody at Acura, de Ferran Motorsports or Patr¢n Highcroft Racing is under any illusions that pole position at Sebring on Thursday will easily translate to victory on Saturday.  To a man and woman, they understand that outright speed in qualifying is one thing, the speed - and durability - needed to win over the course of a dozen hours of racing on the brutal runways and connecting roads of Sebring International Raceway quite another; that when it comes to carving through slower traffic there is no substitute for the torque and top-end the Audi and Peugeot drivers will have at their disposal.

But as Gil de Ferran noted in a jubilant pit stall yesterday afternoon, “Whatever happens Saturday cannot take away from what we accomplished today.  This makes up for a lot of nights working until 2 a.m., 3 a.m. and later.  There’s a real sense of accomplishment for the whole team and for everyone associated with the Acura racing program.”

Add to that a real sense that, in three short years, Acura has already made its mark on the 12 Hours of Sebring.

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