HPD Wins at Hungaroring
Honda Performance Development's successful 2010 sports-prototype campaign reached new heights this weekend as Strakka Racing took its HPD ARX-01c to the overall Le Mans Series victory Sunday at the 1000KM of Hungaroring. It marked the first time a team, car and engine from the LMP2 class has posted an outright victory in Le Mans Series competition.
Meanwhile, back in the USA, Highcroft Racing and HPD continue to lead the American Le Mans Series Championship with three victories and four additional podium finishes in seven races this season.
In Hungary, the Strakka HPD started from the pole with driver Danny Watts. "The car was just working exceptionally well," Watts recounted. "This sort of circuit really suits us. It's tight and twisty and the LMP2 cars are lighter and more nimble through the corners."
After a conservative start, Watts, along with co-drivers Jonny Kane and Nick Leventis, worked through the field, reaching the LMP2 class lead just before the first round of scheduled pit stops, then moving into the overall lead at the four-hour mark. Once in front, the HPD would hold its advantage through the final two hours to take both the class and unprecedented overall victory.
"That was awesome, simply awesome," said Strakka team manager Piers Phillips after the historic finish. "I just feel so proud of this team. Everyone played their part - HPD, Wirth Research, Michelin, the drivers, mechanics, technicians, engineers. This is the result they deserved. We're right back in the running for the championship now, and that has been our primary focus all season. We can head for [the next event at] Silverstone, our home circuit, knowing there's everything to race for."
With just the September 12 season finale at Silverstone remaining, Strakka is locked in a close battle for the Le Mans Series LMP2 title with the HPD-engined Lola of RML Racing, which finished fourth at the Hungaroring. Each team has two class victories this year. Strakka also claimed LMP2 honors at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June, running fifth overall and establishing a new LMP2 record for distance covered in the endurance racing classes. RML finished third in class at Le Mans.
In Sunday's American Le Mans Series event at Road America, the Highcroft Racing ARX-01c of David Brabham and Simon Pagenaud maintained its lead in the title fight with a hard-earned third-place finish to the more powerful LMP1 Lola Judd of Drayson Racing, which took the lead on just the final lap of the nearly three-hour event.
With three victories in seven events this season, Highcroft drivers Brabham and Pagenaud share the drivers' championship lead, with HPD holding a 20-point edge in the Engine Manufacturers' Championship over Porsche, and a six-point advantage over Lola in the Chassis Manufacturers' Championship. Two races remain in the 2010 American Le Mans Series, at Mosport Park on August 29 and the October 2 Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta.
"Undertaking two separate sports-prototype championships has been a huge step forward for HPD this season, but our associates and team partners have all exceeded our expectations," said Erik Berkman, HPD president. "We are contending for simultaneous championships on two separate continents, and that's an impressive accomplishment."
Next season, HPD will offer a new LMP2 engine to customers participating in the 2011 American Le Mans Series, European Le Mans Series, 24 Hours of Le Mans, and Intercontinental Cup competitions. Based on Honda's production-based global V6 engine, the new engine is a 2.8-liter, twin-turbo power plant, utilizing HPD's exclusive engine-control system, and is the product of a joint effort between HPD and Honda R&D Americas, Inc. (HRA).
Since 2007, HPD has provided engines to prototype-class teams in the American Le Mans Series, and these engines have scored numerous victories, beginning with an LMP2 class win in HPD's inaugural ALMS race at Sebring in 2007. HPD was the first manufacturer to score ALMS class wins in both LMP1 and LMP2 on the same weekend with its wins at St. Petersburg in 2009.
HPD went on to win LMP1 and LMP2 Manufacturers' Championships for Acura in 2009 - becoming the first ALMS manufacturer to do so - and this year began providing engines and support for sports-car competition in both America and Europe.