A class-winning, fourth overall finish for the new Honda Performance Development ARX-01g and Level 5 Motorsports last weekend at Laguna Seca Raceway delivered the 2011 American Le Mans Series LMP2 drivers' championships for team owner Scott Tucker and co-driver Christophe Bouchut, and announced HPD's arrival into the new cost-capped era of LMP2 competition with a value-oriented engine/chassis package capable of immediate, race-winning performance.
An evolution of the pace-setting HPD ARX-01d run by the Strakka and RML LMP2 teams in 2011, the HPD ARX-01g is designed specifically to meet the ACO's new cost-capped LMP2 regulations for private entrants. Power for the Level 5 entry comes from the HR28TT, a 2.8-litre twin-turbo V6 created for this year by HPD in partnership with Honda R&D Americas The ARX-01g is designed as a customer car and the Wisconsin-based Level 5 organization is the privately owned team responsible for the car's impressive debut win in California, its highest overall finish of the season. The HPD prototype hadn't turned a wheel until Wednesday, September 14, and had less than three hours of combined running time before the race start.
"This was a fantastic performance, the best possible start to HPD's expanded participation in the new cost-capped LMP2 era," said Steve Eriksen, HPD vice president. "The result speaks for itself, and is a credit to our engineers at HPD, our partners at Wirth Research and Honda R&D, as well as flawless execution in the race from the drivers and team at Level 5 Motorsports."
With the HPD ARX-01g running like clockwork through all six hours, not a single unscheduled pit stop or issue befell the #055 Microsoft Office 2010-sponsored machine. Bouchut recorded a best lap time of 1:16.867 during his middle stint, only one second slower than the LMP1 race- winning car's quickest time, aptly demonstrating the strength of the HPD chassis/engine package, even in the early stages of its development in the cost-capped configuration.
"This was exactly what we had hoped for," said Level 5 team manager David Stone. "The car ran like a Swiss watch all day. That's really what we wanted to do, so we couldn't have asked for anything more than that. The drivers all did a great job of not putting a scratch on the car, which is good. The Level 5 team put in another stellar effort with such a short time frame in putting a brand-new car together. All of the people from HPD also did a great job. We're looking forward to getting into Petit Le Mans and going for the big one."
"Sometimes it's hard to push the car to the limit, but today, the car was really good," Bouchut said. "Traffic and the track conditions were difficult but I was able to push the car and didn't make any mistakes. We made a lot of improvements on the setup in such a short period of time. The car reacted very well to the changes we made. It's been a wonderful start to this new program. Everybody on the Level 5 team is very happy."
The Level 5 crew now heads to HPD's partner Wirth Research in England to prepare the team's second new HPD ARX-01g for its planned debut at next month's Petit Le Mans, which will close out the 2011 American Le Mans Series season. The 1,000-mile/10-hour race at Road Atlanta will also play host to the penultimate Intercontinental Le Mans Cup round of the year.
Earlier this month, Wirth Research and Honda Performance Development announced a new long-term technical partnership building upon the global successes achieved in recent years – a partnership that has produced numerous class and/or outright victories in all the world's premier sports-car races and championships including the Le Mans 24 Hours and 12 Hours of Sebring.
HPD also recently announced its plans to return to LMP1 competition in the new FIA World Endurance Championship with another chassis evolution, the ARX-03a, powered by a normally aspirated 3.4-liter V8 engine.
HPD will continue its support of the ACO's cost-capped LMP2 formula in 2012, utilizing the existing production-based HR28TT twin-turbocharged V6 engine along with a further update of the HPD ARX cost-capped LMP2 chassis. This update, dubbed the ARX-03b, will include a new monocoque chassis tub, designed by Wirth Research to the latest FIA safety and cost- capped regulations, and accommodating a wider range of drivers with its improved ergonomics.
"Utilizing the HPD line of sports-car products, our teams have already delivered some remarkable results in all of the world's greatest sports-car series and races, including the 12 Hours of Sebring and Le Mans 24 Hours," said Eriksen. "We expect the proven design, development and engineering expertise of HPD and our technical partners to provide our customers further success with our two latest prototype contenders."
Honda Performance Development (HPD) is the Honda racing company within North America. Founded in 1993 and located in Santa Clarita, Calif., HPD is the technical operations center for high-performance Honda racing cars and engines. HPD is the single engine supplier to the IZOD IndyCar Series and spearheaded championship-winning efforts in the 2009-2010 American Le Mans Series, 2010 Le Mans Series and the 2010 24 Hours of Le Mans.