The Acura Announcement
The long awaited next installment of the Acura LMP2 story was revealed in detail at the Portland round of the American Le Mans Series race on Thursday.

While some of the details were announced last week at an IRL race, the press conference at Portland filled in further details in the program.

It will involve three teams next year; Highcroft, Andretti Green Racing and Fernandez Racing. During the announcement, it was revealed that the Highcroft team will be running a Courage chassis and will form the bulk of the chassis development process over the next season. AGR will also run a Courage chassis, while Fernandez will field the previously announced Lola chassis. All three teams will be single car entries and will run on Michelin tires.

Robert Clarke, President of Honda Performance Development explained the philosophy behind the three team effort. “We want to learn as much as we can in this area of motorsports for us. Both AGR and Fernandez have experience in open wheeled racing, but we needed to also have a team that has some experience in endurance racing. We chose Highcroft as they are an existing team, although they are new to us. They are a young team with high aspirations. The focus of this team will be on chassis development. We’ll be willing to take risks with the Courage chassis in order to learn what it takes to be competitive. Just don’t expect it to look like a Courage chassis very long.

“We are pleased to continue our association with AGR. We have enjoyed a very nice relationship with them in the past and we know how to work together and effectively with them. They too will be racing a Courage chassis and will benefit from the transfer of development from Highcroft.

“Fernandez will be running the Lola chassis and will be our team for engine development. We are using the Lola chassis as a way for us to gauge the performance of our engine, as there are other Lola chassis running in the series. Fernandez will be the first team to actually test, as the Lola chassis is actually the first to be ready to go. As of now, the first test is scheduled to begin in late August. All three cars will be on track at Sebring in 2007.”

Acura recognizes that the engine is only a portion of the equation, so that is why the extensive chassis development is to take place. Plus, the ultimate goal is to have a P1 program running later on, likely in 2009. Le Mans is not in the plans for 2007, but it is hoped that the program is successful enough to try to run at Le Mans in 2008. As far as goals, Clarke said he “would like to start with finishing. Our goal for Sebring is to finish, and we think that is realistic. As far as a win in 2007, yes we would like to get that too.”

According to Clarke, “the engine is for ALMS only. It is a clean sheet design. It may appear to be similar to the IRL motor, because it too is a 90 degree V8, DOHC motor, but is a totally new design. No parts are interchangeable with the IRL motor at all.” This will be the first engine completely designed and developed in house at the HPD facilities in Santa Clarita, California.

XM Satellite Radio was announced as the primary sponsor for the AGR effort, while Lowes home improvement centers will continue its relationship with Fernandez Racing. Driver and other sponsors will be announced at a later date. Fernandez also revealed that he will not return to Grand Am competition next season.
Gary Horrocks


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