'Acura Advance' is the slogan for Honda Motor's luxury and performance models.
In the motorsports world, Acura is also advancing - to the top level of sportscar racing in 2009.
Acura Motorsports will enter the LMP1 class in the 2009 American Le Mans Series.
Acura's entry into the most powerful and technically advanced division in ALMS will feature two Acura ARX-02a prototype sports cars developed by Honda Performance Development (HPD).
Acura officials made the 2009 announcement in front of a standing-room-only media conference on Aug. 29 in Detroit.
De Ferran Motorsports and Patrón Highcroft Racing will campaign the new Acura LMP1 cars, which are being designed in concert with Wirth Research in England. Testing of the new Acura LMP1 cars began in November, while the new Acura machines will debut in the 55th annual 12 Hours of Sebring, set for March 21, 2009.
In addition to fielding two LMP1 ARX-02a cars in 2009, Acura will continue in the LMP2 category with the Lowe's Fernandez team.
Acura entered sports-car racing in 2007 by fielding Acura-powered LMP2 prototype cars on Michelin tires for Andretti Green Racing, Highcroft Racing and Lowe's Fernandez Racing in the 12-race ALMS. The three-car contingent marked the first factory motorsports program in Acura's 20 year history. De Ferran Motorsports was added to the Acura lineup in 2008.
In 23 starts, the Acura machines, with 3.4-liter, V-8 powerplants, scored seven LMP2 class victories, including overall wins by Patrón Highcroft Racing at Lime Rock Park last July and Andretti Green Racing at Detroit in August. Acura cars also recorded six overall pole positions.
The Acura Motorsports program featured the first racing engine and chassis primarily designed and developed by HPD, Honda's wholly-owned racing subsidiary. It also marked the first time HPD had taken on concurrent motorsports programs, supporting teams in both the American Le Mans Series and the IndyCar Series.
De Ferran returned to active competition last year by forming de Ferran Motorsports, with the former Indy 500 winner and multiple open-wheel series champion serving as both driver and team owner. The legendary Brazilian racing figure recently served as Sporting Director for the Honda Formula One racing team before establishing his new ALMS team. De Ferran and young star Simon Pagenaud drove the No. 66 Panasonic ELS Surround Acura ARX-01b in eight 2008 races.
The Patrón Highcroft Racing team, owned by team principal Duncan Dayton, was the most successful of the Acura entries in 2008, taking the overall and LMP2 win at Lime Rock in July and LMP2 class victories at Long Beach, Road America and Mosport, Ontario, Canada. Co-drivers David Brabham and Scott Sharp guided the No. 9 Patrón Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-01b to all four victories.
Lowe's Fernandez Racing campaigns the No. 15 Lowe's Acura ARX-01b prototype with drivers Adrian Fernandez and Luis Diaz of Mexico. Lowe's Fernandez Racing, formed in the fall of 2000 by Fernandez and motorsports veteran Tom Anderson, has claimed victories in the Champ Car (CART), IndyCar (IRL) and Grand-Am Series.
Acura's racing operation reflects the manufacturer's position as a leader in automotive performance and technology, and the American Le Mans Series provides an arena for competition against other car makers in the demanding sport of endurance racing. Acura Automobile Division was launched on March 27, 1986.
Honda Performance Development (HPD) was founded in 1993. Located in Santa Clarita, Calif., HPD is the technical operations center for Honda and Acura's high-performance racing cars and engines. HPD coordinates Honda's participation in the IndyCar Series and Acura's activities in American Le Mans Series.
QUOTES ON ACURA'S 2009 LMP1 SPORTS CAR PROGRAM:
Executive Vice President of Auto Operations
for American Honda Motor Company, Inc.
"Since launching the Acura American Le Mans Series program in 2007, our goal has always been to compete at the highest level of sports-car racing. The LMP1 class of the American Le Mans Series represents the pinnacle of sports-car racing in this country, from both a competitive and technological standpoint.
As we prepare to elevate Acura to Tier One status among luxury road cars, we feel it only appropriate to make this move to the uppermost level of American Le Mans Series competition, as well."
President, Honda Performance Development (HPD)
"This is the logical next step in our business plan. The Acura sports-car program has energized HPD's associates and met numerous objectives during its first two seasons of American Le Mans Series competition. We feel we are fully prepared to take on this new challenge."
GIL DE FERRAN
Team Owner, de Ferran Motorsports
"I am delighted with our team's relationship with Acura and my longstanding involvement with Honda, and we have taken another important step with this announcement. We are a young team, but de Ferran Motorsports has a great depth of experience and talent within its ranks. We are driven to produce a contending Acura Motorsports sports-car program. We look forward to the challenge of competing in the LMP1 class and putting Acura at the forefront of American Le Mans Series racing."
Team Owner, Patrón Highcroft Racing
"Our relationship with Acura and HPD has been extremely beneficial to Patron Highcroft Racing and we are proud to have been chosen as a part of Acura's new LMP1 program for 2009. We have had a very collaborative effort with Acura, HPD and Wirth Research over the past two seasons. We started with a good business plan and have been competitive throughout our ALMS program. Adding Patrón as our major sponsor strengthened our Acura program, and we had a very successful 2008 campaign. Now, moving to the LMP1 class, we expect to continue the progress that we began two years ago. The 2009 season will be exciting for Acura and the Patrón Highcroft Racing team."
Team Co-owner, Lowe's Fernandez Racing
"We have had an outstanding sports-car program with Acura the last two years. We started with the Lola chassis and the move to the Acura car was a great improvement for our Lowe's Fernandez team. Now, we will concentrate on racing for the LMP2 point championship, as well as winning many races. Our luck hasn't been with us as much as we would like. But our association with Acura has been outstanding and we are pleased to be continuing our relationship. We want to be right in the thick of the LMP2 title chase in 2009."