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  Acura ARX-01b

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Country of origin:Japan
Produced in:2008
Numbers built:At least 4
Designed by:Courage / Acura
Predecessor:Acura ARX-01a
Successor:HPD ARX-01c
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:September 04, 2008
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Click here to download printer friendly versionIn the fall of 2006 the Honda Motor Company surprised the endurance racing world by announcing an all new American Le Mans Series program for their Acura brand. Of all major Japanese manufacturers Honda had by far the least experience with sportscar racing, so it looked like a very tall mountain for the company to climb. Their choice to enter the smaller LMP2 class seemed logical at first glance, but it did mean that they would have to take on the combined might of Porsche and Roger Penske. Fortunately Honda Performance Developments (HPD) realised this and came up with an unconventional plan of attack, which, as it turned out, worked remarkably well.

Instead of taking the plunge all by themselves, Acura Motorsports decided to acquire existing chassis from a specialized manufacturer. Actually not one, but two; Courage and Lola. It was decided that the Courage 'LC70' tub would form the basis for the Acura badged car and was extensively modified before ever entering a race. The Lola B05/40 received the latest updates from the British company and then was left virtually unmodified throughout the 2007 season for a very good reason. It would serve as the rolling test bed for the engine development program. Based on a rejected IRL design, this 3.4 litre V8 engine was also not brand new.

Very early in the program Acura contracted three experienced teams to run the cars in 2007; Andretti Green Racing, Duncan Dayton's Highcroft and Fernandez Motorsport. The first two were handed the Acura badged machines, while Adrian Fernandez received the Acura engined Lola. The first public appearance of the three 'Acuras' came at the official test in preparation for the season opening Sebring 12 Hours race. Now known as the Acura ARX-01a, the two Courage based cars featured a distinctly different aero dynamics package. The most obvious change was the front section with the brake cooling intakes moved from under the nose to right next to the fenders.

Maybe not against all odds, but certainly unexpectedly, the Acuras performed very well at their debut. Often described as the most demanding of all endurance races, the Sebring 12 Hours was a major success for the Japanese manufacturer. As the seasoned Porsche opposition faltered, the Andretti Green team finished second overall and scored the LMP2 class win. Two laps behind the Fernandez Lola clinched second in class and third overall. It was a fantastic start to the season, but in the following and much shorter races, the fully developed Porsche RS Spyder and the highly experienced Team Penske proved too much for the Acuras to beat. They did come close at various occasions.

Over the winter the Acuras were further modified and appeared at the start of the 2008 season as the ARX-01b. Fernandez was now also handed an Acura and a few races into the season Indy racing legend Gil de Ferran became the fourth Acura 'customer'. The development clearly showed on the track and by the third race of the season the Highcroft team picked up Acura's second class victory and the first one of the new season. It was the start of a remarkable run by the brightly liveried machine. Brilliantly piloted by David Brabham and Scott Sharp, the Patron sponsored Acura all but bridged the gap with the championship leading drivers, scoring one overall win in the process. That feat was repeated by the AGR team at Detroit.

At the time of writing Brabham and Sharp are just four points behind the points' leaders in LMP2 and with two races to go have a good chance of taking the championship in what is only the second season of sports car racing for Acura. The Japanese manufacturer already laid out plans to move up to LMP1 with the Highcroft and De Ferran teams in 2008. If it is as well planned and executed as their LMP2 program, Audi and Peugeot should be seriously worried. A second Japanese win in the 24 Hours of Le Mans might not be far away.

We would like to thank SpeedTV.com's Marshall for providing us with his insight and photography.

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  Article Image gallery (18) Specifications User Comments (2)