Defending American Le Mans Series LMP champions Highcroft Racing have finally shown the first images of the new HPD ARX-01e that will campaign in 2011. With the Le Mans Prototypes returning to a two class setup this year, Highcroft has had a busy off-season testing the all-new twin-turbo V6 that Honda Performance Development (HPD) has produced for P2 customers while also developing a new P1 car.
This year’s P1 rules are based on the old P2 rules with normally-aspirated E10-fueled engines limited to 3.4 liters but with the same 900 kilogram minimum weight as the pre-2010 P1 cars. The ARX-01e will be powered by an updated version of the tried and true V8 that Highcroft has used since the beginning of the Acura ALMS effort in 2007. To compensate for the extra 50 kg the car now has to carry, the 01e engine gets larger air restrictors that boost output to over 500 horsepower.
Aside from the V8, the only other major component carried over from last year’s ARX-01c is the central tub. All of the bodywork and suspension hardware has been heavily revamped by HPD and Wirth Research. Nick Wirth and his UK-based race engineering shop have been working with Honda’s California -based racing division since the program was launched in 2006. The 01e adopts several of the design features first seen on the 2009 ARX-02a including the equal-diameter front and rear wheels.
The aerodynamic package of the 01e looks like a blend of the older P1 car and last year’s 01c. The green and black Patron that has become familiar on the Highcroft machine for the last three years has been replaced by sponsorship from from technical partner Michelin.
The Highcroft crew is now headed to Sebring for a shakedown test with the new racer ahead of next week’s season opening 12 Hour enduro. David Brabham and Marino Franchitti will be back in the cockpit with Simon Pagenaud joining the lineup for the longer races at Sebring, Road Atlanta and Laguna Seca.
Update: The team hit the track in Sebring over the weekend completing 33 laps on Saturday in their first shakedown run. Day one was dedicated to systems checks before starting on some setup work on Sunday. Monday the track will be open for two four hour official test sessions for all race entrants. Those sessions will give us the first indications of how well the Highcroft HPD machine will run against the Audis, Peugeots and Aston Martins.