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HPD and Wirth Research rev up for Le Mans with double US victory

The super-successful HPD ARX sportscar programme continues to rack up victories en route to the year’s running of the Le Mans 24 Hours classic (16-17 June).

The product of a decade-long technical affiliation between Wirth Research and California-based Honda Performance Development (HPD), the latest versions of the HPD ARX prototype dominated both LMP1 and LMP2 classes in the most recent round of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) to finish first and second overall.

This double victory in the six-hour race at Laguna once again underlines the strength and efficiency of Wirth Research’s advanced all-digital aerodynamic and chassis development process combined with HPD’s world-class engines.

Since its impressive debut in the season opener – the famous 12 Hours of Sebring – the new ARX-03a has underlined its full potential with the US-based Muscle Milk Pickett Racing entry scoring back-to-back ALMS race victories at Long Beach and Laguna Seca. Drivers Klaus Graf and Lucas Luhr were in a class of their own last time out at Laguna claiming pole position and fastest lap on their way to a flawless victory and an extended championship lead. Underscoring the efficiency of the HPD ARX package, the team set the fastest race lap and won its second consecutive Michelin Green X Challenge en route to the win.

\"We built a good lead early and then had to keep our focus, stay out of trouble and bring it home – and that’s what we did,” reported a delighted Luhr.

And it has been an even more impressive story in the LMP2 category where the new HPD ARX-03b has completed a hat-trick of ALMS class wins with Level 5 Motorsports. Scott Tucker, Luis Diaz and Franck Montagny not only took category honours at Laguna but also finished second overall behind the victorious LMP1 ARX-03a run by Muscle Milk Pickett Racing. They, too, lead their class championship after three of ten rounds. 

“The aero of this car is so great, you can carry so much speed into the corners,” enthused Diaz. “The mechanical side of the car is great, too. It’s just awesome.”

These results in some of the world’s toughest endurance races are all the more impressive as the HPD V8 powered ARX-03a and the HPD twin-turbo V6 propelled ARX-03b prototypes were only introduced at the start of this campaign. Despite an almost total lack of pre-season testing, both models have displayed an unrivalled combination of speed and stamina right from their debuts at Sebring, further illustrating the capabilities of Wirth Research’s cutting-edge all-digital processes.

“We entered an exciting new partnership with HPD at the start of 2012 which is already making its mark at the forefront of international sportscar racing,” said Nick Wirth, President of Wirth Research. “Our recent P1 and P2 victories in America are further proof of this company’s unrivalled expertise in – as well as the cost effective benefits of – our pioneering all-digital design processes and simulation techniques. By maximising our computer-generated virtual environments we can not only produce a highly competitive chassis but also minimise the need for expensive track testing. Appropriately – as so accurately symbolised at Laguna – it really is a ‘win-win’ result.” 

After three LMP2 wins in ALMS, Level 5 Motorsports is now heading to Europe for this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours, the biggest date on the sportscar calendar, where it lines up alongside the similar ARX-03b of Starworks Motorsport in what’s a highly competitive 20-car P2 field. Like Level 5 Motorsports, Starworks has already savoured major success in 2012. It took top LMP2 spoils and third overall in the opening round of the 2012 FIA World Endurance Championship, which was run alongside ALMS at Sebring. 

Adding to HPD’s presence at next month’s Le Mans 24 Hours, both British-based JRM and Strakka Racing outfits will be fielding ARX-03a prototypes in the premier P1 class. They are aiming to be the pace-setters among the petrol-engined entries as well as taking the fight to the diesel-powered hierarchy at the head of the field. 

Strakka is stepping up to the top class after making history at Le Mans in 2010 when its previous generation HPD ARX-01c took LMP2 pole and won the class by setting five new event records along the way, including the highest-ever overall finish for an LMP2 chassis when completing the 24 hours in a remarkable fifth position.

“This will be HPD’s third appearance at Le Mans and, with four entries, the largest yet,” continued Wirth. “In addition, this year sees us compete in LMP1 at La Sarthe for the first time. We\'ve started strongly this season with the new cars, but we have worked especially hard to come up with yet more aerodynamic innovation for the Le Mans aero packages.”

Clearly the 24 Hours presents its own unique challenges and the level of competition is the fiercest our teams face in the year. HPD’s prototype programme, though, has continued to rack up the victories and the strong recent performance of the new ARX-03 cars, backed up by consistent technical support from our ground-breaking digital processes mean our teams will all arrive in France with well founded confidence.” 

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