Extreme Speed Motorsports and drivers Ed Brown, Johannes van Overbeek, Anthony Lazzaro and Simon Pagenaud recovered from early-race adversity at Daytona International Speedway to pilot their HPD ARX-03b Honda to a seventh-place finish Sunday in the prototype division at the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
This year’s 24-hour season-opening endurance race was the first race in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, a new sports-car racing series resulting from the merger of the American Le Mans Series and GRAND-AM. Honda Performance Development, the two-time LMP2 defending manufacturer and engine champion in American Le Mans Series competition, was represented in the new championship by Extreme Speed Motorsports, fielding a pair of HPD ARX-03b chassis and production-based Honda V6 twin-turbocharged engines.
The Extreme Speed HPDs were two of six LMP2 entries in the new “Prototype” [P] category, which at Daytona also included the unique Delta Wing design, and 11 Daytona Prototype cars from the former GRAND-AM series, comprising a competitive, 18-car field.
The race got off to a tough start for HPD, when the #2 Extreme Speed HPD, running third as the race entered its second hour, spun and made contact with the barriers at the “bus stop” chicane, resulting in suspension and body damage. After a long pit stop to effect repairs, the team resumed 15 laps down to the leaders.
Shortly after the incident with the #2 car, Scott Sharp spun the team’s #1 HPD at the same location, but made no contact and was able to continue without damage. Less than an hour later, however, the Honda-powered machine lost drive, pitted and was taken to the garage area to replace the transmission. The long stop cost the #1 car more than an hour in repair time before returning to the race, in 16th position and 43 laps down to the leaders.
From there, Extreme Speed and HPD mounted an impressive comeback. Triple driving stints from both IndyCar star Pagenaud and endurance veteran Lazzaro – and exceptional Continental tire wear from the HPD chassis – saw the #2 Honda rise steadily through the field. The ARX-03b was scored in 12th after six hours and ninth as the race reached the 12-hour mark.
At the same time, the second Extreme Speed HPD was conducting its own comeback. Sharp also completed a triple stint driving the #1 ARX-03b Honda during the nighttime hours, as he and co-drivers Ryan Dalziel and David Brabham made a comeback attempt, running just a couple of positions behind their teammates as both cars advanced through the night.
Unfortunately, the race for the #1 HPD ended just before 5 a.m., when mechanical problems led to retirement in the garage area. The #2 car, however, continued to run well, moving into eighth place in Prototype as dawn broke over Daytona International Speedway just after 7 a.m. Matching the pace of the other LMP2 entries, the #2 Extreme Speed HPD would advance as high as seventh in the Prototype class and 11th overall as the checkers flew just after 2:11 p.m. EDT.
The inaugural 2014 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship resumes March 15 with another endurance racing classic, the 62nd running of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
Allen Miller (Project Leader, Honda Performance Development) on this year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona: “It’s unfortunate that our early problems put us behind, but Extreme Speed did an excellent job of managing the recovery and both the HPD chassis and the Honda engine proved to be up to the task of taking on our first 24-hour race here on the high banks of Daytona. While we didn’t quite have the pace of the Daytona Prototypes, we have confidence in IMSA’s ability to thoroughly analyze the data from this weekend’s race, and look forward to a post-race review of the current Balance of Performance regulations prior to Sebring.”
Simon Pagenaud (#2 Extreme Speed Motorsports HPD ARX-02b Honda) finished 8th in prototype: “My triple stint in the car was good. The HPD was fast and quite enjoyable in the night running; I really had a good time with the car. We were trying to play ‘catch-up’ and we could keep improving our position and moving up in the standings. Overall, it went pretty well. I think the HPD held up very well with all the mayhem out on track. There was a lot of contact, as well as passing. It was good racing, but certainly, it was also mayhem at times.”