Wirth Research is gearing up for one of the most significant weeks in the pioneering company's history. This weekend high-tech race cars that it has designed are competing in both the FIA Formula One World Championship and the Le Mans 24 Hours - an achievement only legendary sporting marque Ferrari can match in 2010.
Though facing very different challenges, both F1 and LMP2 cars share a very similar pedigree having been designed by Wirth Research utilising the groundbreaking ‘Development in the Digital Domain' techniques.
While the Virgin Racing team will be contesting the Canadian Grand Prix, a pair of Honda Performance Development (HPD) ARX-01c LMP2 prototypes will be making their maiden appearance in the day-night-day French endurance classic.
To cope with Le Mans' notoriously long straights and fast lay-out, the two HPD ARX-01c LMP2 prototypes - entered by Highcroft Racing and Strakka Racing (photo above) - are running the latest low downforce bodywork. Similar to the F1 chassis, this bespoke aero package has been developed using advanced Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) and has been tested extensively on the state-of-the-art Wirth Research simulator.
Strakka Racing and its drivers Jonny Kane, Nick Leventis and Danny Watts have already proved the competitiveness of this low downforce configuration. Competing in the European-based Le Mans Series, the HPD ARX-01c has displayed unrivalled LMP2 class pace in the opening two rounds held at Paul Ricard in France and Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium. In both races the Strakka Racing entry has qualified more than two seconds a lap faster than it's nearest rival and the team gave the HPD ARX-01c is first European win on debut at Paul Ricard. The LMS set-up, though, is new to Highcroft Racing, which has been running its HPD ARX-01c in a higher downforce format with huge success scoring two outright wins from three starts in the US-based 2010 American Le Mans Series where the circuit characteristics tend to be notably twistier and slower.
Highcroft Racing and its impressive driver line-up of David Brabham, Marino Franchitti and Marco Werner, though, have tested with the Le Mans-style aerodynamics at Monticello in New York and are well prepared for the team's first appearance in France. Brabham and Werner certainly know what it takes to succeed at Le Mans - between them they have amassed no fewer than four 24 Hours wins in France. Highcroft also successfully completed an additional 12 hour test with its HPD ARX-01c immediately after completing the 12 Hours of Sebring in Florida earlier this year.
Both teams now have a further ten hours of Free Practice and Qualifying at Le Mans on Wednesday and Thursday to fine-tune their chassis to the superfast nature of the famous Sarthe circuit before the 24 Hours kicks off at 15.00hrs on Saturday afternoon.
"This is going to be a huge week in the history of Wirth Research with our technology being tested in two of the world's premier motor sport events on either side of the Atlantic," confirms Nick Wirth. "Our first appearance at Le Mans is another notable landmark for us all and we have high hopes that both Highcroft Racing and Strakka Racing will be able to showcase the prowess of the HPD ARX-01c. Our first target, of course, is for both cars to go the distance - never an easy challenge with a debutant car. Beyond that, of course, we would like to be in the hunt for honours. Rules in the US allow Highcroft to win ALMS races outright - the regulations at Le Mans, though, favour the bigger, more powerful LMP1 prototypes so, a more realistic target, is the LMP2 class."