Following a mixed season with a fast, but fragile, Lola-Aston Martin, Muscle Milk Pickett Racing is moving onto bigger horizons in 2012, with what's being touted as one of the best LMP1 packages to take the fight to the factory diesels.
In a SPEED.com exclusive, team owner Greg Pickett confirmed Monday that his team will campaign a new HPD ARX-03a in the American Le Mans Series, retaining its race-winning driver lineup of Klaus Graf and Lucas Luhr in a bid for the LMP1 championship.
The move to Honda Performance Development's latest prototype contender, an evolution of the ARX-01e that Highcroft Racing took to a runner-up finish in the Twelve Hours of Sebring, sees another significant step forward for the Benicia, Calif.-based team, which is also expanding into the LMPC ranks for next year.
"Going forward, I was committed to trying to get our team the most competitive piece that I felt we could get in LMP1," Pickett told SPEED.com. "I had done a pretty thorough look last year and felt the [Lola-Aston Martin] was the best interim piece for us. The rules-changing and evolution has continued to have a lot of movement, right up to now, almost."
Muscle Milk's Michelin-shod HPD ARX-03a is the same model which Strakka Racing will campaign in the FIA World Endurance Championship. (Image: Strakka Racing)
After having evaluated LMP1 options from ORECA, Lola and HPD, including a visit to Lola's Huntingdon, England headquarters and a trip to nearby Wirth Research, Pickett ended up settling on HPD's new bespoke P1 car, the ARX-03a, for the team's ALMS 2012 attack.
While Muscle Milk enters its third full-season of competition with its third different prototype, Pickett is hopeful that the combination of its first all-new car, and one of the first built towards 2012 ACO specification, will pay dividends in the team's title quest next year.
"We're very enthusiastic about the project," Pickett said. "We became convinced that it could be a competitive piece. I've met with Roger Griffiths and others down at HPD's headquarters in Santa Clarita and have been able to see their quality control, which is exceptional. We're also very happy to announce that Klaus and Lucas will be back full-time."
The multi-year deal with Honda Performance Development stretches beyond Pickett's ALMS program, as Muscle Milk will become the title sponsor of American Honda's factory motocross team, now known as Team Honda Muscle Milk.
Pickett's Cytosport brand became involved in AMA motocross two years ago through sponsorship of Joe Gibbs Racing's efforts but switches its alliance to the factory Honda America squad.
"Muscle Milk is very proud to be deeply involved with two of the three high-profile Honda motorsports endeavors in the U.S," Pickett said. "We think there could be some really good synergy. Any time a brand like ours can get involved with such an iconic well-known brand as Honda and HPD, it usually produces a very successful and powerful combination."