The Wirth Research designed and developed Honda Performance Development (HPD) ARX-01c produced a record-breaking performance on an outstanding debut at the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans sportscar race (12-13 June).
The Strakka Racing entered HPD ARX-01c not only dominated the highly competitive LMP2 category to take class honours but also finished a remarkable fifth overall. It's the best ever result by a LMP2 entry and one of the most impressive debuts in the famous French classic's long history. The victorious team's drivers - Jonny Kane, Nick Leventis and Danny Watts - set a new LMP2 record in laps completed and distance covered in the famous 24 hours. Adding to the celebrations Strakka Racing also captured the coveted Michelin Green X Challenge, a special prize awarded to the competitor consuming the least fuel while at the same time optimising performance - another significant tribute to the technical excellence of the HPD ARX-01c package.
"It was a stunning success by any standards - even more so with a car totally new to the very challenging and unique demands of Le Mans," remarked Nick Wirth, Technical Director of Wirth Research. "In what's widely regarded as the world's toughest endurance race for men and machines, the ARX-01c displayed a remarkable combination of speed and stamina to score an historic victory. I would like to congratulate the three drivers and all those at Strakka Racing as well as paying tribute to the Wirth Research technical team. To win on our debut at Le Mans is a truly great achievement."
Wirth Research designed the HPD ARX-01 originally with aerodynamics and other technical details specifically suited to the tight US tracks featured on the American Le Mans Series calendar. Recent ALMS victories on the streets of Long Beach and sweeps of Laguna Seca proved the competitiveness of this package.
Now, to make the race-winning ALMS car equally competitive on the faster European tracks - and in particular to rise to the unique demands of the long straights at Le Mans - Wirth Research has developed a new low downforce configuration. This aero package has been designed by Wirth Research maximising its groundbreaking ‘Development in the Digital Domain' techniques as showcased by another of the company's motor sport clients, the new Virgin Racing Grand Prix team. Similar to the F1 chassis, the bespoke HPD ARX-01c 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.
These technologies helped the latest low downforce HPD ARX-01c - as raced by Strakka Racing in the European focused Le Mans Series - to win on its maiden appearance at Paul Ricard. Furthermore they allowed the drivers to arrive in France for Le Mans well prepared for the Herculean tasks ahead having spent considerable time optimising different possible technical set-ups in the Wirth Simulator located within the company's headquarters in Bicester, UK. Such meticulous preparations contributed hugely to the outstanding debut achievements HPD ARX-01c at Le Mans where the car displayed unrivalled pace in qualifying and an extraordinary combination of speed and durability throughout the grueling 24 Hours.
"The car was just fantastic," enthused team owner and driver Nick Leventis. "We achieved a great chassis balance right from the moment we arrived here which allowed us to push hard in qualifying. Then the car was spot-on throughout the race. We couldn't have asked for a more perfect performance."
"It was an unbelievable race; we experienced no problems whatsoever and the car was so easy to drive close to its limits," agreed Kane who posted the impressive LMP2 pole position time, eclipsing several of the bigger engined LMP1 rivals in the process. "We just stopped for fuel, tyres and routine maintenance. This is an incredible result for all involved: Strakka, HPD, Michelin and, of course, Wirth Research."
The prominence of the Wirth Research produced HPD ARX-01c was further displayed by the performance of the sister car run by Highcroft Racing. Having won the two most recent rounds of the ALMS championship, the US-based team brought its HPD ARX-01c to Europe for the very first time. Despite being totally new to the race and the low downforce aerodynamics, Highcroft came close to producing a one-two finish. After 18 hours, its drivers - David Brabham, Marino Franchitti and Marco Werner - were holding a strong second place in LMP2 hot on the heels of Strakka when a coolant pressure issue halted their equally outstanding progress. Highcroft's prominent showing, nevertheless, helped to underline the unmatched speed of the HPD ARX-01c within LMP2.
"In the end the race was cruel to us but overall I'm proud of what we achieved," said team owner Duncan Dayton. "It was always going to be a huge learning experience both in terms of the race and the new aero package but by Sunday morning our pace was incredibly strong and we were well on target to meet our objectives of a class podium and top ten finish. We had a bit of bad luck, but we can't blame it on that. The Strakka guys have executed flawlessly and to a man on the Highcroft team we tip our hats to them. They have done an excellent job with what's a remarkable car and have thoroughly deserved the victory."
Dayton and his Highcroft team will now return to the States to target further ALMS glory with their HPD ARX-01c. Meanwhile the record-breaking Strakka Racing outfit will be looking for more top honours in the Le Mans Series. Although Highcroft and Strakka are very much independent teams, as at Le Mans both will benefit from on-going pro-active technical support from HPD and Wirth Research.