What's up at Honda Performance Development for 2007

Click the Acura LMP2 car for a gallery of the car and the Highcroft racing garage
Acura held its 2008 model introduction near Detroit last week in conjunction with the Detroit Grand Prix at Belle Isle. The race this year was a double header with an ALMS feature on Saturday and the IRL race on Sunday, and Honda figures prominently in both. Jack Spurney of Honda Performance Development gave a rundown on the activities of Honda Performance Development this year.

The Acura LMP2 cars are in their first year of competition in 2007 and are currently running second in the manufacturer standings to the Porsche RS Spyders. In line with Acura's place as a sport luxury brand, they decided it was worthwhile to compete in the more technological and competitive ALMS against the likes of Audi, Porsche and all the brands in the GT classes. The new ALMS V-8 was designed completely in-house at HPD with no outsiders involved. The Acura engine is also the first Honda race engine completely designed outside of Japan, with all the work having been done in California.

Continue reading about Honda Performance Development after the jump.

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Honda also decided to do the chassis development in house. Originally Andretti-Green and Highcroft racing were going to use a Courage LC75 chassis, with Fernandez Racing running a Lola chassis using the Acura engine. Fernandez has run Lola all year, but early testing with the Courage showed that it wasn't up to snuff and they ended up completely re-engineering it to meet their needs.

A lot of computational fluid dynamics and fifty-percent-scale wind tunnel work resulted in a forty percent increase in the downforce of the Courage. Full scale testing improved that further. HPD ended up redesigning the suspension, chassis and body work to the point that by the time they got to Sebring this year, it had become the ARX-01 and was labeled as an Acura chassis.

The Highcroft team has focused on chassis development while the Fernandez squad with the proven Lola chassis has been the primary engine development team. Andretti-Green gets all the benefits of the other two. The result of all this work was that the Acura won the LMP2 class at the Sebring opener and has run competitively all year long.

For 2008, Acura is planning a major revision of the Acura chassis targeted at further performance improvements and more importantly the serviceability of the car. The current car is difficult to repair during a race and that needs to be improved, especially for longer races.

Over on the IRL side, Honda is currently the sole supplier of engines since Toyota and GM dropped out at the end of the 2005 season. One aspect of the lack of competition is that Honda doesn't have to stress their engines to the limit. In spite of the cars being as fast as ever, they haven't had a single in-race engine failure in 2007. The current engine is a 3.5L V-8 that runs on 100 percent ethanol.

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