New Acura ARX-01b Prototype Cars Show Impressive Speed In American Le Mans Series Winter Testing At SebringNew Drivers Fittipaldi, Sharp Join Acura Regulars In LMP2 Class
The new Acura ARX-01b prototype cars made their maiden voyage this week in American Le Mans Series winter testing at the famed Sebring International Raceway, in preparation for the 56th annual Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring set for March 15.
The defending Sebring champions in the LMP2 class, the No. 26 XM Satellite Radio Acura team from Andretti Green Racing returned to the 3.7-mile, 17-turn road course with sensational speed from drivers Bryan Herta and Christian Fittipaldi. Fittipaldi, a longtime open-wheel racing star, moved to the AGR team this winter and quickly showed the speed needed to challenge the Penske Racing Porsche, the defending series winners.
Herta drove his mount to a speed of 127.413 miles per hour for the top LMP2 clocking of the three-day test.
Another new Acura driver, IndyCar Series veteran Scott Sharp, teamed with David Brabham and Stefan Johansson in the all-new No. 9 Patron Spirits Acura ARX-01b at Sebring, and the Highcroft trio recorded a best speed of 126.139 mph Sharp began his racing career in sports cars before a 14-year stint in open-wheel cars. Brabham and Sharp will be the regulars in the Patron Acura throughout the 12-race American Le Mans Series campaign, with Johansson driving at Sebring and Atlanta.
The popular Lowe's Fernandez team has returned to the ALMS trail with the new Acura ARX-01b chassis after campaigning the Lola in 2007. Veterans Adrian Fernandez and Luis Diaz are back in the cockpit of the No. 15 Lowe's Acura and timed in at a best speed of 125.877 mph in the team's first outing with the new car.
The two Penske Porsches, with drivers Timo Bernhard, Romain Dumas, Sasha Maassen and American Patrick Long, continued to keep a strong pace with best speeds of 127.330 and 126.599 mph, respectively.
Acura also made news off the track Tuesday with the announcement that the automaker will add a fourth Acura ARX-01b machine later in the 2008 season.
Engine : 3.4 L., 8-cylinder
Power: 500 hp
Former Indy 500 winner and two-time Champ Car champion Gil de Ferran will come out of retirement to serve as the primary driver and team owner for the de Ferran Motorsports entry. De Ferran, who recently served as Sporting Director of the Honda Formula 1 team, has hired veteran racing executive John Anderson to hold his team's general manager role. Most recently, Anderson was team manager for Dario Franchitti's Indy 500 and IndyCar Series championship run in 2007.
De Ferran's new team will announce a second driver and sponsorship partners in the near future and the Brazilian driver plans to compete in the American Le Mans Series before mid-season.
Testing will continue for the three other Acura teams in February as they make development changes for the upcoming 2008 season.
The campaign will get underway on March 15 with the 12 Hours of Sebring followed by the Acura Sports Car Challenge at St. Petersburg on April 5 and Long Beach Grand Prix on April 19.ACÚRA QÚOTES:
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ (No. 15 Lowe's Fernandez Racing Acura ARX-01b): 'We went through all of the normal stages of a brand new car and first test - making the drivers comfortable. I think there is a lot of potential and I am encouraged by the results of the test. We definitely made the right switch to the ARX and we are very excited about the work that Acura and Nick Wirth Wirth Research have done.'LÚIS DIAZ (No. 15 Lowe's Fernandez Racing Acura ARX-01b):
'It was a good first experience with this new car. The team did a tremendous job in preparing the ARX. This car is definitely more stable under braking and it doesn't seem to be as sensitive to changes in weather like last year's car. All three Acura teams are working together like one team to the develop the new ARX chassis faster. 'CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI (#26 XM Satellite Radio AGR Acura ARX-01b):
'It feels great to drive a car like our XM Acura. The 'G' loads here at Sebring are very hard with these cars. But it is exciting to race at these speeds again. We had some mechanical issues during the test and the AGR guys will work on those problems. That is why we are here testing. I am still getting used to the car. Bryan Herta has been driving this car for a year and he knows in less than a lap what to change on the car. It is still a learning process with me. But I'm ready for the Sebring race.'Source - Honda
Acura ARX-01B : The Car
When the Acura Automobile Division was launched in 1986, the marque was created to bring stimulating performance, state-of-the-art technology and engineering and an unprecedented level of customer service to the luxury import market.
Now in its 21st year, Acura's venture continues to show extraordinary results. As one of the topselling luxury import nameplates in the Ú.S., Acura offers premium performance vehicles, through a network of more than 266 dealers.
In 2005, Acura established a milestone year when the division exceeded the 200,000 unit sales mark for the first time in its history, with year-end sales totaling 209,610 units. Acura sedans helped push the division over the 200,000 unit mark, lead by record setting sales of the RL, TL and TSX sedans.
While selling a large number of automobiles, Acura has consistently performed extremely well in one of the key measures of success - making the ownership experience the most satisfying as possible. Acura has ranked number one in the annual J.D. Power and Associates Customer Satisfaction Study(TM) (CSI) survey four times and continues to score above the industry average.
The success of Acura can be attributed largely to the research and development that goes into every vehicle. Acura automobiles are designed and built using leading-edge technology. They are also well known for unparalleled ergonomic design, quality and durability.
In addition to providing engine support, Acura also supplies the Acura ARX-01a chassis used by Andretti Green Racing and Highcroft Racing in the ALMS LMP2 class. Andretti Green Racing drivers Bryan Herta, Tony Kanaan and Dario Franchitti drove the Acura ARX-01a to a victory in the 2007 Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring LMP2 class, the debut race for the Acura chassis.Source - Andretti Green Racing
Patron Highcroft Acura ARX-01b Places Fifth in Grueling 56th Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring
The trio of David Brabham, Scott Sharp and Stefan Johansson drove the No. 9 Patron Highcroft Acura ARX-01b to an overall fifth place finish Saturday in the 56th running of the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring. The Patron entry scored fourth in the LMP2 division.
The overall runner-up finish of the Lowe's Fernandez Acura ARX-01b, with drivers Adrian Fernandez and Luis Diaz, was excluded due to a part failure in post-race inspection. A seal in the engine air box failed following the team's impressive initial performance with the new ARX-01b chassis.
The Patron Highcroft Racing Acura started 11th Saturday on the 17-turn, 3.7-mile famed airport circuit and consistently moved into the top five spots. Only a few small problems kept the Patron team from a podium finish.
The defending Sebring LMP2 winning team, No. 26 XM Satellite Radio AGR Acura ARX-01b of Marco Andretti, Christian Fittipaldi and Bryan Herta, was a contender for the first six hours, with Andretti leading overall in the first two hours of competition. The 21-year-old Andretti, seeking to repeat his grandfather, Mario's, Sebring success, recorded blistering lap times as he drove from 12th on the first lap to first by Lap 44.
Fittipaldi and Herta kept the AGR machine in the top four for the first half of the classic race before overheating problems dropped their mount to seventh by the eighth hour. Finally, the heating issue forced the XM Radio car to be parked after 293 laps. The AGR Acura was awarded 19th.
The LMP2 Penske Porsche of Timo Bernhard, Romain Dumas and Emmanuel Collard won the Sebring event Saturday to become only the third non-premiere class team to win the overall title. The other winners were the Porsche in 1983 and the Nissan 1994.
The next American Le Mans Series event takes place on the streets of St. Petersburg on April 5 in the second annual Acura Sports Car Challenge.ACÚRA QÚOTES:
HPD President Erik Berkman following the exclusion of the No. 15 Lowe's Fernandez Acura ARX-01b due to failure in post-race inspection: 'With this design, which was carried over from last year, we have never failed a 'stall' test for the duration of our participation in the American Le Mans Series. A detailed analysis must be performed to determine root causes and appropriate remedies. We have let the supporters of our program down, and I particularly want to apologize to everyone in the Lowe's Fernandez organization who worked hard to achieve an excellent result today, and through no fault of their own had it snatched from their grasp.'
DAVID BRABHAM (#9 Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-01b): 'I feel pretty pleased with the result. We struggled a bit throughout the week so I thought if we finished in the top six it would be a great start to the year. To have achieved that in our first race this season is terrific. The car ran faultlessly the whole race - our only problem was that our pace was not great at the beginning. It picked up halfway through and onward through the end of the race, but then it was too late to make up the difference. This is a strong way to kick off the season.'
STEFAN JOHANSSON (#9 Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-01b): ' 'Overall, the car was good, and we clocked some reasonable times in the end. The second stint was challenging, as I was fighting substantial understeer. The tires started coming in halfway through the run, and the track started gripping up. Overall, there was no major drama; we had a strong car.'
SCOTT SHARP (#9 Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-01b): 'That was just a really great run. I got very comfortable in the car and was able to turn some really consistent laps. It was a marked difference from the beginning of the day. It all came together for us there at the end. David, Stefan and I were really quick. We were just a little too far behind at that point. The Acura is the best car I have ever driven.'
BRYAN HERTA (#26 XM Satellite Radio AGR Acura ARX-01b): 'Obviously, the XM Acura had a lot of speed early in the race. But, later on, we started struggling with the overheating and finally, we just couldn't control the temperature with the engine anymore. It hurts to not get a better finish here, but it's a long championship ahead. At this point, we just have to look forward to the Acura Sports Car Challenge of St. Pete and try to get a win there.'
CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI (#26 XM Satellite Radio AGR Acura ARX-01b): 'It was very disappointing to have the day end like this because we obviously had a pretty solid car. For me, I had a pretty difficult first stint because of a tire choice we made that definitely wasn't the correct one at the moment. But, the car was still good and when we changed tires, I had a pretty competitive second stint. It's just disappointing, because this XM Acura team waited a whole year to come back here to try to win again. I've only been with them for a few months, but we were all so excited to come here and things just didn't go our way.'
MARCO ANDRETTI (#26 XM Satellite Radio AGR Acura ARX-01b): 'It was awesome getting off to the start we did this morning. We showed the pace and I was having fun. But, then the overheating problems started to develop and set us back. It's unfortunate that the problems we had ultimately took us out, because the XM Acura team showed some serious promise. I had fun racing with these guys, but I wish it had ended differently.'
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ (No. 15 Lowe's Fernandez Racing Acura ARX-01b): 'The Lowe's Fernandez Acura team did a fantastic job today. Luis Diaz and I drove the car to the limit for 12 hours. This was more like a sprint race than an endurance race. And it was just the two of us to drive the entire race. Many of the teams had three drivers. Luis and I spent the last month or so working out for this event. We really pushed today. We had just three tests with the new ARX-01b chassis so we were a little behind the other Acura teams. But we came back from the last test at Sebring and worked hard to put together a solid car. We ran the fastest race lap in P2.'
LÚIS DIAZ (No. 15 Lowe's Fernandez Racing Acura ARX-01b): 'The Lowe's Acura was a great car today. The new ARX-01b chassis worked tremendously and I think Adrian and I were able to run times with the leaders in the middle and late portion of the race. I have to give the Lowe's Fernandez crew all of the credit for today's car. This race was more like a sprint race, and that is hard in a 12-hour race.'Source - Honda