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Honda Staying in ALMS

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, November 23 2009
Honda will be back with Highcroft in the American Le Mans Series next season. (Photo courtesy of ALMS)

Honda will be back with Highcroft in the American Le Mans Series next season. (Photo courtesy of ALMS)

By Jonathan Ingram | Senior Writer

Honda Performance Development will continue its participation in the American Le Mans Series with the Patron Highcroft Racing team in 2010. Highcroft will field an updated version of the original LMP2 class Acura prototype.

The car will provide a platform for the development of a new engine from HPD as Honda continues to consider participation in the Le Mans 24-hour under new rules scheduled for 2011.

After becoming the top point-scoring Acura team for each of the past three seasons and earning the brand’s first LMP1 championship in 2009, Highcroft will enter its fourth season with HPD, the racing arm of American Honda Motor Company.

Highcroft will contest next year’s combined ALMS prototype class armed with an HPD-backed ARX-01c, an iteration of the original Acura ALMS entry in 2007.

For 2010, the LMP1 and LMP2 classes will be combined for the majority of the American Le Mans Series. Only the season opener and closer, at Sebring and Petit Le Mans, respectively, will revert to full-Automobile Club de l’Ouest specifications, which are the rules for the Le Mans 24 Hour.

Highcroft, which won the LMP1 championship in 2009, will be the exclusively designated test team for HPD. The 2009 LMP1 championship-winning squad will be charged with evaluation of the new ARX-01c platform and the testing of a new HPD engine under consideration for the 2011 season, expected to be a 3.4-liter V-8. It remains to be seen what type of fuel will be used.

The team retains David Brabham, who co-drove to the LMP1 championship and won the Le Mans 24-hour with Peugeot in 2009. But a replacement has not been announced for co-driver Scott Sharp, who is departing to run his own GT2 team.

The announcement confirms that former HPD factory team de Ferran Motorsports will not continue in sports cars, but is anticipated to move to IndyCar. Team owner de Ferran retired as a driver, but it remains to be seen whether his brilliant young teammate, Simon Pageanaud, returns to sports cars with Highcroft or Pegeot, or attempts a return to open-wheel racing.

After making its debut in the championship in 2006, the Duncan Dayton-owned Highcroft team has recorded key milestones on its way to championship success. The team scored factory Acura backing in 2007, secured the Patrón Spirits Company as a naming rights sponsor in 2008 and then collected the American Le Mans Series LMP1 championship this year.

Along the way the team also scored key milestones for Acura and HPD – recording the first overall ALMS win, the first LMP1 victory and now, the first LMP1 championship in the ALMS for the Japanese brand.

In 2009 Acura became the first manufacturer to win two class championships in a single season, with Fernandez Racing’s LMP2 entry joining Patrón Highcroft’s LMP1 assault as class title winners. During the past three seasons, Highcroft Racing has posted seven class victories, four overall wins and six class pole positions.

“We will have the number 1 on our car for 2010 and firmly believe the ARX-01c will give us the best opportunity to defend that championship,” said team owner Duncan Dayton. “We are very much looking forward to continuing our working relationship with the team at HPD –they have played an integral role in our championship success.

“We are awaiting full details from the ALMS, but we expect the LMP1 cars to be slowed and the LMP2 machines to be offered more performance freedoms,” continued Dayton. “Everyone saw the performance of the ARX-01b at this year’s ALMS race at Laguna Seca, and we think this car will be a very wise weapon of choice for 2010.”

The 2010 American Le Mans Series will conduct its annual “Wheels Down” Winter test at Sebring International Raceway on February 22-23. The opening round of the championship will also be at Sebring – the annual 12-hour endurance classic on Saturday, March 20.

– Jonathan Ingram can be reached at jingram@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, November 23 2009
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