Acura Enters American Lemans series

Acura will launch is first factory motorsports program next March in  the American Le Mans Series (ALMS), making its debut in the LMP2 class.

An Acura-powered endurance racing prototype will get its competition initiation at the 55th Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring.  “It provides us an arena in which to compete against other manufacturers in endurance sports car racing,” said Jim Miller, executive vice president of Honda Canada.

The ALMS draws on the heritage of long-distance endurance sports car racing in both Europe and North America, the most famous being the 24 Hours of Le Mans. In addition to the Sebring event, the 10-race domestic series includes the Grand Prix of Mosport in Ontario on Sept. 1-3.  Other premier circuits for the 2006 ALMS race schedule are Road America, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Laguna Seca, Lime Rock Park and Road Atlanta.

Competition features multi-class racing of high-tech sports car prototypes and production-based Grand Touring machinery, with both factory-entered manufacturer teams and privateers battling for victory. Manufacturers currently fielding teams include Volkswagen/Audi, Porsche, BMW, Ferrari, Lexus, Aston Martin, Panoz and Chevrolet.

Acura’s entry will feature the first racing engine completely designed and developed in-house by Honda Performance Development (HPD) in Santa Clarita, California. HPD is American Honda’s wholly-owned racing subsidiary.  It will mark the first time HPD has taken on multiple concurrent motorsports programs in both the American Le Mans Series and the Indy Racing League (IRL).
While Acura will compete in the LeMans schedule, Honda will continue its long-standing participation in the IRL, supplying the entire IndyCar Series field with Honda Indy V-8 engines.

“We’re looking forward with great anticipation to entering the American Le Mans Series,” said Robert Clarke, president of HPD.  “In addition to returning Acura to the international racing stage against other innovative automotive manufacturers, it allows us to continue to grow HPD into a world-class performance company.

The Acura race program for 2007 will feature HPD-designed and developed engines, and chassis from multiple manufacturers, including Lola Cars International, Ltd., of England, and Courage of France.  After initial competition in the LMP2 class, plans call for the development of an Acura LMP1 chassis and engine package to compete in the ALMS, and earn an invitation to the 24 Hours of Le Mans. HPD was founded in 1993 as the wholly owned racing subsidiary of American Honda.  It has served as the technical operations center for Honda’s IndyCar engine program.

Acura previously participated in the International Motor Sports Association in the early 1990s, providing sponsorship and additional support for the Comptech Racing team in the Camel Lights division.  Although not a full factory effort, Comptech and lead driver Parker Johnstone won three consecutive class titles from 1991-93 in an Acura-powered Spice chassis, with 22 race wins in 38 starts, including the historic 12 Hours of Sebring in 1993.  In addition, Acura has supported the multiple championship-winning efforts of Peter Cunningham and Real Time Racing in SCCA World Challenge/Speed TV competition.

Testing of the Acura-powered ALMS cars will begin this summer. Drivers and teams will be announced later.