Acura is going back to prototype racing, with Roger Penske’s Team Penske committing to racing a pair of Acura ARX-05 in IMSA’s WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
Acura last raced prototypes in 2010 (following a decision to brand all Honda motorsports activities under the HPD brand), and hasn’t run the closed cockpit versions since the turn of the century (although the bodystyle did leave endurance racing for about a decade following a Le Mans prototype switch to open cockpit/closed fender cars).
But the company recently unveiled its new ARX-05 prototype at The Quail, A Motorsport Gathering, as part of the annual Monterey Car Week that also includes the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. The vehicle carries on the ARX (Acura Racing eXperimental) designation, here identifying the fifth generation of the racing prototype.
“Right from the start, Acura has raced – and done so successfully,” said Art St. Cyr, President of HPD and Acura Motorsports. “We’ve won with the Acura Integra Type R, the RSX, the first-generation NSX and with the Le Mans prototypes. Most recently, we’ve won with the new Acura NSX GT3. The ARX-05 is our fifth-generation prototype, and we expect great things from our partnership with Team Penske.”
The Daytona Prototype International (DPi) regulations require entrants to use one of four approved chassis fitted with IMSA-homologated, manufacturer-designed and branded bodywork and engines.
The engine is a version of the 3.5-litre V-6 used in the production MDX, RDX, RLX and TLX models. In racing mode, it’s a twin-turbocharged variant that has performed admirably from 2011 — class winners at the 12 Hours of Sebring (2011-13), the 24 Hours of Le Mans and LMP2 World Endurance Championship (2012), American Le Mans Series LMP2 titles (2012-13) and overall winners at the Rolex 24, 12 Hours of Sebring and Petit Le Mans (2016).
The bodywork development was led by Acura Global Creative Director Dave Marek.
“We created a variety of initial sketches, then pared those down a handful of potential designs. Next came aero and wind tunnel model testing, and time for the engineers to have their say,” Marek recounts. “The design continued to be refined throughout the testing and evaluation process, until we came up with a final treatment that met our performance goals while maintaining Acura styling cues. It’s been an exciting process.”
The multi-year DPi program will be administered by Honda Performance Development (HPD), the racing arm for both Acura Motorsports and Honda Racing in North America. The competition debut of the Team Penske Acura prototypes will take place at the Rolex 24 in January 2018, with one car piloted by racing legend Juan Pablo Montoya and Dane Cameron, with the driver pairing for the second car announced later.
“At Acura, Precision Crafted Performance is at the heart of everything we do,” concludes Jon Ikeda, Acura vice-president and general manager. “Whether it is our production cars or a prototype race car, if you want to be a performance brand you need to perform.”