days of trouble-free testing with the all-new
HPD ARX-01d at the Paul Ricard circuit
in the south of France left RML AD Group
eager for more – a lot more. All
three drivers; Mike Newton, Tommy Erdos
and Ben Collins, offered unanimously enthusiastic
verdicts on the Honda Performance Development
and Wirth Research designed chassis, while
the new HPD V6 twin-turbo received the
thumbs-up for strength and reliability.
If there is a cause for concern it is one shared by several other teams in the LMP2 class, where the speed differential between the prototypes and the leading GT and Formula Le Mans cars is seriously blurred. The HPD appears to have suffered even more under the new regulations than the rest, and the speed trap figures cannot hide the fact that the car is significantly disadvantaged along the straights.
If outright speed is an issue, handling is not. "The car is an absolute dream to drive," said Tommy Erdos. "It's early days yet, and we still have a great deal to learn, but already I can see the enormous potential we have here. These two days have established an excellent foundation to build upon. The car is stable and sure-footed, very predictable, and it goes through the corners as if it's racing on Magnatrack! From that point of view, this has been a very encouraging start."
"The car has been superb," agreed Mike Newton. "Everything feels so good and, considering this is the first time out, with no data to draw upon, I'm delighted by the lap times I’ve been able to set. The chassis itself is a step-change over last year's car, and exceeds all our expectations, but we've found ourselves at the back of the pack, completely uncompetitive. That's wholly due to the way the new regulations have been applied.”
"The handling characteristics are tremendous,” said Phil Barker, RML Team Manager. “Unfortunately, the overall performance is being hampered by the restrictor size and the additional weight we're being made to carry. We can only hope that the ACO recognises this, and makes some adjustments. The ACO tell us that the Le Mans Series is the "spirit of racing", but what we're facing here isn't in the right spirit. There's not a class out there that can't drive by us on the straight, and that's not right."
The squad took delivery of the new car only a few weeks prior to the test, and had to meet a demanding schedule to have the car fully prepared and liveried. "I was absolutely amazed by the job our guys did in such a short time," said Phil Barker. "They not only had to build it up, but they also had to incorporate the latest specifications and contend with a new engine installation. They did a remarkable job." It was an achievement not lost on the drivers. "The HPD is totally alien to them, a completely new package, yet it ran perfectly,” said an appreciative Thomas Erdos. “Their efforts have been fantastic."
"To have the car turned round so quickly proves what an incredible job these guys at RML have done,” agreed Ben Collins. “The car has run reliably from start to finish, and we've all had a good stint at the wheel. The track conditions have been far from ideal, so I haven’t been able to get a true feeling for the car, but it has still been very impressive and a great way to start the season."
"We’re delighted with the chassis and the solid platform that it provides for such a sophisticated and highly developed engine.” said Pauline Norstrom, Board Director and Marketing and Motorsport Director, AD Group. “We would dearly like to be given the opportunity to realise the true potential of the HPD package, since this would allow us to tie in the race programme even more closely to our marketing strategy. The arrival of the new car and engine compliment the launch of our latest camera technology; Closed IPTV - a plug and play IP Video security solution. This will take a prominent position in our motorsport brand strategy for the season, since the car and our IP camera technology have a great deal in common – both are sophisticated and extremely well-engineered solutions to complex situations.”
The first round of the 2011 Le Mans Series takes place at the Paul Ricard circuit on April 3rd.
Please click on any thumbnail or image for a high (print) resolution file. Medium (web) resolution versions of the same images, and more, can be accessed through the dedicated Paul Ricard Test Gallery. In the event of any reproduction elsewhere, please ensure that an appropriate photographer's credit is included - see hover (alt) captions for details.