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RML AD Group HPD ARX-01d (2011)

Building on the successful partnership of 2010, which delivered a second LMP2 Le Mans Series title to the team, as well as a podium finish in the 24 Hours, RML AD Group embarked on a new and even closer relationship with Honda Performance Development in 2011.

Having witnessed first-hand the efficiency and effectiveness of the Wirth Research-designed HPD chassis, in the hands of Strakka Racing in 2010, the team sought an equal footing upon which to defend the team and drivers' titles in 2011. Phil Barker, Team Manager at RML, admitted in January 2011 that the breaking of an eight-year relationship with Lola had not been an easy one, but was looking forward to expanding on the partnership with HPD. (See announcement details here.)

The HPD ARX chassis has its origins in America, although much of the design and development has always been carried out much closer to home, in Oxfordshire (Bicester and Banbury) where Wirth Research has its headquarters.

The project to create a new sports prototype challenger came first from Honda's US Acura division, which announced an intention to compete in endurance racing at a press conference at the 2006 New York Auto Show. Initially this centred upon the development of a new engine suitable for use in LMP2, and both Lola and Courage chassis were chosen to test and develop the naturally-aspirated Acura-derived V8 engine, developed by Honda Performance Development of North America.

Courage C75, Saulnier racing, Monza 2007. Photo: Marcus Potts
A Courage LC75 as raced in the 2006 Le Mans Series by Saulnier Racing - now Oak Racing

Lowe's Fernández Lola HPDThree teams were involved in that first season. Andretti Green and Highcroft Racing were each selected to work with a Courage LC75 chassis fitted with the new engine, while Fernández Racing campaigned the 3.4 litre unit in a Lola B05/40 chassis.

While the Fernández Lola remained pretty much as the Huntingdon factory had designed it (right), the two Courage LC75s were so heavily modified during the development process that little more than the central tub remained of the original French-designed racecar. Looking at the cars today, only the shape of the roll hoop above the driver's head can be readily identified as betraying the HPD's Courage heritage. As a result, it proved desirable, and necessary, to re-homologate the cars, and the Honda Performance Development (HPD) ARX-01 was born.

Acura badged HPD 3.4 litre V8, 2007The cars made their debut at the Sebring 12 Hours in 2007. Up against the all-dominant Porsche Spyders, the Andretti Green ARX-01a took the LMP2 class victory and an impressive second-place overall. The Fernández Lola came through third overall, second in LMP2, and the Highcroft ARX-01a finished sixth overall, fourth in LMP2. It had been an impressive start to what would become an even more illustrious period for the HPD cars.

The following year, 2008, all three teams fielded the purebred HPD chassis/engine combination, and the HPD ARX-01 won more than half the eleven LMP2 rounds in the ALMS. That record included a first-ever outright win for an LMP2 car at Lime Rock for Highcroft. Andretti Green repeated the feat at Belle Isle, Michigan, in August. However, splitting the honours left the title open for Penske to take, once again, but Porsche gained the constructor's title by just a single point. It had been an impressive season for the HPD chassis.

De Ferran Racing HPD ARX-01. Photo: 2008 also saw the arrival of a fourth team to campaign the HPD-01, in the form of De Ferran Racing (pictured left). The squad used a fourth former-Courage tub, upgraded to HPD specifications and leased from the factory. Brazilian Gil de Ferran and Simon Pagenaud secured a best result of second in the final round at Laguna Seca.

Andretti Green, perhaps disappointed with its own results, parted company with Acura at the end of the season and returned to the team's single-seater roots.

2009 proved to be the turning point for the HPD ARX, in more ways than one. Not only did Honda Performance Development reveal the ARX-02, a revised version of the car that was eligible for LMP1, but the cars swept all before them in both classes. Highcroft, elevated to LMP1 status, took the ALMS title, with De Ferran, who had also moved up to the top category, as runners-up. Lowe's Fernández secured the LMP2 title with ease, recording seven pole positions and eight wins from ten starts.

Highcroft Racing HPD at Le Mans 2010. Photo: Peter Mar / DailysportscarIn 2010 the HPD ARX-01 made its first appearance in Europe, in the hands of Strakka Racing. Using the former Fernández Racing chassis, uprated to 01c specifications, Strakka enjoyed a terrific season. Although pipped to the Le Mans Series title by RML's HPD-powered Lola Coupé, Strakka did record an historic victory in the Le Mans 24 Hours, and also won the Hungaroring 1000 Kilometres outright.

Over in America, 2009 champions Patrón Highcroft Racing continued the team's allegiance to HPD, reverted to LMP2, and won back-to-back titles. The team's distinctive black and lime-green HPD also made an appearance in the Le Mans 24 Hours (above), and challenged strongly, but was ultimately beaten by a faultless run from Strakka's sister car.

RML AD Group racing with HPDIn January 2011 RML AD Group confirmed that the team had acquired the former De Ferran HPD-ARX (chassis #12), fully updated to the latest 01d specifications. Early in the season, however, the car was "written off" in a huge accident at Spa, and the team sourced the former Andretti Green "tub" (#6) from HPD in the States as a stop-gap while a brand new chassis was prepared by Oreca and then converted to HPD specifications by Wirth Research in Banbury. The AG unit saw service at Le Mans.

In order to meet the revised 2011 regulations, the naturally aspirated 3.4 litre LM-V8, used by both RML and Strakka in their 2010 cars, would be replaced by a new production-based unit. The engine chosen by HPD is the 2.8 litre twin-turbo V6, designated the HR28TT. Based on Honda’s global V6, as fitted to the top-end Accord, Odyssey and other Honda/Acura models, the racing version of this engine is the result of joint development by HPD and Honda R&D America.

Sometimes overlooked in the story of this ground-breaking racecar is the input from Wirth Research in England. Based right at the heart of England's "Motorsport Valley", Wirth has been responsible for transforming what was only a moderately successful Courage into one of the finest sports prototypes in the world today. Their extensive wind tunnel, computer simulation and engineering input has resulted in a supremely efficient aerodynamic body with the capacity to generate extraordinary levels of downforce with minimal drag, and aligned this with a stable and very effective chassis. In truth, very little of the French original remains.

Although widely known as an Acura in the States, the American brand name synonymous with Honda's luxury and performance vehicles has never been used in Europe, and the chassis is always referred to as an HPD (Honda Performance Development) ARX-01 in Le Mans Series races and at Le Mans. For further information about HPD, please see our page on RML AD Group's 2010 Lola HPD.

RML AD Group Lola B08/80 HPD

RML AD Group racing with HPD

Designation HPD ARX-01d
Honda Performance Development (HPD) HR28TT
2.8 litre, fuel-injected,
twin-turbo V6.
Approximately 450bhp
through paired restrictors
Top speed
In excess of 190mph
HPD/Hewland six-speed semi-automatic sequential gearbox via steering-mounted paddle shift.
Three-plate carbon
Fuel Petrol
(Biofuel, with 10% ethanol)
Aluminium water radiators and oil coolers
One piece carbon fibre monocoque
Power assisted rack-and-pinion
Steel double-wishbones front/rear with pushrod
Carbon fibre discs & pads
Fronts: 380mm x 37mm
Rears: 355mm x 35mm
Forged Magnesium BBS
Fronts 18" x 12.5J rims
Rears 18" x 13J rims
Fronts 300/650-18
Rears 310/710-18
Length: 4617mm
Track, Front: 1662mm,
Track, Rear: 1640mm
Wheelbase: 2870mm
Weight 920 kgs minimum.
Fuel, 75 litres
Oil (dry sump) 10 litres

Renderings of the first HPD ARX-01

Acura ARX-01 2007
Acura ARX-01 2007
Acura ARX-01 2007



RML AD Group racing with HPD




RML AD Group racing with HPD





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