Acuras Big Move Into Motorsports Competition

By: Evander Klum

It was only last year that Acura celebrated its 20th birthday. It seems like only yesterday when Acura has brought the world its sporty Integra two-and four-door compact coupe and sedan together with its V6 powered legend four-door midsized sedan. And from then on Acura, Honda's upscale brand has turned into a major key player in the US automotive market.

Acuras have also emerged as a power on the sports racing department. Motorsports aficionados have been following Acuras in the racing circuits while privateers have been campaigning Integras, RSXs, and NSXs to racing championships for many years now. Despite the fact that Acura has grown into a profitable brand it has preferred to leave factory backed efforts to Honda, the largest engine maker in the world.

Acura has expanded its reach and have started hitting the shores of China last year. And for 2008, Honda will officially introduce the Acura brand in the Japanese market. At present Acuras are sold under the Honda badge in Japan. The main purpose of such move is to market the Acura brand as an international brand and it can also be concluded that this move is born out from the natural desire for competition similar to when Acura decide to join the big-time motorsports competition.

Currently the automaker is officially supporting three LMP2 class cars for this year's American Le Mans Series (ALMS) campaign and will be supplying the chassis work for two of them. The opening of the ALMS at the 12 Hours of Sebring has proven a fruitful one for Honda with the Acura Andretti Racing team scoring a class win and placing second overall behind Audi's super powerful LMP1 car. The two other Acura powered teams namely the Fernandez Racing and Highcroft Racing also did well , and has garnered second and fourth in the LMP2 class, respectively.

All of Acura's ALMS efforts were formulated at the Honda Performance Development (HPD) center in Santa Clarita, California which is approximately 60 miles away from Long Beach. The HPD was founded in 1993 and since then been utilized as an instrument in the development of Honda's Champ Car and IRL teams. It employs some 120 engineers, technicians, and mechanics.

The HPD facility is also where vital components that the ALMS teams will use such as are developed. The facility is equipped with five dynos which include a transmission dyno that are utilized for the development of electronic systems such as traction control. Unlike any automotive facility the HPD possess environmentally friendly features like for instance the byproduct of electric dynos is ice which is then used to cool the building and the machineries inside the facility. Catalytic converters are also used on all gasoline powered equipment to keep emissions as low as possible.

Fernandez who is a longtime Honda partner will be lending a hand in helping the HPD massage the gas-powered 3.4 liter V8 that powers all three cars and is presently using a Lola chassis to remove the Acura underpinnings as a variable. The engine revs up somewhere 550 horsepower---this is not the official figure since the team preferred to keep a secret.

Roger Griffiths, HPD Technical Group Leader said, "There are two things I always say I don't discuss. How much horsepower we have and how much money it cost us." Despite how hard the team tries to keep it as a secret but its obvious how the Griffiths and company are particularly proud of the engine which is the first to be ever created by HPD.

The Acura LMP2 car is a real screamer and mind you it's really loud. Fortunately the ALMS governing body makes sure that the engine will not exceed 113 decibels at any given time. The Acura engine runs somewhere between 116-117 decibels which is quite close to what a jet produces at around 120, this particular trait of the Acura engine can help you to distinguish it even when you're not looking.

The Highcroft Racing which is a new team is concentrating in updating and improving the Acura ARX 01 A chassis which started life as a Courage. However not everything the is Courage was removed or changed, there were also some parts that remained like the tub, crashbox, and the gearbox---all the rest have been re-engineered by the HPD team.

Andretti team which was the most established team among the three will obtain the benefits of the engine as well as the improvements done on the chassis in order to produce the most powerful Acura car ever developed. Highcroft driver David Brabham said, "We've got a good car and a good group of drivers, so I think we have a really strong package early in the season."

At Long Beach the Highcroft team was able to snap a fourth place which was the best Acura result of the weekend. On the other hand the Andretti Racing after taking the top qualifying position has finished sixth and this is attributed to the faulty pit strategy that the team employed. The Fernandez Racing team grab seventh place.

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