Alms 2007: Acura Teams Time to Learn

by : Evander Klum

For the Acura teams making their debut in the American Le Mans Series, 2007 has been a challenging year. And the team is looking forward to etch a better name in ALMS endurance and sprint races.

Robert Clarke, the president of Santa Clarita-based Honda Performance Development, said that the on-track performances thus far have been superb despite only one win in seven races. Honda Performance Development produces and maintains the engines for the three Acura teams in the ALMS.

The Andretti Green Racing team, with Valencia's Bryan Herta as one of its drivers, won the LMP2 portion of the season-opening 12 Hours of Sebring. The Acura teams have yet to win a race since, with the Porsches of Team Penske dominating the LMP2 division. But the Acura teams have been competitive, posting a number of podium finishes and beating the cars in the LMP1 division on a regular basis.

"Winning the first race at Sebring and that was quite an accomplishment for the new Acura program," Robert Clarke said. "We would like to win another race this year. When you win the season opener, you feel that you can win some races. But we were realistic about the 2007 season. We weren't looking for on-track results. This was a learning year for us with the Acura program and the three Acura teams. The Porsches are very fast. So it is tough."

Herta and Adrian Fernandez, two of the team's drivers, have tried racing at Road America. The ALMS race at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., will mark the eighth race of the 12-race season.

"At Road America, overall speed is important and I think we have the power to be very competitive," Clarke said. "We are not really in the championship battle this year. Learning the series and sports car racing in general was the goal in 2007 for Acura."

In previous races, Herta's Andretti Green Racing team was not that competitive. Matter of fact, it is struggling. It may be tough for the manufacturer of . In the most recent race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Herta and teammate Marino Franchitti finished seventh, the Daily News reported.

"The XM Satellite Radio Acura team has not finished the last few races and with five races left, we have to finish them all," said Herta. "Both the team and I have the chance to finish third in the championship and I think that would be an exceptional first year in the series, so that's the goal. In order to do that, we have to finish races with no mistakes or reliability problems from here on out."

Fernandez has 11 career starts at Road America in Champ Cars. He has three podium finishes in his career there, his best showing coming in 2000 when he was second, the report continued. "This is my favorite track. I love driving here," Fernandez said. "The last time I competed at Elkhart was in 2003 in Champ Cars and I had a pretty good record going with three podiums. We had a great test here before the start of this season, and I have a lot of confidence for a strong finish in the race."

At mid-Ohio, the Lowe's Fernandez team had the highest-finishing Acura. It finished third. "We had a good car at Mid-Ohio and we were in position to run with the Porsches overall," Fernandez said. "I have finished second and third there before, but I would love to win at that great track. I feel good about the Lowe's Acura Lola."