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July/August 2008
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Acura confirms LMP1 program.  Both Highcroft Racing and de Ferran Motorsports will be fielding two Acura ARX-02a LMP1 chassis in the 2009 American Le Mans Series.  For now Acura is not releasing any specifications for the car though we've been told the engine is "conventional"(which one would assume to mean not diesel) but the chassis is described as "interesting".  

Random noise...

>>It's our understanding that the Honda/Acura LMP1 project is going to Highcroft for a "job well done".  For now the status of the LMP2 teams (other than AGR) is unknown.  

>>With the anticipated ACO LMP regulation changes about 2 weeks away, we're hearing that the GT1 homologated LMP1 engine "loop hole" is about to be closed.

With all the supposition about the Acura LMP1 program out on the forums we decided to try and (hopefully) clear the air.  

Here's what we know.  There is ample evidence to show that the Acura LMP1 has been tunnel testing for quite some time, and in fact that this project is well on its way. So much so it is my impression that the primary aero development is complete and chassis manufacture is well underway.

Evidence to support this comes in the form of what we can gather about the LMP2 program.  In discussing the 2008 season and developments for the ARX-01b, Acura admitted that all LMP2 developments for this year were done in CFD.  This seems to be the key.  There doesn't seem to be good reason to eschew continuing scale developments for the LMP2 program unless your model resources were tied up with something else.  At the end of the day wind tunnel testing is still the fastest way to bang through numerous iterations, and this is very important early on in a aero program.  
In an email exchange with Nick Wirth back in May, this is what he revealed:

"Wind tunnel testing of the ARX-01 cars ended late summer last year, since then all development is in CFD.  We continue to use a model in ARC-Indy for another project..."

It seems reasonable to believe that the LMP2 aero program made way for the LMP1 project as far back as last summer, assuming the transition occurred nearly simultaneously (even if there was a delay of a couple of months the rest will still hold true).  If we figure that a top flight LMP1 aero development program would consist of a minimum of one week per month spent in the wind tunnel for at least 8 months (40 days) then you can see that indeed they would indeed have had plenty of time to effectively complete that development and be well underway for having a car on the track.

And if we couple that information with what we're hearing elsewhere, don't be surprised if the first track test is as soon as the 4th quarter of this year.


Marshall Pruett>>Speed TV's Marshall Pruett brings to our attention that the Acura ARX-01b is now running with brake shrouds on the front and rear uprights.  But the idea is about tire performance as much as it is about aerodynamic gains.  The shrouds allow for better control of the airflow in and around the wheel wells and subsequently allow for similar control of the heated air expelling from the brake discs.  As we've pointed out here before, this idea isn't new as it has been very prevalent in F1 for a number of years.  And in fact it isn't particularly new to sportscars either as the Audi R10 uses a similar brake shroud system, and has since the car's '06 debut.    
Left to right: Serge Granjon, Serge Aziosmanoff, and Michel Faure>>It's been some time since we updated Rene Verstappen and his GRAC MT20 restoration.  Well Rene is on the verge of putting his car on the track, "The engine was started yesterday (succesfully) and we're planning to testdrive it in August.  I've installed the correct engine, a 2.0L Chrysler-Simca, prepared by JRD, just like in 1974."  In the mean time Rene attended the GRAC reunion held in Valence, France, the original home of the GRAC factory.  Serge Granjon (GRAC designer up until the MT20), Serge Aziosmanoff (team owner, and Michel Faure (the MT20's designer)  were all in attendance (left to right in image at right).  Rene Verstappen, "It was really very emotional for them, but for me too.  Especially Michel Faure was very happy to see 'his car' again.  You can't imagine how times were different back then.  Michel Faure said to me that he dind't do any wind tunnel testing when he made the beautiful body.  Tests were done afterwards and when there were mistakes, they just fixed it.  Can you imagine doing that now?"

>>RS Spyder update?  Penske's Mid-Ohio press release contains a very interesting paragraph:

"This was also the first event that both the Dumas/Bernhard RS Spyder, along with the Sascha Maassen (Germany) and Patrick Long (USA) number six Penske Porsche RS Spyder, used the newly-developed direct-injection 3.4 liter, V-8 race motor. The main feature of direct injection is that the power has gone up, and the fuel consumption has gone down -- an important element of endurance racing. This technology, already introduced on Porsche street vehicles including the Porsche 911 and the Porsche Cayenne, is the first direct injection motor ever developed that can rev to more than 10,000 rpms. Horsepower goes from 476 to 503 (370 kw) at more than 10,000 rpm. Torque improves from 370 nm (273 ft. lbs)  @ 7500 rpm to 385 (284 ft. lbs) nm @8500 rpm. The engine was developed in conjunction with the Porsche 911 and Porsche Cayenne direct injection technology." 

What's interesting about this is that it has been assumed for 2 years now that the RS was already using this technology.  The quoted power figures really don't tell us anything inasmuch as other sources already claim 503 hp for the RS in its previous (non-direct injection) form.  Ultimately the implementation of the direct injection amounts to a little over 5% bump in horse power and about a 4% increase in torque for improved (no relative figures cited) fuel consumption.  The claimed power outputs are of little consequence when again it has been assumed to be in the region of 550+ (even with the '08 restrictors).

ęCopyright 2008, Michael J. Fuller