Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Scott Tucker's Impressive HPD ARX-01g Debut is a Hit

By Shelly Newman

There was a good number of publicity with regards to the Scott Tucker-owned Level 5 racing team's mid-season decision to interchange cars. Inspite of the risks the change brought of interrupting the explosive momentum the team has maintained since season's open, together with the potential points lost by withdrawing from races while the car was being finished, the modification has been simply positive. The marriage Level 5's skillful and talented drivers; the integrity, innovation and trustworthiness of Honda Performance Development; and the precision and technique of Wirth Research has benefited these groups.

Once the await for Level 5's new LMP2 Lola Honda Spyder was over, it was obvious the car was worthwhile. Not really that Level 5 had too much to worry about, with wins at the 12 Hours of Sebring and the Grand Prix of Long Beach, along with podium finishes in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and 6 hours of Imola, all during the team's debut LMP2 season. Whenever the team ignited the engine on the raceway for the first time at ModSpace American Le Mans Monterey presented by Patron, they bettered their season in the sole method to better an already winning season: They made history. Tucker and co-drivers Christophe Bouchut and Luis Diaz earned their highest overall finish of the season at the Laguna Seca race. The car didn't need to have a single unscheduled pit stop or encounter any unexpected issues, which easily secured the team's fourth LMP2 victory of the season and Tucker and Bouchut's drivers' championships.

Bouchut nailed a best time of 1: 16.867 in the new HPD ARX-01g, which is simply a second behind the LMP1 winning car's fastest lap. With this being the 1st iteration of the HPD ARX-01g, with development still in early stages for cost-capped configurations, the pace was impressive, especially along with the model had below three hours of run time prior to endurance test.

The lofty expectations with the new Honda prior to being finished were valid enough that Tucker had reserved the very first two chassis that had been produced, and the team waited patiently for its new and improved car, even withdrawing from competitions in order to have it in time for Petit Le Mans. The hype around the car, both before it was proven and following its tenacious debut, solidified the partnership between Wirth Research and Honda Performance Development (HPD), as Wirth announced Sept. 9 the start a whole new long-term technical partnership with Honda.

Wirth and HPD have been working together since 2003, but the new relationship extends the companies' sports prototype programs and includes a new IndyCar project. In an official Wirth press release, the company notes that the unyielding success of its LMP1 and LMP2 cars in the past year have opened the chance to build on the achievements and begin to observe several new projects for high-profile clients.

"We looked through the numbers, inside and out, and from our perspective, there's no doubt the Honda package in the new cost-capped configuration will be a front-runner in LMP2," Tucker said, after making the mid-season decision to switch cars. "We've seen gains with the engine all year, and the exciting thing is that there's still room for improvement." Members of the Level 5 team even visited the Wirth Research center to check out their new set of wheels in production.

It's not just for any car that can evoke a lot of anticipation out of an already dominant racing team. It may be expected that as long as there's improvement in the prototypes, teams like Level 5-which constantly strategizes and evaluates situations to optimize the chance of a victory-will keep HPD and Wirth high on their radars. The new long-term partnership between the companies is the exciting beginning of an era of innovation and ultimate performance ability in motorsports.

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