Confirming one of the worst kept secrets in American racing, Acura Motorsports on Tuesday announced a two-car effort in association with Team Penske. The famous U.S.-based team will campaign a pair of Acura ARX-05 Daytona Prototype international (DPi) entries, with Acura joining Cadillac, Mazda, and Nissan in the IMSA WeatherTech Championship Prototype class. Testing of the Acura DPi will begin soon, with the team’s official competition debut scheduled for the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona in January 2018.
A formal unveiling of the Acura ARX-05 DPi race car is slated for August’s Monterey Car Week, ahead of the 2017 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. The driver lineup will be announced later this year. Recent rumors suggest Team Penske’s Verizon IndyCar Series stalwart Helio Castroneves and the well-known Juan Pablo Montoya could wind up leading the new program’s charge.
Team Penske last competed in IMSA from 2005-’09, winning the LMP2-class championship in the former American Le Mans Series between 2006 and 2008. It also fielded a Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series entry in 2009. Acura Motorsports this year campaigns the NSX GT3 in the IMSA WeatherTech Championship GT Daytona (GTD) category with Michael Shank Racing, winning races at Detroit’s Belle Isle circuit and Watkins Glen International earlier this season.
The Acura ARX-05 is the latest in a line of endurance prototypes to be fielded by the company dating back to 1991, just five years after the 1986 launch of the Acura brand. Based on the very successful ORECA 07 chassis, the new ARX-05 prototype will feature Acura-specific bodywork and utilize the race-proven, production-based Acura AR35TT twin-turbo 3.5-liter V-6 engine. The multi-year program will be administered by Honda Performance Development, the racing arm for both Acura Motorsports and Honda Racing in North America.
“This is a monumental day in the brief history of the Daytona Prototype international race car and the much longer history of IMSA,” said IMSA President Scott Atherton. “We are honored that Acura has expanded its commitment to the WeatherTech Championship through the new Acura ARX-05 DPi race car, and pleased to welcome Team Penske back to sports-car competition. This announcement bolsters an already strong and growing Prototype class and only adds to the intrigue and anticipation for next season as we complete an outstanding 2017 WeatherTech Championship.
“The expansion of Acura’s involvement with a DPi entry in conjunction with Team Penske is one of the most significant developments we’ve had. Announcements like this are the ultimate validation of the DPi concept and accelerates the momentum that’s already been established.”
The DPi platform — which made its debut in 2017 — allows for cars in the Prototype class to be powered by a wide range of engines from various automobile manufacturers, and features manufacturer-specific bodywork and styling cues.
Acura is looking to add to its already-impressive sports car legacy. The manufacturer’s sports-car racing accomplishments include the 1991-’93 IMSA Camel Lights manufacturers’ and drivers’ championships; 50 IMSA and American Le Mans Series class or overall race wins (through Watkins Glen 2017); and the 2009 American Le Mans Series manufacturers’, drivers’, and teams’ championships in both the LMP1 and LMP2 classes.
“We are excited to join forces with the Honda Performance Development family and represent the Acura brand with two prototypes starting in 2018,” said Team Penske founder Roger Penske. “Sports-car racing has been an integral part of Team Penske’s heritage, from our first race at the 24 Hours of Daytona in 1966 to running the American Le Mans Series in the late 2000s. Reviving a Team Penske sports-car program has always been a goal for us, but to do so required strong and successful partners like Honda and Acura. It’s great to extend our relationship from the dealership to the racetrack and we are excited to come back to IMSA and the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.”
“We had a very spirited competition with Team Penske during our previous ALMS Acura prototype programs, and we are looking forward to working with, instead of against, Team Penske as the ideal partner for our return to the prototype ranks,” said Art St. Cyr, HPD president. “We also had a great deal of success together in CART and IndyCar competition, and Team Penske’s overall record in all forms of racing is unrivaled in our sport.”