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Honda Acura goes US racing


Honda's North American luxury marque, Acura, will go racing in the 2007 American Le Mans Series with an LMP2 class roadster

It's Acura's first factory motorsports programme since the company was formed 20 years ago.

An Acura-powered endurance racing prototype will make its competition debut at the Sebring 12 Hour race in Flordia in March next year.

It will be pitted against factory-supported Audis, Porsches and Mazdas, and several privateer teams.

Acura executive John Mendel says the ALMS programme will "accurately reflect Acura's position as a leader in automotive performance and technology."

The American Le Mans Series (ALMS) draws on the heritage of long-distancesports car racing in both Europe and the United States. The 10-race US series includes the 12 Hours of Sebring – an annual fixture since 1952 – plus events at circuits, including Road America, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Laguna Seca, Lime Rock Park and Road Atlanta.

Sports car competition in the American Le Mans Series features multi-class racing of high-tech sports car prototypes and production-based Grand Touring machinery, with both factory-entered manufacturer teams and privateers battling for victory. State-of-the-art technology and engineering, in everything from electronics to aerodynamics to fuel efficiency, are keys to success in the Series. Manufacturers currently fielding teams include Volkswagen/Audi, Porsche, BMW, Ferrari, Lexus, Aston Martin, Panoz and Chevrolet.

The American Le Mans Series is one of the fastest-growing racing series in the US, with a rapidly-growing fan base attending the events and watching on television. Five of the 10 races in 2006 will be broadcast by CBS, with the remaining five events and the Le Mans 24 Hours in France telecast on the cable/satellite Speed network.

The Acura ALMS sports racer will use the first racing engine completely designed and developed in-house by Honda Performance Development (HPD) in Santa Clarita, California. The outfit is American Honda's wholly-owned racing subsidiary. It will mark the first time HPD has taken on multiple concurrent motorsports programs in both the American Le Mans Series and the Indy Racing League.

Acura will contest the full American Le Mans Series schedule, while at the same time Honda continues its long-standing participation in the Indy Racing League, supplying the entire IndyCar Series field with Honda V8 engines.

"We're looking forward with great anticipation to entering the American Le Mans Series," said Robert Clarke, president of Honda Performance Development. "In addition to returning Acura to the international racing stage against other innovative automotive manufacturers, it allows us to continue to (develop) HPD into a world-class performance company."

In 2007, the Acura race programme will feature HPD-designed and developed engines, and chassis from multiple manufacturers, including Lola Cars of England, and Courage of France.

After initial competition in the LMP2 class, plans call for the development of an Acura LMP1 chassis and engine package to compete in the American Le Mans Series, and earn an invitation to the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Honda Performance Development was founded in 1993. It has served as the technical operations centre for Honda's IndyCar engine programme.

Acura previously participated in the International Motor Sports Association in the early 1990s, providing sponsorship and additional support for the Comptech Racing team in the Camel Lights division. Although not a full factory effort, Comptech and lead driver Parker Johnstone won three consecutive class titles from 1991 to 1993 in an Acura-powered Spice chassis, with 22 race wins in 38 starts, including the historic 12 Hours of Sebring in 1993. In addition, Acura has supported the multiple championship-winning efforts of Peter Cunningham and Real Time Racing in SCCA World Challenge/Speed TV competition.


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