Meyer Shank Racing’s drivers and team owner have spoken of a “continuous development” process with the Acura ARX-06’s software that is ongoing even after the car’s homologation.
As is the case with its LMDh rivals, the Acura’s homologation is locked in for five seasons meaning that the manufacturer and its teams cannot make physical design changes or upgrades during that time.
However, ARX-06 developer Honda Performance Development and chassis partner ORECA can continue working on software updates, in part related to the integration of the spec electric motor with the Acura’s 2.4-liter V6 twin-turbo internal combustion engine.
“There are systems on the car that ORECA and HPD are continually trying to improve,” said MSR team co-owner Mike Shank.
“Sometimes, we put them on the car and then take them off before we go on the track, because something didn’t work in terms of the electronics.
“So much programming, so many departments that have to talk to each other and come up with a common product. You have the EV guys, ICE guys, performance people, all trying to put a car on the track. They all have to communicate.
“When that bridge gets broken, from a code nut not being cracked, the car won’t run. The power steering turns off… you name it. The performance side isn’t what we’re talking about. We’re talking about reliability.”
The first race for the new GTP class has reliability as its core theme, with the four competing LMDh manufacturers unsure about how their cars will hold up in competition over 24 hours.
Ensuring a fine balance in the various electronic systems will form part of that reliability challenge.
“There is so much technology that when you change one little letter, all of a sudden it connects,” said two-time Rolex 24 winner Helio Castroneves.
“How many of us have, in the house when you turn on one light and it turns off the other? It’s pretty much similar to what’s happening.
“It’s just the software that they are improving and updating every time we go out there. Those are the little details that keep coming, and I think it’s still ongoing.”
Rolex 24 at Daytona pole-sitter and IMSA DPi champion Tom Blomqvist added: “We’ve got what we’ve got in terms of hardware, but the software is in continuous development.
“We’re learning every time we’re out on track, fine-tuning that. We’ve made a huge step for this event, and even from last week to this week we’re still chipping away at it.”
Colin Braun, who will team up with Blomqvist for the full season, explained the role played by the drivers in the software development process.
“As we learn more as drivers, we’re able to use some of the tools they provide us on the Acura-HPD side,” he said.
“It’s this constant loop of, we’re able to give better feedback and they’re able to give us better tools.
“It’s been awesome to see the great job HPD-Acura have all done on taking what we’ve been saying from the car side, implementing that and giving something we can go and drive.
“[We] work with it, give them feedback, and just keep that refining process going.”
MSR Not Rushing to Accept Pre-Race Favorite Tag
Shank’s team kick-started its WeatherTech Championship title defense by taking pole for the Rolex 24 and leading four out of six test sessions during last weekend’s Roar.
However, the drivers are not taking their strong early pace for granted, considering the reliability unknowns that all manufacturers are wary of heading into the race.
“Most of the conversation has been about reliability,” Blomqvist said.
“It’s the first year in many years when that’s the number one concern. We’re in a great position that we have a very good car under us.
“I think it’s just such an unknown that we can’t feel that way. All of us are in that boat. It’s a very weird thing to have.”
Castroneves added: “We have a great chance here, performance-wise. Looking very strong. But, because it’s such a new car, we don’t know what’s going to happen.
“I feel strong, and I do believe the entire team feels the same way. But there is a little… you know… at the back of our heads because it’s an unknown situation.”