Honda Performance Development President David Salters has praised Wayne Taylor Racing and Meyer Shank Racing for its quick and efficient transition to Acura ARX-05 machinery following a successful start to its IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship campaign.
After two races, WTR’s Ricky Taylor and Filipe Albuquerque lead the DPi points standings following their debut win with the luxury automaker in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, alongside co-drivers Alexander Rossi and Helio Castroneves.
Longtime Honda entrant MSR, meanwhile, is coming off a podium run in last month’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring with Dane Cameron, Olivier Pla and Juan Pablo Montoya in the Ohio-based team’s return to top-flight prototype racing for the first time in five years.
Acura has transitioned to a two-team approach for its DPi program following a three-year, championship-winning effort with Team Penske that came to an end last year.
When asked how the transition has been, Salters said it’s been “seamless, really.”
“Acura is about performance and [we] love racing,” he told Sportscar365.
“At HPD, we’re in the middle [the link between Acura and its teams]. We’re an engineering organization that looks after the motorsports for our parent company. So you’ve just got a group of people who want to go racing.
“So, it’s pretty easy, to be honest. Everybody wants to win, so what do you need to do that? As in, working through all of the logistics.
“We make our own powertrain with Acura. We manage that. So we’re integral [to the racing program]. There’s no third party involved with that. We know about the powertrain, and can control the electronics.
“Wayne Taylor’s organization had to learn about the car, and so did Mike [Shank], but they’re super smart.
“There was a lot of work do to in a short time [between the end of the 2020 season and the start of 2021], because everyone needed to learn about the car, and then prepare them for the utmost arduous event of the calendar.
“Hats off to them. Hats off to everybody: Acura, HPD. The cars ran pretty much faultlessly. To go to Daytona [and win] is a real testament. It’s a good field in DPi, really.
“The whole field, everyone ended up on the lead lap. That’s not normal, is it? there were a couple of incidents. But the last two hours of that race were some of the most exciting sports car racing I’ve seen in a long time.”
Salters said both WTR and MSR have their “own styles” which has helped complement Acura’s new, but tried and tested approach.
Acura’s previous prototype involvement in the American Le Mans Series — from 2007 through 2009 — utilized multiple factory-backed teams that achieved similar accolades.
Highcroft Racing (LMP1) and Fernandez Racing (LMP2) both claimed titles in the 2009 season with Acura-powered machinery, prior to its switch to a more customer-focused operation under the HPD banner in following years.
The Acura nameplate in top-class prototype racing returned in 2018 with Team Penske, which scored back-to-back DPi driver, team and manufacturer titles in 2019-20.
“Penske was outstanding, but so are Wayne Taylor and Meyer Shank,” Salters said. “They all know how to go racing. It’s different [from team to team], but very similar.
“I think at this level, you have a very professional outfit. There’s a lot of effort, but because you’re dealing with racing organizations that know how to go racing, everyone just sort of gets on with it, to be honest.
“They’ve got their different nuances, but most race teams are trying to achieve the same thing.
“You’re trying to set the car up well during the race, get the balance of the car for the drivers, look after the tires and the car.
“So it’s different, probably due to some of the characters. But that’s nice. We’re all human.
“It’s nice to work with different types of people. It’s good fun. The people at Penske were astonishing, but the people at Wayne Taylor and Meyer Shank are too.”