ORECA technical director David Floury is hoping to “jump in and be competitive” with the new Acura ARX-05 DPi car, as the French constructor ramps up its involvement in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
The long-awaited Penske Acura DPi program was officially announced last week, which will see the legendary team make its return to sports car racing, utilizing an ORECA-built LMP2 car as the base for the factory effort that will debut in January’s Rolex 24 at Daytona.
“Honda and Penske are two big names in motorsport, so for sure we are real happy to work with them on the project,” Floury told Sportscar365.
“For sure it’s one of the most prestigious racing teams in the world. We’ve been working with big manufacturers, now we are working with one of the biggest teams, so it’s really exciting.
“It’s a fantastic operation with bright and open-minded people, so it’s really good to be part of the project.”
Floury said work on the Acura DPi began in December, with the first car currently being assembled at its base in France and expected to begin on-track testing later this month.
Team Penske President Tim Cindric confirmed an initial rollout will be at Paul Ricard, prior to it being shipped Stateside for the start of an extensive testing and development program.
While based on the 24 Hours of Le Mans class-winning Oreca 07, Floury said a lot of work has gone into optimizing the entire package, including the engine, which is the first turbocharged powerplant to be utilized in an ORECA-built LMP2 coupe.
“It’s a bit of a challenge, especially since it is a turbo engine so it changes a lot of the engine integration,” Floury said. “But it’s not the first time we’ve had this kind of challenge.
“We already went through this with the Rebellion R-One [LMP1 car] when we switched from the Toyota V8 normally aspirated to the AER turbo. It’s always a challenge, but I think we have good solutions.”
ORECA has also been working hand-in-hand with Honda Performance Development on the manufacturer-specific bodywork, which Floury said is “in line” with the other current DPis in having “clear identities” that are different from the base LMP2 model.
“It involved some of the stylists from the road cars to make sure that the identity of the car is is in line with their brand image,” he said.
“All of the bodywork will be produced by ORECA but the design is a joint effort between HPD and ORECA, so we have worked with CFD, we have been in the wind tunnel. It’s a collaboration between us and HPD.”
While Floury expects the Acura DPi’s homologation to be completed by November, some two months prior to its competition debut at Daytona, he supports IMSA’s decision to have not yet locked in the final specifications for any of the DPi that are competing this year.
Both the Mazda and Nissan-based DPis have undergone updates since the start of the debut season, with Multimatic set to make further developments under Mazda’s new partnership with Joest Racing.
“Most of these updates are for reliability or cooling, not for pure performance,” Floury said. “It’s right for IMSA to allow this kind of thing, otherwise you have people keep having the same issue, so it’s not what is needed.
“I think there is a strong potential for the IMSA championship to really grow in the future. It’s very exciting. I think it’s the right approach.”
Floury said its partnership with HPD is non-exclusive, meaning they are free to work with other manufacturers on future DPi projects, but for the time being, are fully focused on making the most out of the Penske Acura program.
“We stay obviously open but the first step is to do this project really well,” he said. “This project is not yet completed so we have a lot to do in terms of development.
“The car will still evolve between the first rollout and the specs that will be homologated, so there’s a development program in between, and the clear focus is to make sure that this project is successful.
“Once this is achieved, we can be open to other projects, other challenges. The first thing is to do things right.”
With Acura joining the established likes of Cadillac, Mazda and Nissan on the grid, Floury said they can’t take the level of competition for granted, knowing that it could be a tough fight ahead.
“As long as we’ve not run, it’s difficult to answer this question but the target is to jump in and be competitive,” he said. “We want to be out of the fight in front, and clearly this is the target. I don’t think [Roger] Penske or Tim Cindric see it differently.”