One of the biggest open secrets in the sports car racing paddock has finally been made official, with Honda Performance Development confirming Tuesday that Team Penske will run a pair of brand-new Acura DPis in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship beginning next year.
The luxury automaker, which entered GT Daytona class competition this year with the Acura NSX GT3, will expand its program to include a factory effort in the Prototype class, joining Cadillac, Mazda and Nissan with DPi efforts.
The ARX-05 DPi will debut at the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January and is the first DPi based on the 24 Hours of Le Mans-LMP2 class-winning Oreca 07 chassis.
It will feature the production-based Acura AR35TT engine, a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 powerplant.
“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 race track and we are excited to come back to IMSA and the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.”
It will mark Acura’s return to prototype racing for the first time since 2009 when it won the American Le Mans Series LMP1 championship with its Acura ARX-02a, following a three-year LMP2 campaign.
Penske, which won three consecutive ALMS LMP2 titles with its factory Porsche RS Spyders, battled Acura in the class from 2007-08, prior to a move to Grand-Am in 2009 with a Porsche-powered Riley DP, which was its most recent sports car racing effort.
“Roger Penske is already an important part of the Acura family as one of our great Acura dealers, and now it is a thrill to have him as part of the Acura Motorsports family as well,” added Jon Ikeda, Acura senior vice president and general manager.
“We look forward to building on the success of the race-winning NSX GT3 program, and couldn’t be more thrilled to return to the prototype category of the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with a partner like Team Penske.”
Drivers have not yet been announced for the Penske Acura program but are widely believed to include Juan Pablo Montoya and Helio Castroneves, who is rumored to be moving away from full-time IndyCar competition for the new DPi effort.
While the DPi program will make its race debut in 2018, Penske is evaluating a Petit Le Mans entry in October with an Oreca 07 Gibson, as reported by Sportscar365 last week.
The ARX-05 will be revealed in August at Monterey Car Week, while testing will get underway soon.