This weekend’s Rolex 24 at Daytona will be a “voyage of discovery” for Acura in the competition debut of its LMDh car according to Honda Performance Development President David Salters.
The new Acura ARX-06 has gotten off to a fast start, with Meyer Shank Racing having topped all but one session at the Roar Before the Rolex 24, including Tom Blomqvist scoring pole for the first race of the GTP era.
“We’re very pleased,” Salters told Sportscar365. “You’re pleased on different levels. It all comes down to people in the end and that’s the lovely bit of our business, is that it’s a team.
“There’s a lot of people that put a lot of effort over the last 18 months to two years into trying to make the best race car we can.
“That was always the goal: How do we make the best race car we can? We try and make decisions to do that.
“I guess it was nice to see then vindicated. [But] one swallow doesn’t make a summer.
“As a start, it was nice to see those decisions and all the effort of the men and women involved come out in a race car that seemed reasonably speedy.
“It’s early days. We’re very conscious and very humble. This game bites you very quickly, so let’s not get too carried away, but so far, so good.”
Salters said the early performance from both MSR and fellow factory Acura GTP team Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Autosport doesn’t add extra pressure heading into the race, which the luxury automaker has won the last two years.
Acura is one of four LMDh manufacturers giving the platform its global debut.
“Rule No. 1 or Plan A is to try and make a fast race car; No. 2 is try to keep it in one piece,” Salters said.
“I think we’re still on our original plan. Let’s make sure we try and make sure we do a good job for the race.
“We’re about to attempt ten or 12 Grand Prixs in a row. So we’re about to do half a season’s racing in a series, in one go. The chances of a new car not having a problem are zero.
“Somewhere, there will be some problem. I can more or less guarantee it. At which point, we have to find a way to sort it out as smartly as we can and work on it.
“I am under no illusion that it’s going to be a voyage of discovery during the 24-hour race.
“That’s not being pessimistic or anything, I think it’s being realistic.
“We have very good teams, we have very good [constructor] in ORECA, HPD does all of the powertrain and vehicle simulation, electrical side, software… Those people have done a tremendous job. We’ll all just work together.”
Shank on Acura ARX-06: “It’s So New”
Despite his car starting on pole, MSR co-owner Mike Shank stressed the challenge ahead for the team as well as all GTP class contenders.
“From a base, we have a good car,” Shank told Sportscar365. “We just need some time to develop everything: reliability, drivability.
“I’ve heard the Cadillac guys say this — and we [also] haven’t worked a whole lot on making it a great driving car. I don’t think a lot of people have.
“We’re putting loads in weird places and are trying things and pushing the limits on parts and trying to get it to be reliable.
“We all signed up for it; we knew we were going to have good times and bad times.
“We’ve got work to do and we’re still doing it every single day. We’ve been on the road for two weeks now and every day there’s something new we’re trying to make better, analyze and rush to get back on the car and get it in for tomorrow.
“It’s so new. It’s such an incredible product. We’re just [brushing] the potential of it, honestly. It’s honestly a cool piece and they’ve done a good job.”
Shank said the spread in qualifying, which saw all four LMDh manufacturers separated by seven-tenths, bodes well for the potential competitiveness of the race.
“I think when you spread the field across six or seven tenths like we have, for IMSA, I think that’s a pretty good dart throw,” he said. “It might not be dead in the middle, but it’s like in the double on a dart board.
“Let’s see what happens. It’s going to be an interesting [weekend] for sure.”