After a storybook 2012 season that included wins in the Twelve Hours of Sebring and 24 Hours of Le Mans, Starworks Motorsport is planning a return to the LMP2 ranks next year, both in America and Europe, with Honda Performance Development’s new closed-top prototype.
In a Sportscar365 exclusive, team owner Peter Baron revealed that he’s close to finalizing a deal to run up to two HPD ARX-04bs in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship next year, in addition to the twice-around-the-clock French endurance classic.
“We had multiple conversations with the folks at Honda last weekend at COTA,” Baron told Sportscar365. “As soon as we started talking with some prospective customers about a P2 car, the conversations got a lot more interesting.
“If we’re going to be in the P class next year, it would be with the P2 car. The most business compelling opportunity right now is in P2. And at this point, there’s no reason not to move forward with a Honda car.”
Baron, whose Florida-based team won the 2012 FIA World Endurance Championship in a HPD ARX-03b (pictured above), has kept close ties to the California-based manufacturer, having run a Honda-powered Riley DP in the TUDOR Championship races at Sebring and Road America this year.
However, with new Prototype regulations coming into play in 2017, largely based on the current LMP2 formula, Baron said the DP program has been put on the backburner, as all customer interest currently in P2.
“With a P2 car, you can go to Le Mans with it and do some ELMS races too,” he said. “The business variable we were looking at was that once the rules get a little bit more finalized, how much of the car would carry over to 2017?
“It sounds like a fair amount of it will be, so that was a good step forward for us last weekend.”
The performance of the P2 cars in the Lone Star Le Mans event at Circuit of The Americas was also encouraging, according to Baron, who was impressed by the Honda-powered Ligier that claimed pole and a runner-up finish in the race.
Extreme Speed Motorsports has been the only announced HPD ARX-04b customer to date, although it’s understood HPD anticipates up to three of the new cars, not including ESM, to compete full-time in the TUDOR Championship next year.
“The encouraging thing is that [IMSA] is still working on the [BoP]. I think the cars, with more horsepower and more weight, are going to be a bit more similar [to the DPs]. So I think that part is good.
“The only thing that is discouraging is that there’s no fall testing at Daytona. So you get a P2 car and go straight into the Roar and it doesn’t give them too much time to test [the BoP]. It would have been nice to have a November test.”
Baron, who is in discussions with three funded Silver drivers for the P class effort, is targeting a two-car ARX-04b program, with additional one-off races in the European Le Mans Series also a possibility, as well as Le Mans.
The team is also planning a return to the Prototype Challenge ranks next year, with the capacity to run up to three full-season TUDOR Championship entries between the two classes.
Baron said a final decision on the P2 program will be made within the next 30 days in order to have the cars ready for next year’s season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona.