With no customers lined up for 2014, the future of Honda Performance Development’s proposed LMP1 car is up in the air, with the focus now shifting towards an all-new LMP2 coupe that could be on track to debut next year.
HPD technical director Roger Griffiths confirmed to Sportscar365 that the green-light for its new HPD ARX-04b could be given in the next two weeks, following positive meetings with prospective teams at last weekend’s Rolex 24 at Daytona.
“We really want to do it but it has to make commercial sense,” Griffiths told Sportscar365. “We have to have a good feeling that there’s going to be some stability in the regulations going forward because it is quite an investment into a new car. But we are aware that the market is trending towards coupes. More and more people are asking for them.”
Both OnRoak Automotive (OAK) and ORECA have announced plans to build LMP2 coupes, joining the already existing models from Lotus/Kodewa, Dome and Lola.
Griffiths said HPD’s car, which has entered the advanced design stages by Wirth Research, would meet all of the latest 2014 LMP1 safety standards, including a common tub what was originally earmarked for the now-stillborn ARX-04a project.
It would also continue to utilize the proven production-based 2.8-liter twin-turbo V6 powerplant, which has been further developed to include a fly-by-wire throttle system for 2014.
“We’re having to look hard at our current car and understand what are the right bits to take from our current car to carry into the new car,” Griffiths said. “The current car was obviously born out of the original Acura works program [in 2007].
“As a commercial product, it probably doesn’t make a great deal of sense. It’s hard to give up on a lot of the technology we have in the car because we know it’s 24-hour proven. We don’t want do something that detracts from the reliability and performance.”
As for the future of its LMP1 car, Griffiths admitted that it currently looks unlikely due to lack of customer demand.
Currently, only Rebellion Racing has committed to the LMP1-L class in the FIA World Endurance Championship, the only remaining series where top-flight prototypes are eligible to compete in.
“We’ll see what happens in 2014 with the WEC and how that pans out,” Griffiths said. “It’s challenging. I think the ACO and the FIA want manufacturers involved, but the privateers have been such a part of that championship for a long time. To alienate them could… You’re going to really struggle to have more than six cars in your top category.”
While the ARX-04a LMP1 chassis may never come to fruition, work continues on the IndyCar-based 2.2-liter V6 engine, along with HPD’s energy recovery system it has developed with Magneti Marelli.
“It’s a very, very interesting project from a technical perspective,” Griffiths said. “The engine has run very well on the dyno and has produced some great numbers both in terms of performance and efficiency. It’s been a great learning exercise for us.
“Aspects of the drivetrain program continue. Could they be applied in other arenas? What is the next generation of IndyCar engines going to be? It may well turn into a research activity for a future IndyCar platform, depending on where that heads.”