Development of HPD’s new LMP1 engine is on target, with the California-based manufacturer in negotiations with multiple teams to have a presence on the grid in next year’s FIA World Endurance Championship.
In speaking with Sportscar365, HPD VP and COO Steve Eriksen revealed they have made better-than-expected progress with its 2.2-liter, direct injection V6 turbo, which has continued dyno testing in anticipation for a 2014 debut.
“Because this is such a new approach of how to run an engine, we did quite a bit of simulation work ahead of time before we ever put the parts together to run on the dyno,” Eriksen explained. “We were really pleasantly surprised to find that what we achieved, even in the initial running of the first prototypes, was very, very close to what we predicted by simulation.”
Unlike its 3.4-liter normally aspirated V8 that’s used in the HPD ARX-03c, the Honda HR22T is derived from its Indy 500 race-winning powerplant that was first introduced in 2012. Eriksen said there has been a considerable amount of crossover from the engine’s roots in open-wheel.
“A lot of it is the years of learning on the IndyCar side that gave us the baseline knowledge to do the simulations,” he said. “There’s a synergy between the IndyCar program and this P1 engine program that is really useful. We’ve learned some things running the P1 engine that help us on the IndyCar side and vice versa.”
On-track testing of the engine will not begin until they sign with a team, Eriksen said. However, he confirmed they are in discussions with multiple parties, including those interested in running just the engine and others for a complete, brand-new bespoke HPD chassis and engine package.
“It is a very small market,” Eriksen said. “And you can see where a number of people have bailed out and said they won’t do LMP1 because there doesn’t seem to be any customers there. Our hope is that given the excellence we’ve demonstrated on track that at least one or two people would step up to the plate and compete in this new era.”
There’s one potential holdup, though, as Eriksen said the new Wirth Research-designed HPD coupe would not be ready until June at the earliest, if a team was to pull the trigger this month. A post-Le Mans debut for the new car would most likely be in the cards at this point, he said.
Eriksen said one possibility would be for a team to start the WEC season with a HPD ARX-03c, which will be grandfathered for 2014, then make the switch to the new car later in the year. The ARX-03c, however, would have to run its current engine, per ACO rules.
While offering the new new-generation engine for 2014, Eriksen is hopeful a team would also commit to HPD’s energy recovery system (ERS) options, which has already undergone initial testing and could begin on-track runs later next year.
Varying levels of hybrid power can be made available with its new package, anywhere from the minimum 2 Megajoules up to the class maximum of 8MJ. Cars running ERS systems will be classified in the LMP1-H category, with non-hybrids set to compete in LMP1-L.
“For our learning, we’d like to have at least somebody out there that wants to run the energy recovery system,” Eriksen said. “We’re learning a lot from it but there’s nothing like competition to really drive that home.
“I think it has to be the right fit for a team’s ambitions. What we see is that some teams we talk to look at the hybrid system and think it’s complicated and going to take a lot of testing for the system to be optimized. Other teams feel that from a technical standpoint, if you don’t have an energy recovery system, you’re not going to have a chance.
“The way the rules are set up, I think they’re very clever in that from a pure lap time standpoint, if you had the best professional-grade engine and ERS or just engine, lap time-wise it’s going to be very similar. What’s going to be different is the number of pit stops. That really drives home the efficiency that comes from energy recovery.”
HPD could be again represented in the LMP2 category next year as well, as Eriksen said there has been renewed interest in the WEC. Anywhere from two to six HPD ARX-03bs, meanwhile, are expected for the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, including the already confirmed effort from Extreme Speed Motorsports.