In the two months since rolling out the ARX-06 at Paul Ricard followed by a couple of days of testing at Magny-Cours, the folks at Honda Performance Development, Wayne Taylor Racing and Meyer Shank Racing have been busy putting miles on the new LMDh car as they prepare for the first IMSA-sanctioned test at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta after Petit Le Mans, followed all-too-quickly by the 2023 Rolex 24 At Daytona in January.
Wayne Taylor Racing has been the team actively running the car, although Meyer Shank Racing with Curb Agajanian had personnel at the tests. And in parallel, MSR has taken its car, received just after the full reveal during The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering, to the wind tunnel. WTR and HPD have taken the car to Kansas Speedway — a stand-in for Daytona –then Daytona and Sebring. So far, the testing has gone well, says Honda Performance Development Vice President Kelvin Fu.
“There’s been some pleasant surprises in terms of good comments from the drivers, that it’s a good car with good characteristics for handling,” Fu said. “So, we think there’s potential with the car. ORECA has done a really nice job designing a light car, so we have some knobs we can tweak in that direction.
“I guess for an engineering exercise, everybody’s kind of hit their performance targets or been pretty close to where they thought they’d be. So there’s no massive surprises, something grossly out of whack.”
Like the ARX-05 DPi car before it, HPD is working with ORECA as a chassis partner. Unlike last time, though, the LMDh car isn’t simply adapting an LMP2 chassis to fit an engine and bespoke bodywork. While the backbones that the chassis manufacturers create will be used for the next generation of LMP2 car, there’s a lot more involved in getting everything working together — the chassis, the branded bodywork, the Acura 2.4-liter twin-turbo V6 and the spec Energy Recovery System that includes components from Bosch, Williams Advanced Engineering and Xtrac.
“Since this is much more of a clean-sheet design, in some ways it leads to us being much more involved. The the car is so complicated with the hybrid system. And since we’re developing all the software in house, our team at HPD has to be much more in line and integrate with the teams at WTR and at MSR. So that’s that’s been a good thing for us,” Fu explains.
“Every time we go out we find out more more about it. I don’t think there’s anything I would say has been major that we found; there’s been no huge issues. A lot of it is just, ‘Hey, this isn’t right — we’ve got to fix this.’ It could be anything — it could be mechanical, it could be electrical, could be software — and you find it, you fix it. The biggest thing is we know things about the car as we put more miles on it, so we’ve just gotta get more miles on it until we’ve flushed out all the small bits. Then we can start putting performance at the front and have some confidence that everything’s sorted for the 24.”
One thing that all the manufacturers and teams are going to have to learn is how to use the hybrid system to their advantage. Fortunately Honda has some time in Formula 1 where similar systems are used and has gained some expertise there.
“It’s going to be interesting on how to use a hybrid system for launching out of the pits, and how we’re going to use it for both managing energy as we go around the track and the best way to deploy it for lap time or overtake. So we’re doing a lot of simulation, both from lap time and talking to the drivers and our own vehicle simulation group, we’re working on that.
“And then we had one of our engineers go to Japan, work on the Honda F1 team for a couple of years.” Fu notes. “His last year, he was part of the energy management group in F1. So he came back a year ago, and we asked him to take a look at it from an energy management point of view. They’re different in terms of the technology and the rules, but having that kind of expertise in house is always useful to try to find the best way to manage the energy.”
MSR’s ARX-06 was still being completed as HPD, like others, has experienced parts shortages, but the team expects to shake it down before Petit Le Mans in preparation for the IMSA-sanctioned test at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta following the final race of the season next weekend. Cadillac and BMW will participate in that two-and-a-half day test along with Acura. While the teams will log some miles, the series and Michelin will likely have some things they want to test as well, so it may not be as productive as some of their independent tests have been. Fu says they expect maybe eight or nine more days of testing, including the post-Petit sessions and the second IMSA-sanctioned test at Daytona in December.