Honda Performance Development vice president Steve Eriksen reports interest with the marque’s new-for-2015 P2 coupe has surpassed expectation. The ARX-04b chassis, set to replace the current ARX-03b (BELOW) utilized in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, was announced last month and could appear in North America and in international sports car competition.
“What we set out to do with this car was to use sort of an approach like a boutique product, if you will; this is a very special car,” Eriksen told RACER. “Although it’s cost-capped, the regulations define the costs of the price of the car, although it’s cost-capped, we’re not making this to sell 20 of them. We have no interest in that because we don’t believe that we can support that many cars in the quality manner that teams expect of us and we expect of ourselves.
“Our target has been to sell this to a select group of people that we know have the capability to show it well. That have good drivers, have good funding, a good team. That’s been our formula in trying to make sure that wherever we go in racing that we have the success that we believe we are capable of, and so far, the response we’ve gotten has been exceptionally high.”
With an initial run of six cars planned, HPD and its partners at Wirth Research are working on getting the brand’s first coupe ready for testing later in the year.
“A handful of cars is about where we’re comfortable that we can provide the quality of service we want and have a chance for victory everywhere we go,” he continued. “This car really represents the culmination of the things that we’ve learned since entering sports car racing in 2007 and really haven’t had a chance to show since 2010.
“So it’s a really an exciting opportunity for us because, essentially, the [ARX-03b] that became cost-capped, it was homologated and then done. You can’t change it, you can’t make it any faster, no matter what you know, you’re stuck with it. And even given as perhaps long in the tooth as some might think the car is, looking at Sebring, we should’ve won that race. So with the performance enhancements coming with the new car, we can’t wait to get out and going when we’re ready.”
Speaking with Extreme Speed Motorsports co-owner/driver Scott Sharp, whose team fields a pair of ARX-03bs in the TUDOR Championship, it sounds like the longtime partner of HPD could be on the grid in January for the Rolex 24 at Daytona with brand-new P2 coupes.
“It’s common sense; we want to go to Le Mans at some point in time, and we think that’s really pretty cool that the series is tied in with the ACO,” Sharp told RACER, stopping short of confirming ESM’s 2015 plans. “Obviously, the only car that you can do that with is P2, and with the abundance of new coupes coming, they’re only justifying their existence by being safer, quicker, more efficient, all those things.
“And there’s the whole new – what will eventually become – global P2 rules. But I think if you’re going to carry on the in P2, you almost have to look very seriously at making the move to a new car.”
Eriksen hinted that more than half of the initial production run of ARX-04bs could appear in the TUDOR Championship next year. He also hopes to see the twin-turbo V6-powered coupe running in the World Endurance Championship.
“The car doesn’t have any regional boundaries, it could go outside of the U.S., and we’ll certainly support that as we’ve done in the past,” he said. “But we are a North American-based company and so, selfishly, I would like to see a chunk of that quantity based out of here and competing here. It’s a good synergy. While we can support people anywhere in the world, it’s just a nice match when we’ve got some running in North America.
“A lot of our time at [Round 3 in] Long Beach, from the sports car side, was spent connecting with people, both current, past and potential future customers to try to see what level of interest they have, and we were pleasantly surprised with the level of interest going forward.”
Eriksen also provided an update on where discussions are at for bringing the Acura NSX into new areas of the sport. An ACO GTE version of the V6-powered supercar, reportedly featuring an Energy Recovery System, has been in the works for some time, but its status remains unclear. GT3 versions of the NSX would also make sense.
“It was very clear from [Honda] President Ito that the NSX was to be raced,” he noted. “You’ve seen the [Japanese] Super GT iteration. It’s quite an interesting car. I don’t expect that to be the only application but we’re just not far enough along or at a stage where we’ve got an announcement imminent or anything like that.
“It’s something that we’re studying and formulating plans and there are various plans at various steps of the process, so to speak, for approvals. I think it’s going to be a fantastic car; its base platform is incredibly good, so I think that’s a really positive sign for the foundations of a serious racecar. I’m hopeful that we’ll find many applications down the road.”