The good news for fans of the Acura Motorsports effort in IMSA’s Daytona Prototype international class is the brand has every intention of continuing with its ARX-05 program after its partnership with Team Penske concludes at the end of the season.
The big question looming for Acura and Honda Performance Development is what its post-Penske future will hold in terms of teams and drivers. There’s no ready answer to offer at the moment — only speculation — as talks take place with interested parties, but the folks at HPD are clear about one direction its DPi program will not pursue.
Upon the formation of Acura Team Penske in 2017, HPD said its DPi efforts would be restricted to factory-based competition, and the policy, according to HPD boss Ted Klaus, won’t change after its relationship with Team Penske concludes.
“The answer is pretty straightforward,” Klaus told RACER. “We’re extremely focused on cultivating those type of customer programs for the Acura NSX GT3 Evo. With the GT3 Evo, we’ve got a lot invested in that product and we would share all of the technical knowhow from HPD and Meyer Shank Racing, and help get a team get up and running quickly. But I think that’s about as far as we go, when we consider customer programs. We’re not actively considering, and not focused on a DPi customer program.”
While facing an industry-wide slowdown in auto sales, Acura and HPD will look to keep the DPi program in a familiar place by relying on partner teams to field ARX-05s. Ramping up for customer sales and support would require significant expansion in parts, personnel, and budget, which would be ill-timed as most manufacturers are searching for financial efficiencies during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We understand there’s interest, and there’s interest from respected teams, but we’re really not focused on customer DPis right now,” Klaus explained. “In fact, we’ve got bigger fish to fry. We need to review our entire North American racing portfolio, to determine the best ways to support Acura Motorsports, and Honda Racing, given the current [economic] environment.”
Klaus would not be drawn on the teams that might field ARX-05s next year, or which drivers could pilot the championship-winning prototypes. On the team front, most of the Honda-powered outfits in the NTT IndyCar Series have been rumored as candidates to run single entries. And with the recent end to Ford’s IMSA GT campaign, plus the upcoming end to Porsche’s GT effort, HPD can expect plenty of driver inquiries.
Add in the current roster of reigning DPi champions Dane Cameron and Juan Pablo Montoya, and the sister Acura entry for Helio Castroneves and Ricky Taylor, and some hard decisions on who will remain with the program — and be added to the ARX-05 family — will consume a significant amount of time in the coming weeks.