Compared to IndyCar and its spec chassis formula, IMSA’s DPi class — featuring three unique prototype models built by Dallara, Multimatic, and ORECA, along with three vastly different types of engines in those machines — made for an exceptionally challenging repeat performance. The titles went down to the wire at the positively insane Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring season finale, and Klaus didn’t mind as HPD farewelled its partnership with Team Penske with a trio of new championships in hand.
“IndyCar is wonderful because you just go out and it’s a winner take all and may the best team technology manufacturer win,” he said. “In IMSA, even though there’s the same approach, there is a balance of performance to allow our twin-turbo V6, ORECA chassis to compete with the turbocharged four-cylinder Multimatic Mazda and the big honking normally-aspirated V8 Cadillac Dallara. So the BoP is a necessary evil to have that kind of character and variety of racing. Acura partnering with a Team Penske, we had a tough first year in the series in 2018, and we didn’t hit our stride till 2019 when the No. 6 car won the championship led by Dane Cameron and Juan Pablo Montoya.
“Then this year, in spite of a rough start, the No. 7 car triumphed in the championship led by Ricky Taylor and Helio Castroneves, with all those successful years in the Penske organization, getting his very first championship. It was just supremely satisfying and bittersweet, but at the same time, three years ago — or even longer than that — we imagined the kind of championships we thought we could bring home. Then to do it, it still is a little surreal and you still have to pinch yourself. You’re grateful for all of the little things that everyone did at HPD to support those results.”
Where the relationship with Penske came to a victorious end after three years, HPD’s alliance with Meyer Shank Racing is headed upwards — from GTD to DPi — when the new season arrives in January. But there’s another farewell in store, as MSR leaves four years of campaigning the NSX GT3 Evos it established for HPD in GTD to other teams.
“Well, you can’t say enough about Mike Shank and Jim Meyer; their passion, their grit, and they just get it done on the track,” Klaus said. “The NSX GT3 Evo holistically has HPD behind it; we designed and developed and then did the Evo package on that, so it’s especially rewarding when we have so much skin in the race car itself. But there’s no way you achieve that without Mike Shank running the team. And then we had parallels to 2019, with Mario Farnbacher and Trent Hindman winning the championship, to this year, where Mario carries over as the leader of the team, Matt McMurry stepping out of a P2 car last year into a GT3 car, and winning with a different combination.”
Klaus had the rare treat of seeing McMurry in the halls of HPD between races as the second-generation sports car driver and engineering student landed his first job after college.
“Matt works for HPD and we’ll continue to work for HPD; he came here as an intern,” he said. “Very, very smart between the ears, but then very, very skillful to actually extract the most out of the car. It’s really neat to see the growth in the non-professional drivers and the way that they are able to perform and grow throughout the year. So I think this year was truly kind of the cherry on the sundae that we’ve been whipping up here with Meyer Shank Racing. I know Mike Shank would probably tell you this year was as satisfying if not the most satisfying, because what we believe about IMSA is it should be a platform for amateur racers to really cut their teeth and get their stripes. Matt McMurry pays down that intention in spades this year with the championship.”
As Klaus finishes his final days at Honda, he’s left HPD’s David Salters, who will step forth as its new president, with one hell of an act to follow in 2021.
“I’ve been fortunate — I’ve worked for Honda for 30 years, and it’s the kind of company that allows you to bring your full passion, all your hopes and dreams,” he said. “And if you’re skillful enough to align everyone and you just push beyond difficult or impossible, you can chop it up and make things possible. So for me, working at HPD was the culmination of my 30-year career. At Honda, I was able to lead a skillful group of passionate people who not only simply got after it, but they got after it in a way where they constantly reinvented themselves, took on challenges.
“I believe that what happened this year is a little bit of luck, but you always get a lot luckier when you’re working with a smart, skillful group of people. So I wish this same group of people nothing but good fortune in the future. I believe that David Salters is the right leader and that we’ve got good partner teams, and we’re going to continue to earn our stripes as we go forward and continue to bring our unique sense of homegrown passion to all the series that we compete in.”