From the development of a new LMP1 engine for 2014 and a spike in P2 interest globally, it’s been busy times at Honda Performance Development as the California-based manufacturer ramps up for the 2014 international sports car racing season.
FOX Sports SPEED caught up with HPD VP Steve Eriksen to shed some light into the manufacturer’s sports car racing activities across the globe, including prospects for the new TUDOR UnitedSportsCar Championship, as well as an update on the new Acura NSX.
John Dagys: HPD was one of the first manufacturers to commit to a customer supply of LMP1 engines for 2014. How has development of the 2.2-liter V6 turbo, derived from the IndyCar powerplant, gone so far?
Steve Eriksen: “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. 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.”
JD: How many customers do you anticipate having for the new LMP1 engine?
SE: “It is a very small market. 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.”
JD: How many HPD P2 cars do you see on the grid in the TUDOR Championship next year?
SE: “There are still a lot of active discussions going on right now but I would say the minimum would be two with ESM. If everything came to pass that’s been in discussion, there could be as many as six cars.”
JD: Can you support more teams if needed?
SE: “The challenge is the lead time. There are cars out there that are ready to run, like RML’s P2, which is up to the current spec. If a team was looking for a turn-key car and spares, that car is available.
“We maintain minimum stock quantities for parts for P2s so we respond to team’s needs. That can be turned into cars or portions of cars as necessary. But if too many people come at once, it’s a challenge because you don’t necessarily have six cars worth of parts sitting around.”
JD: Has the delay in P2/DP regulations caused any issues on HPD’s front?
SE: “Not so much on the P2 side because we pretty much know what’s happening there. Scot Elkins has done a good job keeping us up to pace of where things are at.
“For us, the biggest hangup is fuel. I don’t know what fuel the series will use and that’s not inconsequential activity for us. We store fuel in huge underground tanks and when we need to switch fuels, we need to pay to have that pumped out, you have to buy thousands of gallons of new fuel. You can’t just get that in a heartbeat, it takes some time.”
JD: While Chip Ganassi Racing has gone to Chevrolet engines in IndyCar for 2014, do you anticipate working with them again in the future, perhaps in sports car racing?
SE: “I asked the question and it sounds like, that at least for the near term, they’re still going with ahead BMW. We’d welcome the chance to work with them again in the future.
“I think it’s going to be a very interesting season coming up. We’re all waiting to see what the final chemistry of the DP and P2 car looks like and how they compete against each other. A lot will make itself apparent once we get racing.”
JD: What’s the status of the Acura NSX project?
SE: “As announced multiple times by Honda, the NSX will race. Where, when and under what regulations is not ready for announcement. We are very much in favor of energy recovery systems being part of the top category of GT. It’s been discussed in the constructor’s meetings.
“Much like any other manufacturer, you want to show the value of the technology you’re bringing to the production car products. Just as Audi puts TDI in their race sports car and have TDI in their production car, that’s a great example of how you tie in the technology in racing into technology for the street.
“The NSX has been announced as a modern sports car that includes all of the dynamic benefits of the energy recovery system.”