It’s finally time for the Acura-Penske ARX-05 to take a bow, and that’s as good a reason as any for an update on the much-anticipated Acura Factory Daytona Prototype international (DPi) program set to first turn a wheel in anger at the Rolex 24 at Daytona on January 27th, 2018.
First, the look of the car. It’s striking both in the livery as well as the form. The other thing that is striking is how little of the car appears to be different from the Oreca 07 LMP2 car on which it is based. This is a good thing based on its success.
Since we don’t have the influence or the money to put the two side-by-side, we’ve included similar views of the two cars.
Remember, the purpose of the “special” DPi body work is brand identity. IMSA is going to great pains to make sure that the DPI bodywork is performance balanced.
The differences from the ARX-05 are in two main areas: the headlights and an added element above the nose.
From the pictures, it appears that the front fender/headlight overall shape is exactly the same, which should preserve the aerodynamic goodness of the Oreca shape. To the air flowing past, the cars should look the same. To human eyes, the difference is in the placement of the lighting elements. The Acura clearly is playing off the production car Jewel-Eye arrangement. Which is probably a good thing and the car should stand out from the pack. You won’t mistake this car for an everyday Oreca 07 LMP2. Or for anything else that we’ve seen.
The addition is a “wing” that attaches the two fenders and carries over the nose of the ARX . This is clearly designed to mimic the nose of the Acura NSX , and probably does very little from an aero standpoint. OK, MAYBE it cleans up the airflow presented to the side pods. But I doubt it.
Overall, the look and the livery work well together. It’s a clean look and it should be distinctive. The HPD livery staff clearly has applied lessons learned from the various liveries that have been tried with varying levels of success on the TLX GT and NSX GT3.
I like it.
AN UPDATE ON DRIVERS
At this writing (August 18, 2017), we know for sure that one of the cars will be driven by Juan Montoya and Dane Cameron. Anyone who has watched Montoya drive in any series over the last almost 20 years knows what he brings to the table: Skill, aggression, and incomparable car control at the limit (If you want examples of car control, search for some of the videos from his winning drive in the 2015 Indy 500). His car was evil loose at the end, and he won with it.
Dane Cameron is no slouch in the cockpit, and he also knows how the main competitive car (the Cadillac DPI ) works at all the tracks they will go to next season, save Mid-Ohio.
We also know that Pipo Derani will not be driving for Acura, having signed this week with Nissan- ESM .
So, who is going to drive car #2?
If you follow or listen to Marshall Pruett (I’m a big fan), then it’s a done deal waiting to be announced: Helio Castroneves and Ricky Taylor. The theory on Castroneves is that Derani was “Plan B” in case Castroneves turned down the drive. And that the fact that Derani signed with ESM is an indication that Penske convinced Castroneves to drive the DPi next year. And I am OK with that line of reasoning. Makes perfect sense to me.
The Ricky Taylor part I am not convinced of. You may recall that Ricky Taylor drove a Penske Indycar at Homestead a while back. The conventional wisdom seems to be that test was really an opportunity to test Ricky in a high-downforce car.
This is where I start to have a problem with that line of thinking. See if you can follow along: Let’s say that you are in charge of GM’s racing division. Ricky (and Jordan) are about as close as GM gets to factory drivers as they drive several factory-supported cars in several series. I would assume that GM would have to give permission for Ricky to have a test with Penske. And that GM racing, not being stupid, would know of the Penske-Honda plans for DPi. Wouldn’t you think that GM racing would put in some stipulation in the agreement allowing the test prohibiting Penske from hiring Taylor for either IMSA or NASCAR? I know I would. Even for my real-life minions.
Understand I have nothing against Ricky Taylor, his Brother, or his Father; all fine talented people. And the badfast podcast isn’t bad. He would be a great addition to the Acura-Penske program.
I am just having trouble squaring this with normal business logic, on a few levels.
The last piece to the puzzle? I’m stumped. I don’t think it will be Andy Lally, because I think he’ll be driving an NSX next year. Could be Will Power. Could be Josef Newgarden. Could be Romain Dumas, who has ties to Penske and won the Pike’s Peak Hill Climb driving a Honda-powered prototype. I guess we’ll see. And when we find out I’ll probably have some 'splaining to do.
And the endurance drivers?
One of them has to be Simon Pagenaud. From having talked Montoya, Pagenaud and Castroneves, I am going to predict that he will he the third driver for Helio’s car. They seem like they follow similar thought processes. And they both worked with Gil de Ferran extensively.