On Tuesday morning, Team Penske and Acura Motorsports announced that Penske will return to sports car racing for the first time since 2008. The team, now in their sixth decade of racing, will enter two Acura ARX-05 DPis starting with the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona.
No drivers were officially named to the new Team Penske Acura effort, despite a number of recent rumors. Given two full-time entries, that would mean four full-time drivers, plus additional drivers for the endurance races. The release notes that driver announcements will be made at a later date. The ARX-05 itself will officially be unveiled next month at Monterey Car Week.
The ARX-05 will be based on the ORECA 07 chassis that currently competes in a number of series around the world. JDC/Miller MotorSports competes full-time in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with the regular version of the chassis. REBELLION Racing raced another ORECA 07 at Daytona and Sebring earlier this year and will likely be back for the Motul Petit Le Mans in October. Power will be provided by the twin-turbo AR35TT V6 engine. The engine is based on production units from Acura’s street cars such as the RDX, MDX and the TLX.
Team Penske namesake/owner Roger Penske is very happy to return to sports car racing with Acura.
“We are excited to join forces with the Honda Performance Development family and represent the Acura brand with two prototypes starting in 2018,” Penske said in the official press release. “Sports car racing has been an integral part of Team Penske’s heritage, from our first race at the 24 Hours of Daytona in 1966 to running the American Le Mans Series in the late 2000s. Reviving a Team Penske sports car program has always been a goal for us, but to do so required strong and successful partners like Honda and Acura. It’s great to extend our relationship from the dealership to the race track and we are excited to come back to IMSA and the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.”
Art St. Cyr, president of HPD, is happy to not have to race against Team Penske in IMSA.
“We had a very spirited competition with Team Penske during our previous ALMS Acura prototype programs, and we are looking forward to working with, instead of against, Team Penske as the ideal partner for our return to the prototype ranks,” St. Cyr said. “We also had a great deal of success together in CART and IndyCar competition, and Team Penske’s overall record in all forms of racing is unrivaled in our sport.”
Team Penske’s last foray into sports car racing was a factory-backed effort with Porsche in the American Le Mans Series. Team Penske was the first operation to race the Porsche RS Spyder in the LMP2 class. As St. Cyr noted, the Penske entries coincided with Acura making an all-out assault on the American Le Mans Series in both LMP1 and LMP2. The LMP2 class was transformed from a class in which entries were limited and survival was the name of the game to one with the best action in the ALMS.
In three seasons, the factory RS Spyders won in their class 22 times out of 33 races. 11 of those victories, including eight in 2007, were overall victories in which the LMP2 Porsches defeated Audi Sport Team Joest’s Audi R10s. The venues in which those overall victories occurred ranged from street courses like Long Beach and shorter tracks like Lime Rock all the way up to Road America.
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