America’s fancy-Honda brand Acura is getting back into racing prototypes with a two-car Team Penske IMSA DPi effort, Team Penske announced today. Acura last raced a purpose-built racing prototype when the American Le Mans Series was still a thing at the start of this decade, but those cars were later rebranded as Hondas.
The new Acura ARX-05 prototype will go head-to-head against this year’s cool new DPis from Mazda, Cadillac and Nissan, plus the international LMP2-spec cars in the WeatherTech Sports Car Championship’s top Prototype class next year.
The ARX-05 will come with a production-based Acura AR35TT twin-turbo 3.5-liter V6, which is based on the engine that’s found in the Acura RDX, MDX, TLX and RLX road cars. The chassis itself will be based on the Oreca 07, but with Acura-specific bodywork.
“ARX-05 stands” for “Acura Racing eXperimental, generation 5.” Acura has a longer history of racing prototypes than you’d think, going all the way back to 1991, when Acura itself was only five years old, so it’s good to see them back where they belong.
The Team Penske-Acura überteam will formally unveil the car at Monterey Car Week this August. Already, they’re describing it as a “multi-year” prototype partnership. In a call this afternoon on the new car, team representatives confirmed that the ARX-05's first test would be at the end of July at France’s Circuit Paul Ricard before it gets shipped back to America.
Drivers will be announced later, but Penske IndyCar drivers Helio Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya have been heavily rumored to be involved with the project—so much so that this IMSA DPi project seemed to be half the conversation about Team Penske during this weekend’s IndyCar broadcast. We’ll see if Castroneves getting that crucial first win since 2014 keeps him in an IndyCar next year, or if he’ll want to try the WTSC instead.
Naturally, Acura fans are all but begging fan favorite Acura NSX GT3 drivers Andy Lally, Ryan Eversley and Katherine Legge to get a shot in the cool new DPi. In other words, both Acura and Penske are not exactly hurting for talent when it comes to choosing drivers who could wheel this car fast.
Here’s hoping Acura doesn’t suffer the same pop-goes-the-engine problems as Honda’s IndyCar and Formula One programs. If the car’s reliable, this could be next year’s insanely fast wonder squad to beat. Given that Acura nailed the NSX GT3 right out of the bag at the ultra-grueling 24 Hours of Daytona this year, color me optimistic.