Highcroft Racing finished second at Sebring with this HPD ARX-01e it intended to race at Le MansPhoto: Anne Proffit
The current economic malaise is taking its toll on race teams. Highcroft Racing, winners of the past two American Le Mans Series ALMS) championships in LM P1 and LM P2 respectively, announced they will not be able to accept their invitation to compete in the LM P1 category at Le Mans this year and are ending a long affiliation with Honda Performance Development (HPD).
Highcroft Racing has been affiliation with HPD for five successful years; the curtain call was a second place finish in this year's Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring in March, in a car that hadn't turned a wheel a week before the race.
The team was one of the initial Acura teams that debuted in the 2007 ALMS series in the LM P2 category. Since the partnership formed, Highcroft has been the highest ALMS point-scoring team of the four factory HPD participants. The team also took the 2010 Michelin Green X Challenge championship that recognizes optimal on-track performance while using the least amount of fuel.
Highcroft collected 11 race wins for Honda/Acura, nine pole positions and 28 podium finishes in only 42 races. It was the sole ALMS squad - in any class - to score a podium result in every round of the 2010 championship.
It was the intention of both HIghcroft Racing and HPD to run the HPD ARX-01e at next months 24 Heures du Mans but, given the situation in Japan and its impact on Honda, together with a lack of adequate outside financial support, Highcroft has had to withdraw the entry.
"We have had an amazing relationship with all the associates at Honda, Acura, Honda Performance Development and [chassis partner] Wirth Research over the past five years," said Duncan Dayton, Highcroft Racing principal owner, "and it is with deep regret that our amazing run has come to an end.
"We certainly appreciate the massive impact the earthquake and tsunami have had on the people of Japan and the huge challenges facing Japanese business. It appears," he said, "that this may have contributed to Honda's decision and we fully respect and understand their position."
Dayton noted the team was really looking forward to its Le Mans return and believe the car would have been extremely competitive. "Le Mans is one of the greatest races in the world, but it requires significant financial and physical resources to compete at the highest levels. Whatever we do, we want to be able to do it properly and it just isn't viable at this time, without proper backing," Dayton stated.
The decision to withdraw leaves 2009 Le Mans winner David Brabham and stellar copilot Marino Franchitti without suitable opportunities for a race which is a scant month away.
Highcroft Racing is looking into other manufacturer relationship opportunities and is also looking into future programs, both inside and out of the sports car arena. "We still have very big goals and ambitions - including additional victories in ALMS as well as Le Mans and IndyCar," Dayton concluded.
© 2011 Anne Proffit