TECHNICAL PARTNERSHIPS KEY TO PATRON HIGHCROFT'S CHAMPIONSHIP
DANBURY, CT, Wednesday, October 21, 2009: While the hard working crew at Patron Highcroft Racing's Danbury, CT headquarters have been a key to the team's championship success, the team's "extended family" in California and the UK have also played a vitial role in taking the this year's title.
When the team was announced as an Acura factory entrant for the 2007 season, Patron Highcroft Racing began a key working relationship with the California-based Honda Performance Development with the Acura engine, and Wirth Research in the UK on the chassis site.
This unique "triple-play" has combined to earn the Acura brand its first LMP2 victory, first overall overall victory, first LMP1 victory and first LMP1 championship in the American Le Mans Series.
Patron Highcroft Racing's Duncan Dayton explains the unique partnership with HPD and Wirth - a partnership which has pushed his Danbury squad forward as the dominant Acura factory supported team in the American Le Mans Series.......
Duncan Dayton Q&A
Q: How vital a role has the working relationship between Patron Highcroft Racing, HPD and Wirth Research been in building a championship-winning team?
A: "It is tremendously important for any team to have engineering and technical partners such as people like HPD and Wirth Research but even more for a young start-up team like Highcroft Racing.
"That was part of the original pitch we made to Robert Clarke when he was at Honda 'we're not going to tell you how to win races, you'll tell us that, but if you want somebody to execute with the same attention to detail as the custom-made fabricated heating radiators in this conference room, then we're your guys'.
"There has been a natural evolution to our relationship, a bit like a parent and a child. In the infancy stage, the parent needs to teach the child everything because they can't care for themselves and over the course of the last three years, it has been a dramatic growth period for our team - growing into an adolescent, a young adult and then into a mature adult. We now rely on them less on a day-to-day basis, but we still value their input, advice and abilities that we don't have in house.
"That advice and guidance has been invaluable in our championship chase."
Q: How important was the ability to access this technology in achieving championship success?
A: "Being able to lean on somebody like Wirth Research has been amazing because they have been able to bring technical resources to the party that we simply don't have in-house.
"Computational fluid dynamics (CFD), metallurgy, aerodynamics, simulations and carbon structures are not something we have in-house and when you look at the Acura ARX-02a, it is basically a two-seater Formula 1 car with a body on it.
"All the technology employed in this car is the same sophistication that you will see on the Formula 1 grid.
"To have access to that expertise is great for us because we just would never have been able to gain access to that without the relationship with Honda and Wirth.
"That has been a relationship that has been developed in IndyCar racing over many years.
"The same goes for HPD when it comes to engine building. We would be hard pressed as a privateer to find another manufacturer who could bring as much technology and expertise to the program.
"Without those technical partners we certainly would not have been able to achieve this championship goal."
Q: How proud are you of your team and the fact that your team has been able to put these resources to great use to take the championship?
A: "I've made no secret of the fact that the decision by John Mendel and Robert Clarke to select Highcroft as an Acura works team is something that has motivated me every day.
"Their faith and trust in our organization when we were a virtual unknown and unproven entity has motivated me and the entire team to do whatever we could to repay that faith to justify and vindicate that decision.
"We did that by working harder and trying to be invaluable to our partners than anyone else would have ever been.
"That work ethic has continued over the three-year stretch of the program.
Q: Do you feel Highcroft is making valuable technical contributions back to HPD and Wirth Research?
A: "Absolutely. I think any great partnership can't be a one-way street. If you ask the guys at HPD and Wirth they have come to rely on our abilities to highlight technical deficiencies or highlight any issues or improvements that need to be made from a serviceability, reliability or performance standpoint.
"We have a wonderful working relationship between the three entities and even though we were competing against other Acura teams the whole time - we were never competing against HPD and Wirth and we gave them total access to all our data and information to work towards moving the entire program forward.
Q: How important was it to have HPD and Wirth guys on hand at your Danbury, Connecticut, headquarters?
A: "Initially we had Gary Gannon and Mike Kinstle from HPD here imbedded with the team on a full-time basis and to have them here really helped build the relationship.
"It was great for them to get an insight as to what it was like to be right onboard with the race team, rather that just working on an overall racing manufacturer's program.
"We also had Mark Herd from Wirth Research at the start of the Acura campaign and more recently Adam Carter was based here with us. To have the level of expertise, knowledge and intelligence in-house that those guys bring to the table was tremendous.
"We are very proud and pleased to have been able to work with such skilled professionals."
Q: Has the team's success been cheered on in Northern California at HPD and to the UK through Wirth?
A: "It is a wonderful modern way of working with these guys. We would send data back to Wirth via satellite overnight and come back the next morning with CFD-runs and recommendations fresh on our desk to put on the car for the first session.
"It shows how important that virtual communication can be in a project and it was handy to have a skills and knowledge base available online virtually 24 hours of a day because we were working in different time zones.
"It was virtually a seamless workflow."
Q: Are you amazed the Acura ARX-02a has been so successful without ever having seeing the inside of a wind tunnel?
A: "It is a huge tribute and testament to the guys at Wirth Research who were able to design and build a car in virtual reality.
"I'll never forget the first time I saw the car in a white room with virtual reality goggles on. You could walk around and look inside it, and around it - it was spectacular.
"When they tell us to put a widget on because they think it will make the car 2/10ths of a second quicker we listen - because we have so many examples of whatever they have tested in CFD, it works in the real world.
"It is astounding the level of accuracy and level of sophistication they have in designing and building these cars.
Q: How vital has the engine program been in building this championship assault?
A: "I think the remarkable thing about the HPD engine program is the fact that we haven't had a single engine failure in three and a half years of testing and racing.
"That is a remarkable achievement. It is one thing to do that in IndyCar racing where everyone is running the same engine and there is no need to push the boundaries, but in sportscar racing where you have a host of other manufacturers and extremely long endurance races - that result is incredible.
"The engines were spectacular. Matt Niles from HPD was an integral part of the team this year and he has played a significant role in claiming this championship.
"All these guys have been so important to our campaign - all very talented and all now great friends of everyone at Patron Highcroft Racing."