Honda Performance Development (HPD) press release
Stunning Finish for Starworks and HPD at Sebring
The new Honda Performance Development ARX-03 chassis exceeded all expectations Saturday at Sebring International Raceway, as the Florida-based Starworks team took the LMP2 version of the new car – the ARX-03b – to a thrilling class victory and third-place overall finish in the 60th anniversary 12 Hours of Sebring endurance racing classic.
In their first American Le Mans Series and World Endurance Championship event, Starworks and drivers Ryan Dalziel, Enrico Potolicchio and Stephane Sarrazin battled defending LMP2 champion Level 5 Motorsports and their drivers, Joao Barbosa, Christophe Bouchut and Scott Tucker – throughout the race. The two HPD teams frequently exchanged the class lead until the final 30 minutes of the contest, when former Peugeot works driver Sarrazin finally edged out a 32-second lead over Barbosa in Level 5’s ARX-03b.
For Starworks, the win was especially satisfying as the team only finished building its new ARX-03b this week in the Sebring paddock, while fellow HPD team Level 5 saw its Sebring LMP2 victory streak stopped after two consecutive wins.
Sebring also marked the debut of the LMP1 version of the new HPD chassis, the V8-powered ARX-03a. Both the California-based Muscle Milk Racing organization and the British JRM team harried the pace-setting trio of works Audi R18 diesel-powered cars through the first nine hours.
JRM, making its endurance racing debut with HPD after winning the GT-1 World Championship in 2011, ran as high as third until being delayed by rear suspension problems just after the nine-hour mark. The team and drivers David Brabham, Karun Chandhok and Peter Dumbreck returned to the contest after making repairs to record a 17th-place overall finish.
After a battle with JRM, Muscle Milk Racing moved its own ARX-03a into third place overall and appeared headed for a near-certain podium finish with drivers Klaus Graf, Lucas Luhr and Simon Pagenaud. But when Pagenaud pitted the car for what was expected to be his final stop prior to the finish, the team discovered the refueling “buckeye” valve had come detached from the chassis. Unable to successfully refuel the car, the Muscle Milk team finished an unrepresentative 28th overall, 8th in LMP1.
The Muscle Milk team did claim the Michelin Green X Challenge at Sebring, defeating last year’s season champion Dyson Racing in the contest for the cleanest, most fuel-efficient run during the 12 Hours.
Returning HPD team, and 2010 class winners at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Stakka Racing made it’s US racing debut at Sebring and completed a nearly trouble-free run 10th overall, and 5th in LMP2. Yet another new HPD partner team, Black Swan Racing, made the big jump from GTC competition to finish 30th, 8th in LMP2, in their HPD V6-powered Lola chassis.
Level 5’s second HPD entry, co-driven by Luis Diaz and Ryan Hunter-Reay, led the LMP2 class in the early laps and appeared to be a contender for the class win, but contact with a slower GTC category Porsche 911 resulted in damage to the right side suspension and bodywork, leading to the car’s retirement just past the three-hour mark.
Stephane Sarrazin (#44 Starworks Racing HPD ARX-03b) Finished 3rd overall, 1st in LMP2: "It's amazing to finish on the podium overall. We did no mistakes, and the new HPD chassis and Honda engine ran perfectly all day. We've had this car for one only week and I'm very thankful to Starworks, for the opportunity, and all the guys on the team for their incredible hard work."
Steve Eriksen (Vice President, Honda Performance Development) on this year’s 12 Hours of Sebring: “This was a very successful debut for the ARX-03 chassis, and an excellent performance from Starworks, a team that, while experienced in other categories, is brand-new to the HPD family and to Le Mans Prototype competition. Their well-earned class victory and third-place overall finish was a real testament to the team’s preparation and experience as its starts its first world-championship campaign. Level 5’s efforts made it a very exciting contest for the final podium step and LMP2 honors, and still was the highest-placed ALMS finisher.
“In LMP1, the Muscle Milk team showed great speed taking the race to Audi for much of the 12 hours. Audi is the defending champion, but they definitely know we were competitive today. It also was a strong HPD debut for the Muscle Milk and JRM teams, and an encouraging debut for Black Swan. Strakka has been an HPD partner team in Europe for several years now, and learned a great deal in its first American race. So it appears to be shaping up into an exciting season for both the American Le Mans Series and the new World Endurance Championship. We’re looking forward to it.”