Highcroft Racing and Honda have ended their relationship, it was announced today. The combination had been expected to compete at Le Mans together next month, but team owner Duncan Dayton is now pursuing alternatives in both sports cars and the IZOD IndyCar Series.
Highcroft was selected as one of the initial factory Acura teams for the brand's debut in the American Le Mans Series in 2007. Throughout the partnership, Highcroft established itself as not only the highest ALMS point-scoring team out of four factory teams, but also collected back-to-back ALMS championships in 2009 and 2010. Highcroft scored 11 race wins for Honda, nine pole positions and 28 podium finishes from only 42 races, including its gallant second-place finish at Sebring, where it defeated both factory Audi and Peugeot entries. It had also intended to run the HPD ARX-01e at next month's 24 Hours of Le Mans.
“We have had an amazing relationship with all the associates at Honda, Acura, Honda Performance Development and Wirth Research over the past five years and it is with deep regret that our amazing run has come to an end,” Highcroft Racing owner, Duncan Dayton said. “We are extremely proud of what we have achieved with our partners. When we were first selected as a factory team, nobody expected we would be able to run with some of the biggest names in racing, that came across from IndyCar racing.
“Not only did we prove that we were competitive, but we became the team the beat. We are equally proud of the great working relationships we built with HPD and Wirth Research developing the cars and turning them into winning machines. We certainly appreciate the massive impact the earthquake and tsunami has had on the people of Japan and the huge challenges facing Japanese business. It appears this may have contributed to Honda's decision and we fully respect and understand their position.”
“Everyone was really looking forward to taking the ARX-01e to Le Mans,” continued Dayton. “We really believed the car could 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.
“I am deeply disappointed for our team at Highcroft Racing who were really looking forward to the race and for David (Brabham) and Marino (Franchitti) who are left without a ride at Le Mans at a very late stage. Our drivers have been truly incredible in recent years and I know they are as disappointed as we are that the ARX-01e will not be at Le Mans.”
Highcroft completed a number of firsts for Honda in the development of the sports car program including the first overall race victory, first LMP1 victory, first championship and an amazing effort in 2010 where it took an LMP2 chassis to overall series victory in the combined LMP1/LMP2 class – taking the team's title, the drivers championship for Brabham and Simon Pagenaud as well as the manufacturer's championship for HPD with a single car entry.”
The announcement states that Highcroft Racing is “actively seeking new manufacturer relationships and is beginning discussions regarding future programs – both in sports cars and other championships.
“For our future, we need to take the next step in the development of our team,” Dayton said. “The team is now in a position to start with a clean slate and work toward our next championship assault with new partners. Our organization was established as a platform for manufacturers to showcase their technology on the world stage through motorsport. We still have very big goals and ambitions – including additional victories in the ALMS as well as Le Mans and IndyCar.”