Acura ARX-06 Hybrid Race Car Will Take That Distinctive Acura Look to IMSA GTP

·4 min read
Photo credit: Acura
Photo credit: Acura
  • Acura has revealed the ARX-06, which features a twin-turbo 2.4-liter V-6 producing between 630 and 670 hp.

  • It’s mated to a 67-hp hybrid powerplant mounted in the transmission case.

  • Development of the ARX-06 was a joint collaboration of chassis supplier ORECA, Honda Performance Development, and Acura Design Studio.

Brand identity is usually an afterthought in modern racing. Form generally follows function, leaving little room for creativity. But IMSA’s new GTP class is designed to encourage just that, with guidelines that entries "will carry significant design cues and styling to closely align with each manufacturer’s roadgoing products." And while it's been decades since race cars even remotely resembled their street counterparts, Acura’s design team was tasked with bringing a family resemblance to the exterior of the new ARX-06 prototype.

The ARX-06 is Acura’s entry into the nascent GTP class. An all-new twin-turbocharged 90-degree 2.4-liter V6 was developed by Honda Performance Development (HPD). Capable of reaching 10,000 rpm, this tiny screamer is mated to an IMSA-specified hybrid system and drives the rear wheels through a six-speed sequential transaxle.

Longtime Acura partner ORECA supplied the underpinnings. Riding on 123.9-inch wheelbase, the carbon-fiber monocoque chassis is suspended by an unequal-length-control-arm pushrod suspension with Penske dampers at both axles. While altering the chassis is off limits, manufacturers can personalize the exterior to a much greater extent.

Photo credit: Acura
Photo credit: Acura

Acura executive creative director Dave Marek relished the challenge. "I told my team, 'Let's just make the thing cool and look like a show car,' " he joked. Marek knew from his previous experience with the ARX-05 design process that even simple ideas might be difficult to execute. "At the time, IMSA wanted to make the [race cars] look more like passenger cars. So we started doing it and they said, But you can’t change that, or that, or that. At the end of the day, I want it to look like our car, but I also want to win. So let's make the best car we can." In hindsight, Marek and his team arrived too late in the development process of the ARX-05 to make any meaningful changes.

The exterior styling of the ARX-06, however, was designed from the ground up at the Los Angeles-based Acura Design Studio. Stylists from Acura’s production car division created the initial sketches, which ultimately led to scale models. Once the scale model was finalized, the design team worked with HPD and ORECA to further refine aerodynamic performance. Special projects leader Bill Yex points out that achieving good looks were only half of the design equation. “The aerodynamics quickly took over on the developmental side. Production cars are very aerodynamically efficient, but it kind of stops there. This thing needs to be low drag, high downforce balanced.”

Photo credit: Acura
Photo credit: Acura

Additional input from racing partners Meyer Shank and Wayne Taylor helped to fine tune details from a real-world perspective. Driver complaints about the ARX-05’s lighting enabled Marek to redesign the front clusters on the ARX-06, improving both their appearance as well as intensity. Using VR allowed drivers to “sit” in the cockpit and adjust their driving position.

Those Lights Look Familiar

When viewed in full-scale form, the ARX-06 conveys a successful collaboration among everyone involved. The familiar Acura styling elements play a functional role in the car’s design, from the purposefully exaggerated headlight clusters to the “chicane” taillights out back.

Still, Marek wasn’t able to win every battle. “The rear is still very dominated by restrictions.” After attempting to soften a particularly blocky part, he was shot down by IMSA regulators. “It was illegal. I said, ‘why is that illegal? What the hell, man?’” Constraints aside, Marek is still proud of what they were able to accomplish. “I’m not going to say the other cars aren’t real yet, but to me the fact that this is completely legal and still looks as good as it does is a shout-out to the team.”

The ARX-06 will make its racing debut starting with the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January 2023.

Though Acura has recently dominated IMSA endurance racing, it will be facing a slew of fresh competition in the GTP class. Longtime rival Cadillac is once again fielding a entry, along with newcomers Porsche and BMW. Still, it should be easy to spot the Acura in this newly crowded field. Just look for the headlights.

You Might Also Like