With a development process progressing as quickly as the straight-line speed of the HPD ARX-01e, Highcroft Racing continued to make great performance strides today as official practice kicked off for the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring.
The latest LMP1 design from Honda Performance Development may have only completed only its fourth day of running, but the Highcroft team, in conjunction with the engineering talent from HPD and Wirth Research, believe they may have unlocked significant speed secrets.
The team was only eighth and seventh fastest in the two day-time practice sessions, but updates to the car prior to the night session began to unlock its potential.
Drivers David Brabham, Simon Pagenaud and Marino Franchitti were all pleased with the improvements which pushed the Highcroft machine to a fastest time of 1min 51.818secs.
This was despite losing part of the rear bodywork in a pit-lane traffic jam when the team's nearest pit neighbour - the Risi Ferrari of Mika Salo - was a little to eager to return to the track after a red flag period. Salo's GT machine made slight contact with the HPD entry, forcing the Highcroft crew to remove the loose piece of bodywork.
With all three drivers completing their mandatory three night-time laps, and the team validating the success of the pre-session adjustments, the #01 Highcroft machine returned to the paddock 35 minutes prior to the end of the 105-minute session, saving its firepower for Friday's final day of practice and qualifying.
While some later fast times pushed Pagenaud's result back to seventh on the timesheet, all three drivers completed the day knowing they have a strong car at their disposal.
“Today was another very strong day for us," Brabham confirmed, "We tried a lot of things because we are trying to gain a lot of knowledge in a very short space of time so we have been throwing a lot of ideas at the car - some which worked, some which didn't.
"We came up with a package tonight which I think all the guys are very happy with. The car is a lot nicer to drive and all three of us are a lot happier behind the wheel. We're now looking forward to improving this a little more before we get to the race. I feel we can now start to fine tune the car rather than just throwing big things at it.
"The guys have done a great job and worked tirelessly. They had a very late night last night and it was good to finish a bit earlier than planned today. The boys can get some rest and get ready for tomorrow.”
The Highcroft machine also unveiled decals on the HPD ARX-01e today promoting the team's Japanese earthquake appeal. Race fans can contribute to the cause though Network for Good via http://www.highcroftracing.com/help-japan