Patr?n Highcroft Racing is set to unveil its new LMP1 class Acura ARX-02a entry at next week's American Le Mans Series 'Wheels Down' winter test at Sebring International Raceway.

The three-day test will be the first time that the new Acura entry has run in public, and will be a crucial stepping-stone in preparation for the car's debut at this year's Mobil 1 Twelve Hours at the same Sebring circuit on 21 March.

After a highly successful 2008 season with the LMP2 class Acura ARX-01b, Highcroft was selected - along with de Ferran Motorsports - by Acura and Honda Performance Development to represent the brand in its graduation to the premier American Le Mans Series class.

The pairing of American Scott Sharp and Australian David Brabham scored four LMP2 victories last year, as well as an overall win - Acura's first - at Lime Rock Park. The duo also finished first or second in seven of the eleven LMP2 races staged in 2008.

The Sebring test will be the first time that the new LMP1 car has run in its 2009 Patr?n Tequila livery, and Sharp, for one, cannot wait.

''The car looks fantastic," he claimed, "It is such an innovative design and looks menacing in plain carbon but, once it is in the Patr?n colours, I think it is going to look like Darth Vader on wheels.

''The car has been going really well in early testing and next week will be a great opportunity for the whole Patr?n Highcroft Racing team. There will be a lot more cars out there at the 'Wheels Down' test laying down a lot of rubber, and that will simulate what conditions are like during a race weekend, which will be great.''

Both Sharp and Brabham have relished the opportunity to team with the Patr?n Highcroft Racing and HPD engineers to develop the new car which will debut against both Audi and Peugeot at the Twelve Hours of Sebring.

''The tests so far have shown that the car has a lot of potential, but we still have a lot of work to do prior to the first race,'' Brabham admitted.

''It is an outstanding programme with Patr?n Highcroft Racing and Acura, and it is a great one to be involved with. I am looking forward to getting to Sebring to race against Audi and Peugeot and the rest of the guys, but there is a lot for us to learn leading up to the first race to get the maximum out of it.

"With the running that we have already done, we have some strong direction, but we have some more testing before the Twelve Hours and developing new cars has always been a challenge I have enjoyed. We are right in the thick of it now, and I am having a great time.''

In only its fourth season as an American Le Mans Series entrant and third as a factory-backed Acura team, Highcroft owner Duncan Dayton is eagerly awaiting the chance to graduate to the LMP1 division.

''We are ecstatic to be able to not only show the world the exciting new livery on the Patr?n Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-02a chassis, but to also reveal the technical details of the new car at the 'Wheels Down' test at Sebring,'' he said.

''It is a very stunning looking car, both from a livery and design standpoint, and I think motorsports fans and journalists will be very interested to see the conceptual designs that were applied to this car by Honda Performance Development and Wirth Research.

''I am particularly honoured and gratified that Patr?n Highcroft Racing has been chosen to represent Acura and HPD in the LMP1 class of the American Le Mans Series. We are competing for one of the storied racing brands in the world and to be able to race at the highest level with the most technically sophisticated sportscar series in the world is a real thrill for us.

''We are forever grateful that Honda and Acura have shown that faith in us and we work diligently every day to earn that respect and trust.''



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