Advancement in Technology Produces New Chassis for Honda Performance Development

Wirth Research, a leading-edge engineering company based in Cherwell Innovation Centre, Oxfordshire, is celebrating after its pioneering chassis system has allowed the Acura Motorsports team get off to a flying start in their first year of competing in the 2007 American Le Mans Series (ALMS).

The Acura Motorsports team produced sensational displays to secure a class win at the classic Sebring 12 hour race, two overall pole positions and two podium finishes in the first four races of the 2007 season.

During the demanding 12 hour street circuit races of Sebring, the biggest surprise was not only the power of the new Acura engine but the performance and reliability of the all-new Acura ARX-01a chassis.

The chassis is the result of a nine month collaboration between engineers from Honda Performance Development Inc and Wirth Research who are based at two locations in the Midlands - the design team are at Cherwell Innovation Centre, Oxfordshire, whilst the engineering division are located in Towcester, Northamptonshire.

The aerodynamics of the chassis are vital for the car to compete alongside the likes of Porsche and Audi. So as part of its development Wirth Research used both Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) systems as well as more conventional wind tunnels.

The use of CFD has changed the dynamics and economics of design testing in many areas including the automotive industry. By building a virtual prototype of the chassis, Wirth Research was able to accurately predict the forces and related phenomena the car would face during the gruelling 12 hour races.

Nick Wirth, of Wirth Research comments; “By using CFD, we’re able to look inside the airflow and see its performance under a variety of conditions, which aren’t visible through any other means, giving us a deep insight into our designs. This system provides greater flexibility for us and is vital when the ALMS season moves from the tight street circuits to the open track circuits”.

Acura is the brand name introduced in 1986 by Honda Motor Company to market its range of luxury cars in North America and Asia. Acura has been involved in motorsport since the inception of the brand but are new this year to competing in the Le Mans Prototype (LMP) class of the American Le Mans Series. They use engines designed and produced by Honda Performance Development Inc (HPD), which is a subsidiary of the American Honda Motor Co.

Robert Clark, HPD President, said of the debut win of the ARX-01a at Sebring: “I can’t put it into words. I would rate it as one of the highest emotional experiences I’ve had - so much work has gone into the program and we won on multiple levels. I could not have imagined it would finish this way. It’s been a long road, not just for HPD but for Acura, our teams, sponsors, drivers and everyone who is involved in the program”.

Gill Cleaver, Operations Manager at Cherwell Innovation Centre, said: “This is an excellent result for Acura Motorsports, Wirth Research and HPD. Wirth Research is a great example of the kind of innovative companies that grow and succeed in Cherwell Innovation Centre and we wish them continuing success in the future.”

The positive start to the ALMS season has both Wirth Research and HPD aiming to compete at the classic 24 Le Mans race in the near future.

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