After almost a year's worth of speculation, Team Penske and IMSA have made it official: Team Penske will return to sports car racing full time with a two-car program in the top level prototype class in the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. Drivers for the two Acura ARX-05 DPi (Daytona Prototype International) machines have yet to be named, but recent reports have surfaced that suggest veteran Penske IndyCar drivers Helio Castroneves and Juan Montoya are being considered. Castroneves, who currently sits second in the Verizon IndyCar Series championship is thought to be in the running as Penske may reduce its full-time IndyCar program from four entries to three in 2018. Montoya, who competed full-time for Penske in IndyCar from 2014-16, contested the 2017 Indianapolis 500 for the team and remains under contract. Team Penske previously campaigned a two-car Porsche LMP2 program from 2006-08 in the American Le Mans Series and a Porsche-powered Daytona Prototype in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series in 2009.
The ARX-05 is scheduled to be revealed at Monterey Car Week in California next month.
The official IMSA release follows below.
Acura, Team Penske Announce IMSA WeatherTech Championship Prototype Program
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) has expanded the involvement of an existing premium automobile partner and added another world-class organization to its already impressive WeatherTech SportsCar Championship roster.
Acura Motorsports today announced a two-car effort in association with Team Penske. The legendary race team will campaign a pair of Acura ARX-05 Daytona Prototype international (DPi) entries, with Acura joining Cadillac, Mazda and Nissan in the WeatherTech Championship Prototype class. Testing of the Acura DPi will begin soon, with the official competition debut set for the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona in January, 2018.
Team Penske last competed in IMSA from 2005-09, winning P2 class championships in the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón between 2006 and 2008 and fielding a GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series entry in 2009. Acura Motorsports currently campaigns the Acura NSX GT3 in the WeatherTech Championship GT Daytona (GTD) category with Michael Shank Racing, winning at Detroit Belle Isle and Watkins Glen International earlier this season.
“This is a monumental day in the brief history of the Daytona Prototype international race car and the much longer history of IMSA,” said IMSA President Scott Atherton. “We are honored that Acura has expanded its commitment to the WeatherTech Championship through the new Acura ARX-05 DPi race car, and pleased to welcome Team Penske back to sports car competition. This announcement bolsters an already strong and growing Prototype class and only adds to the intrigue and anticipation for next season as we complete an outstanding 2017 WeatherTech Championship.
“The expansion of Acura’s involvement with a DPi entry in conjunction with Team Penske is one of the most significant developments we’ve had. Announcements like this are the ultimate validation of the DPi concept and accelerates the momentum that’s already been established. We join race fans and many others within the industry in eager anticipation for the unveiling of the Acura ARX-05 DPi later this summer and the announcement of drivers and other team personnel.”
The DPi platform – which debuted in 2017 – allows for cars in the Prototype class to be powered by a wide range of engines from the world’s leading automobile manufacturers and features manufacturer-specific bodywork and styling cues.
Acura will look to add to its already-impressive sports car legacy when the Acura ARX-05 DPi makes its Prototype debut next season. The manufacturer’s sports car accomplishments include the 1991-93 IMSA Camel Lights manufacturer and driver championships; 50 IMSA and American Le Mans Series class or overall race victories [through Watkins Glen 2017]; and the 2009 American Le Mans Series manufacturer, driver and team championships in both the P1 and P2 classes.
“Roger Penske is already an important part of the Acura family as one of our great Acura dealers, and now it is a thrill to have him as part of the Acura Motorsports family as well,” said Jon Ikeda, Acura senior vice president and general manager. “We look forward to building on the success of the race-winning NSX GT3 program, and couldn’t be more thrilled to return to the prototype category of the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with a partner like Team Penske.”
A formal unveiling of the Acura ARX-05 DPi is slated for Monterey Car Week in August.
Photo by Chris Owens/INDYCAR