Eriksen: Six new HPD ARX-04b coupes planned to race in 2015

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One of the items from last weekend’s Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course we weren’t able to hit during the weekend was Honda’s Steve Eriksen, VP and COO of Honda Performance Development, having a sit down with the media to discuss Honda’s current racing projects.

Eriksen expanded on the new HPD ARX-04b coupe, the new P2 car. Here’s a transcript of that section:

THE MODERATOR: Let’s move to sports cars for a moment. The new ARX-04b makes its debut in 2015. It’s a beautiful car. We know the Extreme Speed Motorsports team is going to run it in the TUDOR Championship. Give us an update on where that project stands, perhaps if we have the possibility of seeing other cars out there in addition to the Extreme Speed entries.

STEVE ERIKSEN: Our target was to have six cars planned for next season. I have every confidence that we’ll have all six out there.

The balance between World Endurance Championship or the TUDOR Championship kind of depends on the politics and balance of performance happens in the U.S. But I expect that all six of the cars we’ve targeted will go out to teams.

The progress on the car is going really well. We’re planning to put the first cars together in late October, then they’ll be on track in November. You can see them in person.

The car itself, it takes everything we learned from the last times that we had to do new cars. If you look back on the history, there was the ARX-01a, which debuted in 2007, then the 01b came out in 2008, which was a major update. The 01c was developed for Le Mans. That was a car that raced and set all kinds of records in 2010. We didn’t have opportunities to do updates to the car until we created this new car because of the ACO regulations.

What you’ll see is essentially the behind-the-scenes work that has been going on for years in our sports car program finally come to light. All the things that have been happening in the virtual world over the years is going to be coming together in this new car.

We made a special emphasis on the safety in this car. If you look at the regulations and you look at LMP1 versus LMP2, there are some differences in safety requirements between the two cars. Our P2 car is going to have all of the P1 safety requirements in addition to the P2 safety requirements. We’ve gone above and beyond. Although that adds expense to the car, it’s going to have every safety advancement we can put in the car.

This is not part of the regulation requirement, but we’re adding the fuel safety interlock system, which is the same system on every IndyCar here, which we developed. That same system of ours is going into the sports car as well. That’s another safety enhancement.

We’re also pushing the TUDOR Series to go back to ACO-style pit stops with the requirement that you can’t work on the car until fueling is done. We feel that’s an important safety benefit that should be put back into the series.

I think it will also save teams money because they’ll be able to double, triple, even quadruple stint their tires. I think it will help make the racing more interesting because you’ll have this back and forth between a DP car, which is really using the cars properly, then a P2 car for which the tires are not designed to operate with that type of car.

When the 04b comes out, I think you’ll see a lot of neat refinements on that car. It’s going to be a special car.

THE MODERATOR: You expect some mix of 04b cars, chassis, between the World Endurance Championship and the TUDOR Championship, correct?

STEVE ERIKSEN: That’s correct. If I was guessing today, and every day changes, but if I was guessing today, I’d say there will be four in the TUDOR Series and two in the WEC.

Street race in Vietnam could lead Formula One’s Asia expansion

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TOKYO (AP) — Formula One is expected to add more races in Asia, including a street circuit in the capital of Vietnam, a country with little auto racing history that is on the verge of getting a marquee event.

“We think Hanoi could come on in the next couple of years, and we’re working with the Hanoi government to that end,” Sean Bratches, Formula One’s managing director of commercial operations, told the Associated Press.

There is even speculation it could be on the schedule next season, which Bratches rebuffed.

Vietnam would join countries like Azerbaijan, Russia and Bahrain, which have Grand Prix races, little history in the sport, and authoritarian governments with deep pockets that serve F1 as it tries to expand into new markets.

“This (Hanoi) is a street race where we can go downtown, where we can activate a large fan base,” Bratches said. “And you have extraordinary iconography from a television standpoint.”

A second race in China is also likely and would join Shanghai on the F1 calendar. Bratches said deciding where to stage the GP will “be left to local Chinese partners” – Beijing is a strong candidate.

Bratches runs the commercial side of Formula One, which was acquired last year by U.S.-based Liberty Media from long-time operator Bernie Ecclestone.

Formula One’s long-term goal is to have 24-25 races – up from the present 21 – and arrange them in three geographical segments: Asia, Europe and the Americas. Bratches said the Europe-based races would stay in middle of the calendar, with Asia or the Americas opening or ending the season.

He said their positioning had not been decided, and getting this done will be slowed by current contracts that mandate specific places on the calendar for several races. This means eventually that all the races in Asia would be run together, as would races in Europe and the Americas.

The F1 schedule is now an inefficient jumble, allowing Bratches to take a good-natured poke at how the sport was run under Ecclestone.

“We’ve acquired an undermanaged asset that’s 67-years-old, but effectively a start-up,” Bratches said.

Early-season races in Australia and China this year were conducted either side of a trip to Bahrain in the Middle East. Late in the season Formula One returns to Asia with races in Japan and Singapore.

The Canadian GP this season is run in the middle of the European swing, separated by four months from the other races in the Americas – the United States, Mexico and Brazil. These three are followed by the season-ending race in Abu Dhabi, which means another trip across the globe.

“With the right economics, with the right structure and cadence of events across territories, 24 or 25 is probably where we’d like to be from a longer-term standpoint,” Bratches said.

Big changes are not likely to happen until the 2020 season ends. This is when many current rules and contracts expire as F1’s new owners try to redistribute some income to allow smaller teams to compete.

“There’s more interest than we have capacity in the schedule,” Bratches said, firing off Berlin, Paris or London as potentially attractive venues. “We want to be very selective.”

“Those cites from an economic impact standpoint would find us value, as do others around the world,” Bratches added. “It’s very important for us as we move forward to go to locations that are a credit to the Formula One brand.”

An expanded schedule would have to be approved by the teams, which will be stretched by the travel and the wear-and-tear on their crews. The burden will fall on the smaller teams, which have significantly smaller revenue compared with Ferrari, Mercedes or Red Bull.

Bratches also envisions another race in the U.S., joining the United States Grand Prix held annually in Austin, Texas. A street race in Miami is a strong candidate, as are possible venues like Las Vegas or New York.

“We see the United States and China as countries that could support two races,” he said.

Liberty Media has reported Formula One’s total annual revenue at $1.8 billion, generated by fees paid by promoters, broadcast rights, advertising and sponsorship. Race promotion fees also tend to be higher in Asia, which makes the area attractive – along with a largely untapped fan base.

In a four-year cycle, F1 generates more revenue than FIFA or the International Olympic Committee, which rely almost entirely on one-time showcase events.

Reports suggest Vietnamese promoters may pay between $50-60 million annually as a race fee, with those fees paid by the government. Bratches said 19 of 21 Formula One races are supported by government payments.

“The race promotion fee being derived from the government … is a model that has worked historically,” Bratches said.