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HPD's Extraordinary Pikes Peak P2 Plan

Honda’s grand expectations for its brand-new ARX-04b P2 chassis went unfulfilled during its lone outing at the Rolex 24 at Daytona. The curvy coupe was later found to have a few areas of development that would need to be resolved before returning to competition, and as Honda Performance Development vice president Steve Eriksen recently confirmed, there are tentative plans to improve the ARX-04b with an eye to making a return late in the IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship season.

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While the exact date for the car’s next outing in IMSA’s Prototype category might be unknown, Marshall Pruett has learned the ambitious folks at American Honda and Honda Performance Development have a firm date in June for the ARX-04b’s next public performance.

How does 12.4 miles and 156 turns at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb sound?

Details are fuzzy, but it’s believed Honda could be targeting the outright record of 8:13.878 set by Sebastien Loeb in 2013 with the factory Peugeot 208 T16. The famed event and its treacherous run into Colorado’s clouds has been a staple for almost a century, and after the winding road was completely paved in 2012, bespoke road racing vehicles were given a new opportunity to participate in the race.

Without the need for high ride heights and other off-road modifications that kept low-slung open-wheel cars and sports prototypes from attempting runs up the mountain, the concept of taking a P2 car built for Le Mans and preparing it to compete at Pikes Peak became possible.

Loeb’s Peugeot, which was built specifically for the PPHIC, featured all-wheel-drive and claimed an output of 875hp from its twin-turbo V6 engine. The car also weighed in at 875kg.

To break Loeb’s record, Honda’s ARX-04b would need similar power – something at or near 875hp, and with a P2 curb weight that’s already close to what Peugeot ran with the 208 T16, the only questions remaining involve the coupe’s drive system and downforce.

Fitting the P2 coupe with AWD would add excessive weight, which makes the likelihood of racing with its native RWD far more practical. And while the Peugeot made use of a big splitter, ground effects, diffuser, and a massive rear wing, the ARX-04b would deliver much higher downforce figures in standard P2 trim. If the car were to receive bodywork and wing updates specifically for Pikes Peak, its lack of AWD could be mitigated by frightening cornering speeds.

Among auto manufacturers that are active in North America, Honda has embraced Pikes Peak more than any other in recent years, fielding a wide range of cars in numerous classes with American Honda employees, not to mention some of the professional drivers on its IndyCar and sports car roster. It’s also believed that while preparations for the Pikes Peak P2 project are under way, the final approvals required to go forward with its entry have yet to be received. Provided it receives the green light, fielding an unrestricted P2 coupe at Pikes Peak would represent one of the most exciting motor racing programs of 2015.

Reached for comment on Thursday, a Honda representative declined to speak about the project.

Marshall Pruett