Highcroft withdraws from Le Mans

American Le Mans Series champion team Highcroft Racing has withdrawn its Le Mans 24 Hours entry and ended its partnership with Honda

The team, which won the 2009 and 2010 ALMS titles, had not been able to put together a full-season package for 2011 so far, but finished second in the Sebring 12 Hours with the latest HPD LMP1 car.

Although it had expected to run the car at Le Mans as well, team boss Duncan Dayton said the impact of the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan had reduced the financial support available from Honda and meant the Le Mans 24 Hours programme was no longer viable.

"We certainly appreciate the massive impact the earthquake and tsunami has had on the people of Japan and the huge challenges facing Japanese business," he said.

"It appears this may have contributed to Honda's decision and we fully respect and understand their position.

"Everyone was really looking forward to taking the ARX-01e to Le Mans - we really believed the car could have been extremely competitive.

"Le Mans is one of the greatest races in the world, but it requires significant financial and physical resources to compete at the highest levels. Whatever we do, we want to be able to do it properly and it just isn't viable at this time without proper backing.

"I am deeply disappointed for our team at Highcroft Racing who were really looking forward to the race and for David [Brabham] and Marino [Franchitti] who are left without a ride at Le Mans at a very late stage.

"Our drivers have been truly incredible in recent years and I know they are as disappointed as we are that the ARX-01e will not be at Le Mans."

Highcroft was part of the Acura/HPD prototype programme from the outset, joining the Andretti Green and Fernandez teams in running the original Acura LMP2 car in the ALMS in 2007, and emerging ahead of the better-known squads.

"We are extremely proud of what we have achieved with our partners. When we were first selected as a factory team, nobody expected we would be able to run with some of the biggest names in racing, that came across from IndyCar racing," said Dayton.

"Not only did we prove that we were competitive, but we became the team the beat. We are equally proud of the great working relationships we built with HPD and Wirth Research developing the cars and turning them into winning machines."

Dayton said Highcroft, which has also been looking at entering IndyCar for some time, was now on the hunt for new partners to take Honda's place.

"For our future, we need to take the next step in the development of our team," he said.

"The team is now in a position to start with a clean slate and work towards our next championship assault with new partners.

"Our organisation was established as a platform for manufacturers to showcase their technology on the world stage through motorsport.

"We still have very big goals and ambitions - including additional victories in the ALMS as well as Le Mans and IndyCar."

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