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January 29, 2023

David Salters

Daytona Beach, Florida

Press Conference

An Interview with:

THE MODERATOR: We'll get our post-race interviews started here with David Salters, who is president of Honda Performance Development, which obviously developed the Acura ARX 06, which is the first winner in the new IMSA GTP era, third consecutive Rolex 24 at Daytona win overall for Acura.

David, we'll get questions started.

Q. David, first winner; how does that feel?

DAVID SALTERS: It doesn't suck.

No, it feels unbelievable, to be honest.

Q. Was it worth it?

DAVID SALTERS: Oh, yeah. There's a reason why. This just involves the hard work of a lot of people. I get to ponce around here and look not good in a hat, so that's okay, but there is just an army of people who work really, really, really hard to do this, so the real privilege is to work with those people and to achieve days like today.

We all know it doesn't happen all the time, so it's just -- was it worth it? It's been two years. I think it's the best thing I've been involved with, in terms of the pure effort. We're not a lot of people, but I think well done Acura Motorsport. If that isn't a definition of precision crafted performance, I don't know what is.

Well done, everybody. Well done, Oreca; well done, our teams; well done, our drivers. It's just people. This game is not rocket science, by the way, it's getting the right people in the right places and letting them job their jobs and helping them.

Is it worth it? Oh, hell yeah, and it's because of the people that you get to share it with. It's like anything in life that's worthwhile; if you can share it, it's worth it.

Well done, everyone here that contributes, and all the fans and IMSA have done a great job just to make it a great show. It was okay, wasn't it? Scared me to death.

Q. Everyone seemed to think that reliability was going to be an issue, and there seemed to be a lot of talk that Acura specifically was going to have difficulty making it 24 hours. Were you guys just lying the whole time? Did you know something nobody else did? You seemed okay.

DAVID SALTERS: Oh, Ye of little faith. Apparently our cars can do 24 hours. We were smart, and we tried to use testing and bits of test, but we were a bit behind.

But the faith in the people, you can see what they can achieve. To be blunt, we did not know.

Q. David, I think there might have been some dramas through the race with the oil flush. Can you talk about that and what you had to do to overcome that challenge?

DAVID SALTERS: Again, it's why we go racing. There is a really cool renewable fuel in this car. It comes with different characteristics. One thing we are just learning now, you can get oil dilution with the fuel, and that's a new thing because it's brand new because nobody has tried this stuff before.

So we have to manage it. You see people have been adding oil, changing oil, all that sort of stuff, to try to keep the fuel dilution underway. It's great, because it's a new thing. We are cutting edge. People are finding this out. It's why we go racing.

Our head of engine development is in the back of the trailer. He flew in specially to keep an eye on it. We have a machine that we got specially flown in to monitor it so we didn't mess it up. Apparently we didn't mess it up.

We had a few kerfuffles where we left some pit stuff attached and then where we would normally just fill it easily, was not so easy, but that's racing.

There were some new technical challenges and we had to rise to them, and it's the same for everyone. You ca see people adding oil, taking oil away and stuff just to manage it. Actually we put an extra effort -- actually, again, this is the bit that you don't see.

Over Christmas, Father Christmas did not come, unfortunately, to HPD, which is a bit sad. Over Christmas, before, during, after, people worked really hard to set this system up really exactly like the car, and we managed an oil temperature all over Christmas trying to do 4,000 miles to manage the behavior of the fuel and oil.

That's the efforts that you have to go. But it was a new thing, but that's what we did. Lots of oil changing, yes, all for really good, cutting edge technical reasons, and we've managed to sort it out, because you have to. That's racing. You've got to sort it out.

Q. Is it something you think you can sort out permanently in the future?

DAVID SALTERS: Yes, it was just all new. It was like, surprise.

Q. When did you know? At what point did you know you would have to go...

DAVID SALTERS: End of November. That wasn't -- oops. That's what the challenge is, and that's the beautiful bit of working with those men and women.

Q. It seemed like the 60 car, and the 10 to some extent, as well, had a real pace advantage and also an efficiency advantage. What would you sort of attribute that to? Just superior efficiency?

DAVID SALTERS: Okay, I think the lovely thing is now, none of us need to talk about BRP. It was the same. Of the aero box was the same. We measure the power on the rear axles and the weight of the car was the same.

So sort of knowing that, when we grabbed the rule book two years ago, how do we make the best car? I think if you go and look at the car and the packaging of the engine and stuff and the fact that we made a brand-new hybrid power train, we just tried to make the best car to deal -- to just try and -- you're looking for such small differences everywhere, and we tried to do that within the framework of what we're allowed to do.

So the aero box, the weight, the engine power, trying to just make the car. I've been lucky enough to work with some legends, let's say, and light and low to the ground was pretty good, and in the middle of the car was pretty good, so you'll see some methodology about our car that's much more sophisticated when it comes down to weight distribution. And it comes down to all the things that make a car, but the car is the sum of a parts, so we sort of concentrated on each bit.

There's never a smoking gun in this stuff. There's all the bits of the car that go to make it fast, but we concentrated on each one to make the best race car that we could, and I guess we did.

Q. Were you surprised at all but one GTP car finished given all the hype and talk about reliability?

DAVID SALTERS: Amazed I think is the right word. I think it goes -- I didn't know, but these are sophisticated cars, and it's not easy for anybody. Trying to fit a hybrid in a place it doesn't want to fit and it's too hot and it vibrates and all the things you do on a racing car. I think it's a testament to each group that they did a really good job, and the suppliers of the hybrid system did a good job.

It's not easy. It's always easy to look and stuff. It's much harder to do.

Well done, and I think it's amazing. The fact that -- and it was a fight all through the race. I did not expect that at all.

At one point I'm learning to wing foil. I started looking what the wind might be this morning, to be honest, because you never know. You're thinking, I'm not sure how this thing is going to go. I was looking casually. You just knuckle down and you sort your problems out, and off you go.

Q. In terms of endurance testing, what was the longest test you did consecutively with ARX 06 before coming here?

DAVID SALTERS: We were trying to figure that out. We did the miles. We just didn't do them all in one hit. We know this game, so we did the miles. We just actually really didn't get the opportunity due to some sort of -- it's always a balance when you make a car.

You're trying to push the development as far as you can, but make sure you make it work. I would always go on the side of make the fast car first, so we probably did in one continuous run -- and I'd need to check -- with the car, four or five hours. But we did lots of slots of that.

And then on the dyno, we have a full hybrid power train. That thing did tens of thousands of miles, and the car did tens of thousands of miles. We just didn't put it all together. But apparently it's okay.

Q. Obviously you have quite an emerging star here in Tom Blomqvist, and he just did an INDYCAR test last year; who knows what the future holds. What's it like to have him in the fold not just Acura, but HPD overall? Seems like he's quite a talent.

DAVID SALTERS: We love Tom. He's the real deal, isn't he? Immensely talented, super smart, and on it.

The great thing about our teams, the strength in depth is tremendous. But if you look through the sports car racing now, that's the standard you have to have. Everyone has to be on their game.

Tom, brilliant, Filipe, brilliant, Ricky -- you can go through that list. They're all superstars. Tom is awesome. His lap in qualifying quite frankly was unbelievable. One and done. That's amazing, isn't it? That's the type of guy you're dealing with.

Actually all our drivers contributed because the lucky thing about this, it's a team. It literally is a team sport, so getting them all together, and they all were at the highest level, I think.

Q. You guys were definitely the most well-rounded car on the grid. Looking forward to developing throughout the season over any specific elements of performance you want to focus on or do you want to keep building that well-rounded package you had today?

DAVID SALTERS: We're still learning the car. I think, again, car is the sum of parts. We'll regroup, what can we do better. We did some things great, and some things we had to put to one side. We'll see there are some things we didn't do great, so we'll have a review and figure it out.

It's how you manage energy, the software of this car is open. That's lovely. That's helped us attract actually the next generation of engineers. If you go and wander around our pit stand, it's a very diverse, young group now, which is awesome, to be honest with you.

So we'll keep pushing. We'll find some areas. Out teams are brilliant, and we're still learning a bit the setup of the car. We've made great strides, but we started a bit late, honestly speaking.

Q. David, Honda Performance, very high profile in Formula 1. Honda is very high profile in INDYCAR in this country. What does this do for Acura to win a race of this significance?

DAVID SALTERS: Well, you all need to tell me. I think it is a landmark moment, isn't it? It's the pinnacle of sports car racing to show your performance. Acura is all about performance, so I think we just -- can't drop the mic. But there you go. We came out of the blocks. It showed Acura's performance.

Also, it's a new age. It's electrified, all that sort of stuff.

Walk the walk. I think it's pretty good. Very pleased for Acura Motorsport. Again, all part of the same group. I think Acura Motorsport shows where it is in sports car racing.

Q. You're showing, I think, sort of the emotion of the finish of that race. Just want to know what made you more nervous, was it when the fight was coming from the Cadillacs at the end or when it was between the two Acuras?


Well, the good thing, we have teams that race.

The bad thing, we have teams that race. But you would never, ever want to -- we have to be sensible. We're here for Acura Motorsports.

Full trust in those guys, and it was great to have that fight until the end. Your adversary, the ones we're racing, really know what they're doing. They're top world class, so to take the fight to the adversary is brilliant, world class. And then within our teams, they were brilliant, weren't they?

I was not worried at all about the interaction with our teams, he says with a slight smile.

Q. David, you work a lot with Michael Shank, who puts a whole lot of pressure on himself, has a little bit of a complex about being underappreciated or maybe ignored. What does he mean to you guys?

DAVID SALTERS: Mike is wonderful. The results, racing results, speak for themselves. That's all you need to know. Two Daytona wins, championship, Indy 500, you cannot do much better in North America, can you.

With the greatest of respect, some of the things you've said are not true.

It's people doing work. What Graham did -- today is great. Tomorrow, right, what are we going to do for Sebring. So that's the standard we set for ourselves, but we just appreciate the people. Mike is really smart, got the right people in the right places, team is tremendous. He has really knuckled down, and he has taken his team to the next level.

Just go in his pit box and look what's happened. That's just the mentality of how can I be the best.

All the teams here are world class, so...

Q. It came down to Acura versus Cadillac in this case, which is pretty similar to what we saw the last few years. Is that just by coincidence, or could you put your finger on why that was?

DAVID SALTERS: Well, again, I think massive respect to our competitors. Their class shows through, doesn't it?

But there wasn't much in any of it, to be honest with you, so massive respect to our competitors. They're world class; we're world class. These are the biggest companies in the world, aren't they? They definitely know what they're doing.

I don't know if that's coincidence or not, but also we're sort of game fit, aren't we, both of us. Between us, GM, we're game fit. We've just come off the end of a pretty hectic season, and back to it.

I think probably the match fitness I think is the right word. We're probably match fit. That just means the others are coming. All I know is the others are coming, and it's going to be amazing, isn't it?

Isn't that brilliant for our fans, Acura fans, IMSA fans, all the manufacturers' fans, and in terms of sports car racing, obviously people are on pit lane at the start of this race. I've never seen anything like that. That was astonishing, I think, and it's real racing. Ding-dong, right to the end, 24 hours. How does that work?

You would have put quite a lot of money on just staggered, someone is on the lead lap, someone is 10 laps down, and it came down to the very end.

I think that's a testament to the skill of the engineers and the technicians that work on these cars. It's astonishing. I'm massively impressed.

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