HPD Blog

Friday, May 8, 2015

Let’s Go Racing! Spec:RaceAtom presented by Honda Racing/HPD!

The 5th season of the Spec:RaceAtom series presented by Honda Racing/HPD at Virginia International Raceway is about to take the green flag for 2015.  May 16th & 17th will see Race #1 & #2 take place on the challenging, and highly technical South Course.  The South Course has been the course configuration for the opening round of the Spec:RaceAtom series since its inception in 2011.
The 2015 VIR Cup Series will see 10 races taking place on 3 different course configurations at VIR; South, Full, and Grand Course.  The series has been a great location for veteran racers, and novices alike to hone their race craft in identical vehicles.  Close racing action is always present. 
The Spec:RaceAtom vehicle is the track day sibling of the very popular Ariel Atom 3 with slight changes to assist with both safety and race level stress on the vehicles.  Safety and reliability were the top priorities when designing this vehicle with the inclusion of a fully welded roll structure, aluminum racing seat, as well as additional under structure bracing.  Reliability comes thanks to a Honda 2.4L engines utilized in a naturally aspirated form producing 230hp which is mated to a 6-speed transmission.
Pre-season testing has gone very well for some drivers and we are likely to see track records fall this season.  Stay tuned to this blog for race reports after each event. 

Interested to join in on the action?  Give us a call at 434.822.9130 or email at mswain@tmiautotech.com

2015 VIR Cup Schedule – Spec:RaceAtom presented by Honda Racing/HPD

Race #1 May 16th – VIR South Course

Race #2 May 17th – VIR South Course

Race #3 July 4th – VIR Full Course

Race #4 July 5th – VIR Full Course

Race #5 July 25th – VIR South Course

Race #6 July 26th – VIR South Course

Race #7 August 29th – VIR South Course

Race #8 August 30th – VIR Full Course

Race #9 November 28th – VIR Grand Course

Race #10 November 29th – VIR Full Course

Thursday, April 9, 2015

HPD and Maxxis Win B-Spec and get another 2WD Podium at 2015 100 Acre Wood Rally

Salem, MO. (Feb 27-28, 2015) – Maxxis renewed its partnership with Honda Performance Development to showcase the brand new 2015 B-Spec Fit developed specifically for Rally competition at the 100 Acre Wood Rally, the second round of the 2015 Rally America National Championship.

All Photos: Tomasz Dudek www.photographybyvix.com
The Maxxis/HPD Rally Team had already gotten a fantastic first-place result from the new 2015 B-Spec Rally Fit at Sno*Drift, so hopes were high for another good finish at the notoriously unpredictable 100 Acre Wood Rally.  Based on the team’s experience, the weather in Salem, Missouri seemed to fluctuate between perfect gravel rally conditions and snow/ice rally conditions.  The 2015 event was contested in the snow and ice, with the promise of large snow accumulations on Day Two. 

“We had a fantastic first event, where we were able to finish eighth overall, second in 2WD, and first in B-Spec.  Our new 2015 B-Spec Fit was fantastic, and the new CVT gearbox held up great," stated James Robinson, Honda engineer and driver for Maxxis/HPD.  “We’re hoping that the suspension settings and tire modifications that we worked out at Sno*Drift will give us an edge against our new B-Spec competition!” 

Previously, the B-Spec class has been comprised of the Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris, and an occasional Ford Fiesta.  For the 100 Acre Wood event, a new competitor has arrived: The Chevrolet Sonic.  “We’re excited to have more competition in the B-Spec class, and I hope that we’re all able to make it to the finish,” James commented prior to the Rally start.

Starting out on the mostly ice-covered roads, the new Fit was able to build up a 10-minute lead over the Sonic, and a 15-minute lead over the Yaris.  “The road conditions are just absolutely treacherous, and it’s a real struggle to keep the car on the road,” James explained at the end of Stage 5.  Despite these difficulties, the Maxxis/HPD team had moved up to third in 2WD and eighth overall!

By the end of the first nine stages of Day One, the B-Spec Fit was a solid 14 minutes ahead of the second-place Chevy Sonic and was maintaining third in 2WD.  “We couldn’t be happier with our position as well as with the car and tire setup,” stated Brian Penza, returning as Robinson’s co-driver on the Maxxis/HPD rally team. “ Everything seems to be working great, and we’ve been getting fantastic support from our crew.”  

Moving into the second day of competition, the weather started to get worse.  With snow starting to accumulate, the crucial question would be how the icy stages would impact everyone’s stage times.  By the end of Stage 12, the B-Spec Fit was sixth overall, and second in 2WD.  “We were very lucky on those stages,” James said at the first service of the day. “A lot of our competitors suffered punctures on Stage 10, including ourselves. We were able to drive out of the stage on the flat, and change it in time for the long, difficult Stage 11.  Due to that, we were able to actually make up some time!”

The treacherous conditions finally caught up to the B-Spec team on Stage 14, where a particularly icy hill proved nearly impossible to navigate.  “We easily lost four minutes trying to get up that one hill… we were very lucky, though, and we were able to get up the hill with some expert help from the spectators,” noted Penza afterward. “We wish that we hadn’t gotten stuck, but realistically, we got off pretty easy compared to a lot of the other teams.” 

The event started with 60 cars, but only 41 made it to the finish. 

“We were happy to finish with about a 28-minute lead over our competition and have no real issues throughout the event,” said Robinson. “The Fit was fantastic all weekend, and we ended up finishing eighth overall, third-fastest in 2WD overall, and still average 20MPG for the entire event! We’re excited to have to good finishes so far, and hope to carry that momentum into the third round of the Rally America National Championship!”

Look for the Honda Fit at the next round in Oregon!

About 100 Acre Wood Rally:

The Rally in the 100 Acre Wood is the second race of the Rally America National Championship and is known as one of the most scenic. Named after the storybook home of Winnie the Pooh, the Rally in the 100 Acre Wood is a picturesque race with enough twists and turns to test every driver’s ability. Set in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains of Missouri, this race is always a favorite due to its pristine surroundings and fast, tight roads. Although you won’t see Winnie the Pooh or any of his friends, you will see some of the best rally driving on some of the best rally roads in North America.

About Rally America:
Based in Williston, VT, Rally America, Inc. sanctions the Rally America National Championship which consists of at least seven national-level events located at a variety of venues across the country, from Portland, Oregon to Newry, Maine. Top competitors in the Rally America National Championship reach speeds of well over 100 miles per hour, driving highly modified street cars such as Mitsubishi Evolutions, Subaru WRX STIs, Ford Fiestas and Scion XDs on natural-terrain courses consisting of gravel, dirt, ice or snow. For more information regarding Rally America’s National Championship or the sport of performance rally, visit www.rally-america.com



Monday, March 2, 2015

THR Rally Team unveil New CRZ Rally car at 2015 100 Acre Wood Rally

Salem, MO. (Feb 27-28, 2015) – Partnering again for 2015, Team Honda Research (THR) and HPD have joined to showcase another new rally platform in the form of a Honda CRZ. Building on the successful development of the popular B-Spec Fits, the CRZ is build specifically for rally competition and would debut at the 2015 100 Acre Wood Event.

The base for the new rally platform is a 2011 Honda CRZ EX. The team took the former rental car, and began the transformation to rally machine late last year. Although the hybrid unit was removed to save weight, the rest of the vehicle is in nearly stock form with the exception of the cage and safety equipment required by competition rules and the addition of rally specific dampers from Hot Bits. In this build state, the car would be eligible for the Group 2 class, one of the most heavily contested classes in the regional series.

The 100 Acre Wood event is notoriously hard to predict. The weather can range from hot and sunny, making it a fantastic gravel event, or it can be cold and snowy, similar to Sno*Drift. As the event neared, it became apparent that the event would be cold, snowy and slippery. The G2 field was also looking to be contested by 16 other competitors. Both of these combined would make for an exciting and challenging debut event.

As the event got under way, the road conditions were a mix of gravel, snow, and a thick ice coating. Despite this, the THR CRZ was able to stay near the front of the G2 pack, positioned in 6th place before the first service. “The roads are very tough, but we’re doing our best to keep it tidy and stay on the road”, said Jordan Guitar, driver of the THR CRZ.

Final standings at the end of day one and the first 9 stages saw the CRZ positioned in 5th place in G2, only 4 seconds behind the 4th place competitor, a Toyota Matrix. “We’re very pleased with the performance of the THR CRZ today. Our initial setup shows a lot of potential and we’re having a great time!”, stated Guitar, “We also can’t thank our service crew enough for toughing it out today”

Day 2 started with a light snow flurry, causing teams to ponder if their setup would be sufficient for the icy stages now starting to get covered up in snow. Off to a rocky start, the THR CRZ had a spin on stage ten, caused from sliding sideways on a gravel section onto a patch of ice just over the top of a small crest. The spin put the front end of the CRZ into a snow bank, luckily only causing minor damage. Fighting a few electrical gremlins, on stage eleven the CRZ stalled and then had difficulties trying to restart the vehicle.

On stage 12, the CRZ found some more traction, and made up some time, catching and passing an open light car. As the teams rolled in for the first service of the day, the THR CRZ was sitting in 6th place in G2. “We had some trouble on stages ten and eleven”, stated Guitar, “but we were starting to move a little better on stage 12 and made up a little time.”

After service, the roads were getting perpetually more treacherous. As the roads got worse, several delays caused the sanctioning body to cancel the running of the final stages, meaning the THR CRZ would need to transit stages 13-15 and make the long drive back to the rally finish.
Guitar and Rogers in the THR CRZ finished in 4th place of the 12 G2 cars that finished the event. “Conditions this weekend made for a tough inaugural event, but overall we are very pleased with the performance of the THR CRZ”, stated Guitar, “we have learned a few things this weekend that we’ll use to make the CRZ even more competitive!”

Look for the THR CRZ in the next round of the championship at the Oregon Trail Rally.

Monday, February 9, 2015

New HPD 2015 B-Spec Honda Fit Debuts at Sno*Drift Rally

Returning for the 2015 season, the B-Spec Fit team was looking forward to starting the difficult Sno*Drift rally and defending its 2014 B-Spec Championship title. In addition, the team would campaign a brand new 2015 Honda Fit, equipped with the CVT transmission.  This would be the first time in 15 years that a Honda would compete in North American Rally with such a unique transmission. 

The 2014 sponsor Maxxis renewed its partnership with Honda Performance Development to showcase the brand new 2015 B-Spec Fit developed specifically for Rally competition at the Sno*Drift Rally, the first round of the 2015 Rally America National Championship. 

“It’s always exciting to get to develop a brand new car and test it out on such a unique event,” said Honda B-Spec Driver James Robinson, “Due to the icy, slick conditions, Sno*Drift is probably the best place for us to test out our new car and see if this new drivetrain setup will be successful in Rally.”

With eight stages to contest on Day One, the Fit set off with Josh Kramer filling the co-driver seat. “Our goal this weekend is to gather as much data as we can for the new car, and of course try and stay competitive,” said Kramer, “Although our normal B-Spec competition couldn’t make it to the event, we still have a great field of 2WD cars to compete against!”

By Stage 4, the Fit was had moved up 2 places to 9th overall, managing to keep pace with some of the more powerful 2WD cars. “The road conditions are pretty good, and we’re starting to get the hang of the new B-Spec Fit,” said Robinson at the first service, “The CVT transmission is actually giving us some improved acceleration on the road and its great having the ability to use the paddle-shifters to quickly change gear ratios.” 

As Day 1 drew to a close, the team of Robinson and Kramer had already moved into 2nd place overall in the 2WD National class, holding 9-minute lead over the R1 Ford Fiesta of Cameron Steely.   In addition, the new B-Spec Fit had completed the 8 stages without any mechanical issues. “So far the new Fit has been fantastic!” said Robinson, “We’ve had no issues and the new transmission seems to be taking the rough conditions without any concern.”
As Day 2 got underway, the Fit continued to hold its 2nd 2WD position and run clean.  By the first service, the Fit had added another minute to its advantage over the R1 Fiesta. “We’re having fun today,” stated Kramer at the Atlanta Service, “the car is running strong and James is driving great, so we’re going to try and maintain our momentum.”
Stage 16 proved to be the most challenging stage of the rally, as it was over 24 miles in length. This stage would be the true test of the new Fit as this would be almost 30 minutes of constant pushing on a variety of road surfaces. “We are a little bit anxious to start this long stage,” reported Robinson at the second service of the day. “This will be the true litmus test for this new car.  If we can make it for the full stage without any transmission overheating issues, we should have full confidence for the rest of the season!” As the team hoped, the car made it through the long punishing 16th stage and was able to still set the 4th fastest 2WD time!
At the end of the event, the Fit had finished first in B-Spec, second-place finish in 2WD, and an amazing 8th place overall. “We are overjoyed with our results this weekend,” said Robinson after the event. “Our expectations were to test out the new car and to make sure we finished the event.  This result completely exceeded any expectation we had!”
Look for the Maxxis / HPD B-Spec Fit to continue in its hunt for the championship next month at The Rally in the 100-Acre Wood in Salem, MO.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Racing a Honda Fit in the 2014 Lake Superior Performance Rally

Yahoo Autos editor and racer Alex Lloyd took to the same tree-lined gravel roads as Travis Pastrana and David Higgins in the Lake Superior Performance Rally in the 2014 Rally America championship. Driving a 2009 Honda Fit, Lloyd competed in the B-Spec class, proving that competing with the best rally drivers in America doesn't have to break the bank. Here's his story: (Photos via Scott Rains)

I'm up to my shins in icy water. It's dark, my head weary. Every exhaled breath reminds me of a 1980s Jaguar with a blown head gasket. I'm so cold my fingers can barely grasp the "OK" board, signifying to other drivers that despite my 2009 Honda Fit being beached in a mud bank, I am, in fact, uninjured. As is my co-driver, James Guitar, a man with the greatest name in the world and an identical twin brother so identical that even they forget who's who. "Just get back in the car," he yells.

I do as I'm told, with my tail tucked between my legs like a puppy being yelled at for peeing on his master's suede slippers. "Why am I here," I ponder, as a white Subaru WRX tears by into the night, turbo chirping in its entire splendor. I've wanted to compete in a rally since I was five years old, but at this precise moment, covered in this much mud, I want to run off into the forest and bury my head in a giant puddle of Scotch.

Back in March this all seemed like a good idea. Here I am, a former IndyCar driver, open wheel champion and sports car racer tackling a Rally America event. I’d be in Honda Racing’s front-wheel drive Fit, with power topping out at just 117 hp. What could possibly go wrong?

B-Spec is the lowest wrung of the performance ladder. The cars are basically off-the-lot, with the only changes being the addition of a roll cage, rally suspension, racing seats, some knobby gravel tires and stripping the car of its superfluous bits like the door trimmings and the radio. In the case of my Fit, given current B-Spec National champ James Robinson's appetite for winning, I'd also have a welded up differential.

You can buy a used Fit for around $10,000. Even those more inept than I with a wrench could morph it into a B-Spec rally car for around another eight grand. Then, throw down your entry fee – a thousand bucks for the regional Rally America class or roughly $2,000 if you want to enter the big boy national championship – and you find yourself on the same gravel roads, in the same race, as Ken Block and David Higgins. It's that simple. As far as racing goes, it's about as cost effective as it gets – where else can you spar with the rallying equivalent of Jeff Gordon for that little money?

Here's what you need to know about rallying: You compete in multiple timed stages on multiple days, with cars staggered every minute. In the case of the rally I was entering, the Lake Superior Performance Rally in Houghton, Mich., we would run sixteen stages over two days – ten on Friday, six on Saturday. Most of day one's route would take place in the dead of night, on stages up to 15 miles in length on routes we'd never set eyes on. How would we know where the road goes? Our co-driver, in my case Les Paul, reading from pre-written pace notes.

These notes would be recited like this: “Four left, tightens to three over crest, into five right don’t cut, 100.” The numbers one to six dictate the radius of the corner – one being the tightest, six being hold it flat and hang on. “Tightens” tells you that the corner will sharpen up, and “over crest” is, well, pretty self-explanatory. “Don’t cut” warns you that there may be a submerged hazard like a rock or tree stump on the inside of the bend. “100” then signifies the distance in yards to the next bend.
All this information is read up to a couple of corners in advance, so you're driving turns that have been called out much earlier, all the while listening to your co-driver on what to expect further up the road. It's not easy, and a slight mistake ensures you greet a reasonably sized oak tree.

Beyond the co-driver's nightmarish job of reading directions while not throwing up is his or her ability to add. Between stages, you are given a precise time in which to complete your drive to the next stage. You must arrive at the following checkpoint, sometimes over an hour away, at that exact minute. So, if you're given a 57-minute transit and you checked out at 6:37pm, you must arrive at check-in at 7:34pm. A minute late gets you a ten second penalty; a minute early a one minute penalty. Note to self: Don't speed. But don't dawdle.

At the start of the first stage, a short 1.9-mile teaser through a quarry, the rain pelts the windshield like a million tiny flies wielding baseball bats. I leave the line with so much vigor it causes my co-driver James to laugh. I wheel spin for about six miles. I can't see where the first turn is; James says it's a two left, 600 yards ahead. I know my wife and Yahoo camera guys are waiting in the spectator zone, expecting me to blaze by in a shower of mud, just like Higgins and Travis Pastrana did. I brake, down shift into second. Accelerate again. Wait, where's this corner? Ah, yes. I turn in at about four miles per hour. Get back on the gas. Nothing happens.

Should I downshift to first?

In rallying there is no test session. Well, there was, but I had to go to a mandatory rookie’s meeting to learn what to do when I crash. So for the first two stages I feel like I have a pair of 40 lb. dumbbells strapped to my feet and I’m plummeting to the nether of the Pacific. Fortunately, before the next four stages where things get serious, we have a brief 30-minute service stop.

Here we meet our crew guys. They look over the car and fix whatever you broke. You take a leak, grab a coffee, perhaps some food, strap back in the car and head out. In my case, I’m going too slowly to break anything, so we all enjoy some piping hot soup.

In a car, understeer is where you turn the steering wheel into a bend and the front tires slide straight. It’s known as a horrific sin in rallying, like punching the Queen of England or buying light mayo. It’s a crash waiting to happen; you must kick the car sideways so it’s easier to scrub speed if the corner tightens. And even if it doesn’t, with the front wheels sliding, you’re sure to run wide and into the wilderness.

I do this time and time again. It’s never particularly costly, but it’s embarrassing and highly amateurish. I’m using my left foot to brake, which is correct; in rallying, you spend more time using both feet at once than you do just one. Reason being is that dabbing the brake mid corner will help pin the front and get the car to rotate, hence eliminating understeer. In the faster corners you can hold the throttle flat and simply shed speed by stabbing the brake. Only it’s not working. I don’t understand why, and I’m too fearful of trying something new lest I end up off a cliff.

By now it’s dark. I’m feeling dejected and want to go home. I later figure out that I’m stabbing the brake too hard in the sloppy mud and locking up all four tires, not just the rear. When that happens I simply shoot off the side of the road. I’m also going into the turns too slowly. My theory of taking it easy is sound, but if you don’t brake late enough to get the weight transferred onto the front axle, allowing the rear to pivot around, you’ll never get the car turned.

So it’s catch 22. The more I feel uneasy, the slower I go. Hence the more I crash.

On a tight three right I do it again. At what feels like ten miles per hour I slide off into a ditch. This time I’m stuck. After around ten minutes of misery stood in that icy puddle, the driver of a Toyota feels sorry for me. He stops, and James hooks our towrope onto the back of his car. I drop the clutch and the cabin fills with the stench of burning iron as I fight to bring the Fit back onto the road. After, James straps back in, flings his pace notes onto his lap and informs me that, in all the chaos, he has no idea where the hell we are. With my race suit caked in mud and my confidence well and truly shattered, I’m no longer a professional race car driver – I’m a lost little boy in need of his blankie. 

Back at service, I’m already 13 minutes down on the B-Spec leader. We still have four more stages to go before the day is done, and that won’t be until around 12:30am. I confide in my wife as we walk to grab a coffee: “I hate this,” I tell her.

“Well at least you’ve done it,” she says, trying her best to comfort me. “You’ve been wanting to do this forever, just try and enjoy it.”

“I’ll try,” I mutter, my socks soaked in Michigan mud.

As the night wears on, exhaustion sets in. We’ve been in the car for eight hours, with just two breaks consisting of a handful of minutes. I never imagined rallying to be this grueling. You see the stages and think that’s it, but the transits are killers, and with the imposed time limit, you’re always concentrating on something.

On stage 7 I witness a fellow racer upside down on his roof. The car’s destroyed and we check to see if they’re OK; in rallying, the car behind is the first response. Everyone’s fine, but if they weren’t, we’d do what we can to help and signal the car behind us to speed to the nearest checkpoint and call for proper assistance. Given the lengthy time for trained medics to arrive, we all look out for each other: “We’re like a family,” one driver told me after the race. “We have to be.”

As the stages tick by, my confidence slowly builds. I begin to rid myself of the dreaded understeer and attack corners with more gusto. This helps, and for the final three stages of the night, I make no mistakes. I’m also comforted by the spinning mayhem of those around me. It’s not just me struggling, the conditions are some of the worst seen in years.

This race had turned into one of attrition.

As we pull into service at the end of the day, both James and I are wrecked. I’d chugged some Red Bull during an earlier transit, and we’d both fought for the last chocolate chip cereal bar. It didn’t help much. We’re starving, but I’m amazed how quickly my mood has shifted: From being utterly despondent, but a shell of the man I typically am, back to my normal self in just a few miles of tidy motoring on gravel.

Rallying does that.

Before, the car was driving me. Now, I’m driving it, and like my wife said, I’m finally enjoying myself. In fact, I’m loving it, and tomorrow, I’m putting the hammer down.

It had taken 1 hour 30 minutes to drive back to the hotel the night before. We didn’t arrive until 2am, and with just a few hours sleep, we’re back on the road heading to the picturesque town of L’Anse, the venue for this morning’s parc exposé – the place where all the cars and fans gather before heading out on their muddy way.

My improved times and lack of mistakes during yesterday’s evening stages have left us just a couple of minutes down on the B-Spec leaders. We should, if I can hold it together, have a reasonable shot at victory.

After just the first few corners of stage 11, a hideously bumpy course with rocks the size of Mini Me, I can sense my improved technique. The sun is shining, albeit temps are hovering below freezing, and I feel good. My performance is proving that. Until I enter a “four right plus,” the “plus” signifying that it is only a smidgen tighter than a five. All looks good, until the back snaps ferociously. I have no chance to recover. I spin, fortunately missing the trees, leaving me facing in the wrong direction. In a front wheel drive car, you can’t just drop the clutch and flick it around; I have to embark in tedious six-point turn. All in, it costs me around 30 seconds.

Here’s the trickiest part of rallying: In changeable conditions, especially ones that involve enough rain to piss off ducks, you have to be able to predict what the grip level will be like in the upcoming bend, something I didn’t do here. Of course you’ve never seen said bend, so how would you know what it will be like? 2WD national champ and all-round top bloke Andrew Comrie-Picard told me that you must inspect your surroundings while driving (at 100 mph). Look for overhanging trees that might shelter the road surface from the rain, offering more grip and an ability to carry more speed. Or is there a compression (like in this case) where water may linger and cause treacherous, slippery mud to form? Look for colors in the surface, an odd sheen perhaps, dripping water from branches, boys with water pistols or a gaggle of rednecks spilling their moonshine.

I was still trying to get to grips with being in a forest and not on a purpose built racetrack, listening to Mr. Fender bark orders at me, and generally hoping to mow down as few spectators as possible. This was just too much.

Despite my troubles, we arrive back at the last service of the rally in the lead of the final round of the national B-Spec championship. We’re two minutes ahead, and pulling away by over one minute per stage. Due to attrition, we’re laying fourth overall in the national 2WD standings, behind leader Comrie-Picard.

I sit back and enjoy the final three stages of the rally. My times are ever improving and I’m having the time of my life. I’ve dreamed of racing a rally since I was a little boy, traipsing through the Welsh forests with my dad. We’d huddle behind trees as Juha Kankkunen flew by in his Lancia Delta HF Integrale. I’d drink tomato soup my mom made while my father sipped warming brandy from his hip flask. We’d drive there in his red Jaguar XJS, and then we’d get stuck in a muddy parking lot; in fact, we nearly slid into a river once. And at age eight, we got so badly lost while wandering around the forest at night that we had succumbed to sleeping under the stars. Fortunately, we heard the vaguest whistle of Carlos Sainz in a Toyota Celica GT-Four, leading us to safety. These are the fondest memories of my childhood.

At the start of the first day, I was gutted that the realization of my first rally wasn’t living up to these boyhood expectations. But once I got to grips with the machine I was driving and the roads in which I was driving on, it was all of that and more. I think about my time behind the wheel of that glorious little Fit daily. What a car, a true gem that I genuinely bonded with, and a bulletproof gem at that. Not one thing broke, despite the punishing I gave her.

I also show my four year-old boy the pictures of the rally and let him hold the first place trophy. Despite all the dramas, the tears, the exhaustion, Mr. Stratocaster, his twin brother and the crew led me to victory. Stood on the hood of the car, spraying a weird pink champagne that tasted like rotten flowers mixed with cat urine, laughing with James that we’d not only won – but we’d survived. It was everything I dreamed it would be, despite the rocky start.

I had proved that front-wheel-drive rally cars aren’t boring. They’re incredibly challenging, and had I have been in an all-wheel-drive Subaru, for example, I likely wouldn’t have experienced the highs and lows that I did. I’m glad I stood shin deep in filth. I’m glad I ruined my prized race boots that took me to fourth place in the 2010 Indy 500. I’m glad I didn’t run off into the forest and douse myself in a puddle of Scotch. I stuck with it, and reaped the rewards. Not for the trophy, or for the cat wee champagne. But for the memories, the experience, tearing through the gravel roads of northern Michigan, just James and me – and our little Honda Fit.

That night after the rally we partied in Houghton’s only club, drinking beer with my fellow racers, talking stories about who survived and, more specifically, who did not. It was the perfect ending to a perfect weekend. Except for Mr. Gibson’s refusal to sing. After all we’d been through, you’d think he could muster a few chords.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Youth Take Center Stage at .25 “Showcase Of Champions”

Champions of USAC’s 2014 Honda .25 Midget series were toasted Saturday night in downtown Indianapolis, Ind. as the “Showcase of Champions” unfolded at the NCAA Hall of Champions.
Butch Lamb served as the emcee for the affair, which offered pre and post-banquet amusement with the Hall of Champions’ array of sports-related games and displays.

Eighteen National and multiple regional championships were celebrated, the National Champions also featured during opening ceremonies at Friday night’s 59th USAC “Night of Champions” National Awards Dinner, also in Indianapolis.

The “Generation Next” series encompassed a baker’s dozen events from coast to coast and resulted in 58 different class winners. 

Honored as USAC Honda .25 Midget National Champions as a result of their “Generation Next Tour” titles were Logan Heath of Hereford, AZ (Light 160 and Light World Formula Pavement); Carson Hocevar of Portage, MI (Heavy Honda and Heavy 160, Senior Animal and Heavy AA Pavement); Berklee Jimenez of San Antonio, TX (Heavy World Formula Pavement); Brady Johnson of Mooresville, N.C. (Junior Honda Pavement); Christopher Oplinger of Mount Holly, N.C. (Senior Honda Pavement); Tanner Reif of Henderson, NV (Junior Animal Pavement); Famous Rhodes II of Parkland, FL (Light Mod Pavement); Danny Sams III of Englewood, FL (Unrestricted Animal Pavement); Jack Wehmeyer of Sellersville, PA (Light AA Pavement); Aleksander Andrecs of Edgewater, MD (Junior Honda Dirt); Bradan Andrecs of Edgewater, MD (Junior Animal Dirt); Jesse James Bartleson of Rio Grande, NJ (Heavy World Formula Dirt); Zachary Curtis of Spring City, PA (Heavy Honda Dirt); Briggs Danner of Allentown, PA (Light 160 Dirt); Hanna Flood of Limerick, PA (Heavy 160 and Unrestricted Animal Dirt); Connor Gross of Middleton, MA (Light World Formula Dirt); Mike Thompson of Holland, PA (Senior Animal Dirt); and Conner Weiss of Barto, PA (Senior Honda Dirt).

Champions of the Eastern, Western, Northeast and East Coast sub-series were also recognized and presented distinctive awards.

Connie Ellington of Arizona, who served for the past three years as a dedicated USAC official, was the surprise recipient of USAC’s “Spirit of Youth Award” in recognition of her outstanding contributions and dedication to youth in motorsports.

All of the USAC champions received distinctive championship jackets compliments of Hoosier Racing Tire of Lakeville, Ind.


Piloting the Honda-Powered F1600 at Road Atlanta

By Geri Amani
Road Atlanta is one of those iconic race tracks that has a unique sense of history about it. Like many tracks across the US, Road Atlanta has rich racing history, hosting a variety of racing venues on its grounds for decades. This track is particularly known for hosting Petit Le Mans, which also attracts drivers from across the globe. This wouldn’t be my first time visiting Road Atlanta, as I have worked Petit as a photographer years prior. I knew the track well from behind the walls, but this would be my first time driving it myself. At long last, I would finally get to see this infamous road course from the other side of the fence.

For those familiar with Formula F, Honda Performance Development (HPD) developed a kit that consists of a Honda Fit 4-cylinder engine, paired with chassis-compatible engine mounting hardware.  Last but not least, behind the engine sat a Hewland “dog-box” transmission. Minus the addition to some new chassis designs, much of the class hasn’t changed. However, the new Honda-powered Formula F will ensure that this class not only lives on, but continues to grow across North America. In terms of Performance, the Honda engine doesn’t disappoint. The overall power, consistent torque in higher RPM ranges, and responsiveness to throttle inputs make the F1600 a very strong contender. To make matters more interesting, the F1600 series is expected to expand through select regions of US and Canada, bringing more single-class racing opportunities beyond Formula F in SCCA.  As a racer whose resume is filled with a history of sports cars, switching to the realm of formula car racing introduces a series of very specific adaptations. But anyone looking to get into formula car racing will find the Honda powered F1600 a delight to drive.

Becoming familiar with this platform began with a full day of testing with Palmetto Florida based team Jay Motorsports, led by Jay Green.  This F1600 wore some very nice shoes I might add, none other than Hoosier racing slicks. Unlike the DOT rubber, Hoosier the slick compound has superb grip, which can be very confidence inspiring.  My general practice is to build confidence in stages, then experiment within appropriate places at the track. I felt this was particularly important, not only because the compound was unfamiliar, but so too was the platform personality and the dog-box transmission.  A new track, new tire compound, new car… no problem!

I was immediately impressed with the level of mechanical grip the F1600 offers,  which came in handy as I carried increasingly more speed into faster sections of the track, including turn-1 and turn 12. In sports cars I often rely on the sensations of body-roll of the chassis, the scrubbing of the tires underneath me, and the variances of load transfer. In the F1600 you have to be one with the car as a whole, cinched in so tight where it almost hurts. It goes without saying that a proper seating position is absolutely imperative, far more than any sports car. Driving a formula car in general is an incredibly tactile experience. For every groove, dip, bump, and variety of textures on the road are all forms of feedback that a driver needs to understand.

Equally impressive is the braking in this car. The F1600 doesn’t have wings for downforce, but for what it lacks the car makes up for in its enjoyable simplicity. The F1600 is a great option for a driver looking to jump into a purpose-built race car. As with any no-frills racing machine, drivers are required to be deliberate, smooth and assertive When you apply the brakes correctly, the deceleration can be strong enough to relocate your guts to your feet. It takes some familiarity to brake crisply, quickly and late, which is also the mix of elements that satisfies the F1600. I understood braking in sports cars, however I had to set my learned tendencies aside to appease the needs of F1600, and of course, achieve those lower lap times.

Jay Green did a fantastic job helping me sort through data and video, not to mention supporting the requirements of the car. It takes a certain kind of personality to work with drivers and enable them to properly absorb information whilst they learn something entirely new. This was an area that Jay clearly excelled, making each subsequent session productive. At the end of both testing and qualifying days, I made it my mission to review data and video back at my hotel. My goal was to be prepared first thing each morning and address areas for improvement. It’s simple for a driver to jump into a car and drive, but it’s a whole other matter to be tenacious in your pursuit of learning. You have to want success from your core. With some room to grow, we qualified P3 in class after our two designated qualifying sessions.

Race day quickly approached and while the weather was bitterly cold outside, I was extremely eager to get back into the car and have my head in the wind. In my mind, I had carefully selected a series of items that I wanted to work on during the race, all while chasing the leaders in class. My tactics seemed to work for a time, however an extremely long stint under caution and patches of traffic spoiled some of my plan. I was destined to settle into my position all while weaving through lapped-traffic. There is no magic solution for lightning fast lap-times, though seat time is a very close second. By the end of the 40-minute race I had settled into a rhythm after the yellow flags were removed, closing the race in third.

With the right mindset, I have always believed that properly resourcing expert knowledge can help build a better driver. When you have a good team around you, put their knowledge to work. With Jay Green at my side, I wasn’t going to let any of his input or expertise go to waste. Driving the F1600 at this event proved to be one of the most enjoyable and inspiring learning experiences. It’s safe to say that my success at Road Atlanta is attributed partly because of my supporters, but equally so was an appropriate mindset that carried me towards the podium.

Special thanks to my family, Hoosier Racing Tire, Jay Motorsports, and G-Speed Race Management. I’m definitely looking forward to more seat time in a race car without doors!
Photo Credits: Rob Bodle, Geri Amani and Clark McInnis (http://www.clarkmcinnisphotography.com)
Geri Amani:

G-Speed Race Management:

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Jeff Kelley Takes First Honda Engine Victory in HPD Western MIdget Series

Las Vegas, NV. -- Jeff Kelley of Eden, Utah won Saturday night’s USAC Western HPD Midget finale at the Las Veas Motor Speedway Bullring. He passed Shawn Buckley on lap 25 and led the final six laps to beat Buckley, Jim Waters, Christine Breckenridge and Michael Daniels. Buckley wrapped up the 2014 USAC Western HPD and Pavement titles in the process. Kelley's win was the first in HPD Western competition by a Honda engine.

HPD USAC WESTERN MIDGET PAVEMENT RACE RESULTS: November 22, 2014 – Las Vegas, Nevada – Las Vegas Motor Speedway Bullring

QUALIFICATIONS: 1. Jim Waters, 24, Waters-15.287; 2. Jeff Kelley, 55x, Kelley-15.298; 3. Christine Breckenrdge, 26, Breckenridge-15.329; 4. Shawn Buckley, 7, Buckley-15.443; 5. Michael Daniels, 87, Daniels-15.666; 6. Courtney Crone, 98jr, Pankratz-15.843; 7. Jeanille Waters, 17, Waters-15.958; 8. Anthony Waters, 02w, Waters-15.977; 9. Ashley Hazelton, 32, Hazelton-16.006; 10. Annie Briedinger, 75, Briedinger-16.038; 11. Joel Rayborne, 2U, RamBull-NT; 12. Toni Briedinger, 80, Briedinger-NT.

FIRST HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Jim Waters, 2. Breckenridge, 3. Daniels, 4. Hazelton, 5. Jeanille Waters. NT

SECOND HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Kelley, 2. Buckley, 3. T.Briedinger, 4. A.Waters. NT

FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Jeff Kelley, 2. Shawn Buckley, 3. Jim Waters, 4. Christine Breckenridge, 5. Michael Daniels, 6. Ashley Hazelton, 7. Annie Briedinger, 8. Antony Waters, 9. Jeanille Waters, 10. Joel Rayborne, 11. Toni Briedinger. NT


FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-24 Buckley, Laps 25-30 Kelley.

FINAL USAC HPD WESTERN POINT STANDINGS: 1-Buckley-1,725, 2-Hazelton-1,149, 3-T,Briedinger-1,053, 4-Cody Jessop-1,026, 5-Breckenridge-867, 6-Rayborne-819, 7-A,Briedinger-756, 8-Kelley-594, 9-Tom Paterson-581, 10-Dylan Nobile-572.

FINAL USAC HPD WESTERN PAVEMENT POINT STANDINGS: 1-Buckley-1,188, 2-T.Briedinger-955, 3-Breckenridge-867, 4-A.Briedinger-756, 5-Rayborne-723, 6-Cody Jessop-635, 7-Kelley-594, 8-Tom Paterson-581, 9-Dylan Nobile-572, 10-Hazelton-432.

Friday, August 15, 2014

New England Forest Rally

Newry, ME. (July 18th-19th , 2014) – HPD and THR return to 2014 New England Forest Rally with B-Spec Honda Fit

Team Honda Research partnered with Honda Performance Development to showcase the B-Spec Fit developed specifically for Rally competition at the New England Forest Rally (NEFR), the sixth round of the Rally America National Championship.
“We had a fantastic 2013 season, where we were able to finish first in the B-Spec National Championship and fourth in the 2WD overall National Championship. We wanted to come back and build on that success by refining the B-Spec package for the Honda Fit," stated James Robinson, Honda Engineer and driver for THR.
In the first 5 rounds in the 2014 Championship, the B-Spec Fit collected four wins and two overall 2WD podium finish at the Sno*Drift, and Oregon Trail events.  Even having missed the Mt. Washington Hill Climb in June, all the team needed was one more podium finish to clinch the 2014 B-Spec Championship.
The New England Forest Rally (NEFR) marked the third event where THR and HPD partnered with Maxxis Tire to provide competition rally tires for the B-Spec Fit.  “The Maxxis R19 Rally tire has worked well on the fast stages in Oregon and in Pennsylvania, so this weekend will be the real test for the durability of the tire,” Robinson said before the start of the first stage.
New England Forest Rally is extremely challenging for most rally teams due to its very rough, long stages.  With a promise of improved road conditions for the 2014 event, the new Fit team hoped to improve on last year’s result.  “Last year, we nearly couldn’t finish due to the severe conditions,” Robinson explained, “With the improvements we’ve made in the skid plates, we’re hopeful that we can make it through this event.”
With five stages to contest on the opening day, the B-Spec Fit team set out to fight against a newcomer to the B-Spec class, Veteran 2WD National Champion Chris Duplessis.  Unfortunately, his new B-Spec Ford Fiesta proved to be very quick on the rough stages.  “We’re going to have to work hard to keep up with Chris. He’s carrying a lot more speed over the rough conditions than we are,” Robinson noted at the first service of the day.  “It’s great to have such a challenging competitor, to push the limits of what this class can achieve!”
Moving into the second day of competition, the B-Spec Fit continued to trail the Ford B-Spec Fiesta by a little over a minute.  “It’s going to be tough for us to catch Chris; we’ve found that both of our front dampers have finally worn out,” Robinson stated at the beginning of Stage 6.  “Although the front suspension has worn out, we’re quite pleased that it lasted for two complete seasons, without any rebuilds.”
Moving through the second day, the B-Spec Fit maintained a competitive pace in 2WD but was predictably unable to reel in the hard-charging Fiesta of  Duplessis.  Finally, the Fit was able to finish 2nd in B-Spec, 5th in 2WD and 12th overall.
“Although we were hoping for a win today, we’re ecstatic about making it through the event without any huge issues, aside from our front suspension,” Robinson said at the awards ceremony. “The Fit was totally reliable over the whole event, and we had great success with the Maxxis R19 tire. 

“The best part is, our finish today allows us to mathematically wrap up the B-Spec National Championship, the B-Spec Manufacturers Championship, and also keeps our hopes of an overall 2WD National Podium alive, as well!”

Look for the THR B-Spec Fit at the next round of the Rally America National Championship Series, August 21-22 in Detroit Lake, Minnesota.
New England Forest Rally:

The sixth race on the Rally America National Championship schedule and always a favorite with drivers due to the technical demands of the course, the New England Forest Rally offers challenging logging roads with some of the longest stages on the Rally America National Championship.  This rally is also a crowd pleaser because of its stunning scenery and wildlife.  Quintessential northeastern settings such as winding creeks and one-lane bridges add not only beauty to the race, but also excitement, when encountered by drivers at breakneck speeds.

About Rally America:

Based in Williston, VT, Rally America, Inc. sanctions the Rally America National Championship, which consists of at least seven national-level events located at a variety of venues across the country, from Portland, Oregon to Newry, Maine. Top competitors in the Rally America National Championship reach speeds of well over 100 miles per hour, driving highly modified street cars such as Mitsubishi Evolutions, Subaru WRX STIs, Ford Fiestas and Scion XDs on natural-terrain courses consisting of gravel, dirt, ice or snow. For more information regarding Rally America’s National Championship or the sport of performance rally, visit www.rally-america.com.


Monday, August 11, 2014

Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge: Watkins Glen recap

HART Continues Podium Streak at Watkins Glen
HART has had a strong history at Watkins Glen International Raceway, with two podium finishes in the past two years.  Coming off of a win at Kansas Speedway, HART had high hopes for this year’s event at “The Glen”.  Both the #92 and #93 had shown strong pace leading into the weekend, and the team has been perfecting its pit strategy and pit-stop performance to give the cars an extra advantage in the race.
The weekend kicked off  with Practice 1 on Thursday afternoon.  The weather looked to be good all weekend, so the team planned for a dry race.  Watkins Glen is a much different track from the previous venue at Kansas, so the team used its valuable practice time to get the cars set up for the fast corners and large elevation changes of The Glen.  Due to past experience at this track, the cars were fast right off the truck, with #93 setting a top-five time.  The pace would be good but the drivers were struggling with longevity.  The cars could run fast times, but those times would fall off too quickly as the session went on, so the team focus for Practice 2 would be on consistency.
The team worked on chassis changes to make the cars more consistent and reduce tire wear.  Some focal points were camber changes and toe changes, to assist the car at turn-in, and support the car through the corner.  Practice 2 took place early Friday morning, so track temperatures were lower than they were earlier.  Both cars were able to lower their lap times, and the changes seemed to help the balance, as well as make the cars more consistent.  HART was able to move into the top three in the ST (Street Tuner) field, and the team looked good heading into qualifying.
As qualifying approached, the team had a more relaxed schedule than at Kansas. The cars had no mechanical issues and the team’s focus would be mainly on confirming chassis setup numbers.  The only hiccup during the entire weekend was a broken windshield on the #92 car.  Fortunately, HART always comes prepared and had a spare on hand which was installed before race day.  The strategy for HART drivers Steve Eich and Chad Gilsinger was to get a gap to the rest of the field and work together.  Gilsinger led Eich onto the track, and both drivers posted great times in the first couple laps.  Eich was able to get a nice “tow” off Gilsinger and posted his best lap on his first lap.  Gilsinger needed one more lap and posted his best on Lap Two.  Although both times were only about half a second apart, Gilsinger was able to qualify in the fifth position, while Eich would slot into the 12th spot. Both cars suffered from a little understeer during the session as the track temperature increased from Practice 2, but this would be similar to race conditions, so the team made note for future strategy.
Saturday was Race Day and the temperatures were in the mid-80s, with sunny skies.  HART was geared up to go for another podium finish.  As the race began, there was a multi-car crash on the front straight in the GS (Grand Sport) class, which forced the ST cars to take caution as they started their race.  The crash was right at the start/finish line and the track went back to green as the cars headed into Turn 1.  Gilsinger was able to make a pass for fourth place into Turn 1 while chaos ensued behind him.  Three ST cars came together and Eich weaved his way through the mess to pick up six positions by the time the track  went to a full-course caution on the first lap.  Due to the amount of debris, the caution lasted for more than 20 minutes.  When the track went green again, both HART drivers improved their positions even further, as both cars moved into the top five.  Just before the one hour mark, another full-course caution came out, putting both cars in their pit windows, so the team decided to make their driver changes.
Once again, the HART crew did an amazing job during the pit stop and put the #93 car, now in the hands of Michael Valiante, into the second position after pitting from fifth.  Valiante was able to pass for the lead at the restart and led the majority of his stint working with other Honda drivers who were running second and third.,  Meanwhile, Kevin Boehm was at the wheel of the #92 car and was moving towards the top 10 after being forced to pit out of sequence due to the team only having one pit crew.  Boehm was running great times when all of a sudden he felt a slight vibration, and then, the rear of the car fell down!  The right rear hub on #92 had broken, and the whole wheel and hub assembly came off of the car.  Running on only three wheels, Boehm did an amazing job of keeping the car off the guardrail, and safely managed to bring it back to the pits for service.  The crew once again did a great job, and actually got the car back on track to finish the race.
At the same time, Valiante was having a battle of his own trying to hold off the Honda Civic Si of Ryan Eversley and the Porsche Cayman of Remo Ruscitti.  The Hondas were no match for the Porsches, which used their power to motor past both of them.  With about thirty minutes remaining, the crew radioed to Valiante to save fuel whenever possible. If there were no more yellows, many cars would risk running out of fuel.  Valiante began to save fuel; unfortunately, this allowed cars behind him to close in.  With about fifteen minutes left in the race, the Porsche started to slow.  Ruscitti had run out of fuel, and this handed the lead to Eversley, with Valiante still in second and the #5 CJ Wilson Mazda on his bumper.  Ultimately, Valiante had to give up the second position due to concerns over fuel, but the team would still have been happy with a third-place, podium result.  The white flag flew with Valiante running third, but now, the Porsche Cayman of Will Nonamaker was closing fast.  Valiante made it all the way to the last corner when the fuel finally ran out, and the car “stumbled” coming onto the front straight as the Porsche motored by to take third.  Again, the team was happy to finish, and headed to post-race technical inspection in fourth position.
As with many professional races, teams often push the rules envelope to get the most performance possible out of the cars.  Sometimes they get away with it and sometimes the technical inspectors find that they have pushed too far.  The #5 CJ Wilson Mazda was found to have illegal suspension bushings and was disqualified from the race.  The #93 HART Honda Civic Si made it through tech and was moved back into the third position, extending a three-year podium streak at The Glen.
"I love racing here,” said driver Chad Gilsinger of the #93 car. “We have always been strong here and the crew once again made the difference in the race.  This year we did not have the strongest car, but we had the best package of crew, drivers, and car, and that is what kept us up front.  If the yellow [when HART pitted] would have come a couple laps later, I think we could have battled for the win, but I am happy with third and this helps us gain needed points in the championship.”
You can follow all the action on the new IMSA website, www.imsa.com
The next Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge event will be at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, July 12.
To keep up with HART’s progress and to see pictures and video of the cars and team, ‘Like’ us on Facebook  ( www.facebook.com/HARTracingteam )
Follow us on Twitter @HARTracingteam
Special thanks to all our Sponsors/Partners. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge: Brickyard Sports Car Challenge recap

Indianapolis is the birthplace of motorsports in the US and crossing the yard of bricks is every driver’s dream.  For the eighth round of the Continental Tire Sports Car Championship, the HART drivers got to live that dream, and fight for a chance to stand on a podium shared with many racing legends of the past. This year would bring new challenges, as the road-course configuration had changed, but the team was up for the task of competing at such a historic venue.
The weekend kicked off Thursday, with two practice sessions and qualifying.  Most of the HART drivers had been to Indy before, but none had had the chance to drive the new layout that was finished earlier this year.  In the past, the Civic had been strong here, as Chad Gilsinger grabbed pole position during the inaugural event in 2012 and the team had led many laps in two previous outings here.  Lady Luck had been the biggest challenge for HART as both visits to Indy had ended with car damage after the #93 Civic tangled with competitors.
In Practice 1, the team focused on getting the drivers familiar with the new layout.  The team went out on older tires to give the drivers a feel for what the car would be like near the end of the race, and also used the opportunity to set the balance of the car.  As many other teams went out on fresh tires, HART struggled to stay at the top of the time sheets, but the drivers were gaining valuable track time.  The new road-course layout would not be as friendly to the Civic as the old one.  The circuit is tighter, and favors rear-wheel-drive cars like the MX-5 and the Cayman. It’s also much harder on brakes.
During Practice 2, the team investigated alternate brake pads, to guarantee it had a package that would last the entire race.  Both cars continued to work on the setup, as the team simulated a pit stop and installed new front tires to help understand the balance of the car following the stop.  With the front-wheel-drive Civic, it is crucial to get the tires to last as long as possible.  Once the front tires “fall away”, the car will lose almost three seconds a lap, while the RWD cars lose less than a second.  Understandably, this makes it VERY difficult to battle for position at the end of a race.  By the end of Practice 2, the team had made progress and managed to post times among the top 10, knowing that the car was capable of more.
As HART prepared the cars for qualifying, its strategy would be a little different.  Michael Valiante would qualify the #93 for this event, in order to get him out of the car sooner, so he could have more time to rest before his DP drive in the Tudor United Sports Car Championship race, which would start only 25 minutes after the conclusion of the CTSCC race.  Steve Eich was back after missing the previous race, and would once again qualify the #92.  Meanwhile, HART continued its strategy of having the cars work together to get the best qualifying advantage possible.  Valiante led the two on track and quickly jumped into the top three on the grid after his first flying lap.  The two cars ran nose-to-tail, pushing the limit every lap until the tires started to fall away.  At the end of the session, Valiante had managed to grab the third position on the grid, while Eich had to settle for 18th.  Both cars ran well, but neither was a match for the Porsche Cayman that grabbed pole with a time almost a full second faster than the Civic.
Friday was Race Day, and the temperature was once again in the low 80s, with sunny skies.  There was a small chance of rain later in the race, but the teams planned for a dry event.  The day kicked off the NASCAR Brickyard weekend, with opening NASCAR practice.  During the fan walk in advance of the CTSCC event, many fans shared their love for Honda and were excited to see the cars on track.   As the green flag flew, the cars were four and five wide heading into Turn One.  Valiante had a great run into the first turn, and tried to make a pass for the lead, but ended up losing a spot in the process.  Eich also had a great start and was moving his way forward.  After the chaos of the first few laps, #93 made a couple passes and had settled into second position, while #92 was trying to work his way into the top 10. It took only 15 minutes for a full-course caution caused by a crash in Turn One.  The caution would help the Civics conserve tires, but at the same time, it bunched the field again.  With plenty of car contact during the first few laps, there was already debris on the track.  This would make the restart tricky, as most cars would be forced to run “off line” in order to make passes and/or defend position.  When the track went green, #93 was already struggling, trying to keep the lightweight Mazda MX-5 behind him as the Civic’s tires started to fall off.  The #93 was in fourth place, trying to stay among the top five before the pit window opened.  Unfortunately, only 30 minutes into the race, the #93 ran over a piece of debris on track and its left rear tire went flat.  The team was forced to make an unscheduled stop for a tire change, and decided to also do the driver change and put Gilsinger in the car.
While #93 was in the pits, #92 was moving into the top 10.  As a result, the HART team would shift the “preferred” strategy to the #92 car, and hope that it could get the lap back for #93, while salvaging as many positions as it could.  Gilsinger would have an uphill battle, having to run almost two hours on a set of front tires.  With many cars involved contact, there would be multiple yellow flags. The #92 was able to pit in its fuel window to get Kevin Boehm in the car for the finish.  The car was in the top 10, and was on a great strategy to move up before the checkers.  Unfortunately for #93, HART was never able to get its lap back, and was forced to just run until the checkered flag, while hoping that others would drop out.  As the race moved into its final hour, radar showed rain moving into the area.  This could be an advantage for the FWD cars, but the question would be, when to pit?  Sprinkles of rain were falling on the front straight and in other spots on the track, but not enough to warrant rain tires. There was just enough moisture to make the conditions tricky for the drivers.  Boehm and Gilsinger did a great job keeping their cars under control during this time, but the rain came and went without creating the need for a tire change.  With less than thirty minutes remaining, Boehm was headed towards a top-10 finish when the car began to “stumble” in the switchback corners.  One lap later, the #93 was doing the same thing.  Both cars should have had enough fuel to make it to the end, but the symptoms seemed similar to low fuel conditions.  The #92’s situation worsened, and the team was forced to pit Boehm for fuel.  Gilsinger was able to alter his driving technique and nurse the #93 to the end.  As the checkered flag flew, HART could only manage to finish 15th with the #92 and 18th with the #93, while still being the highest-finishing Civics in the field.
After the race, the team analyzed the fuel systems of both cars and found that the fuel pickup lines had come loose from the bottom of the tanks.   This is why the cars had stumbled earlier than expected.  The team has already ordered new adhesive materials to address this issue, and will have the cars ready for the next event.
You can follow all the action on the new IMSA website, www.imsa.com
The next Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge event will be at Road America, August 8-9.
To keep up with HART’s progress and to see pictures and video of the cars and team, ‘Like’ us on Facebook  ( www.facebook.com/HARTracingteam )
Follow us on Twitter @HARTracingteam
Special thanks to all our Sponsors/Partners. 

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