HPD Blog

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. 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge: Canadian Tire Motorsports Park recap

                 HART Goes International and Visits 
                   Canadian Tire Motorsports Park

Canadian Tire Motorsports Park is the only international race on the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge schedule, but is well known to the U.S. and Canadian fans.  CTMP (formerly known as Mosport International Raceway) is an old-style circuit that is very fast, with many blind corners and little runoff area.  This is the kind of track where a small mistake can lead to big consequences, but a little bravery can gain many spots on the grid.

The event kicked off Wednesday with a promoter test day.  The HART drivers had never been to this circuit before, so it was crucial to get a head start on vehicle setup and allowing the drivers to learn the track.  Drivers Kevin Boehm and Michael Valiante would be the only ones able to make the test day, but both have plenty of experience setting up cars, so the team was in good hands.
In Practice 1, Boehm and Valiante had a good handle on the track, so the focus was to get the cars set up to run consistent pace.  The track is very fast, with little braking zones, which figured to make it very difficult to pass in the race.  Track position would be key, and the cars would need to maintain pace.  By the end of the opening session, #93 was in the eighth position and #92 landed in 15th .  There was very little time separating the top 10 cars, so a couple of tenths improvement in lap time could move a driver up many positions.
Practice 2 would be early Friday morning. With the absence of Steve Eich, who was unable to make the event, Chad Gilsinger would be slated for double duty this weekend, taking stints in both #92 and #93 during the race.  To do this, the rules required him to get practice time in each car, so Gilsinger started the session in #92 and finished it in #93.  With this being his first time seeing the track, he would spend the entire session working on his lap times.  Boehm continued to work on setup and perfecting his line, as well.  By the end of the session, both drivers felt much more comfortable even though their times were only good for 14th and 18th.
As the team prepared the cars for qualifying, the drivers were reviewing video and looking at data, seeking any little bit of time advantage.  As mentioned earlier, track position would be key, so qualifying would be more important than ever.  The qualifying session would also take place later in the day, when the track temperature would be much higher.  This often results in a drop in the cars’ lap times, so it would be crucial to get a good lap in early.  The two HART cars would once again plan to work together to optimize their qualifying performances.  There is one long straightaway at CTMP which can benefit the cars if they have a draft.  The #92 and #93 planned to share the draft lap after lap, in hopes of giving each car an advantage.  Boehm would be qualifying the #92 car for the first time, and Gilsinger would continue his qualifying efforts in #93.  Within the first couple of laps, the cars would see their fastest times before losing the sweet spot on the tires.  Gilsinger was able to make the best of his lap, putting the #93 in second place to start the race, while Boehm made a minor mistake on his lap and had to settle for 12th on the grid.  Once again, this proved how competitive the Continental Tire series is, as the ten-spot delta between the two cars represented only 0.7 seconds in elapsed time.
Saturday was race day and the temperature was in the mid 80’s, with sunny skies.  The crowd on hand was well into the thousands as many took advantage of the beautiful weather to see some great racing.  As the green flag flew, the roar of the cars filled the valleys of the circuit between its concrete barriers.  Gilsinger tried making a pass for the lead multiple times in the opening laps, but finally had to settle into second position.  Boehm had a good start and was able to maintain position just outside of the top ten.  Both drivers were pushing hard for almost an hour as the track stayed green.  Even though the tires started to show significant wear after about 30 minutes, #92 and #93 maintained position until the first caution flag came out, almost an hour into the race.  Gilsinger was sitting in third after being passed by the Mazda MX-5 driven by Randy Pobst, and the team needed to pit him to get him into the #92.  As the caution laps continued, the team prepared for its first stop, and all of a sudden, Gilsinger felt a vibration.  “I think I have a drive shaft going bad!”, Gilsinger radioed to the crew.   Shortly thereafter, Gilsinger found #93 without fourth gear.  The gear had broken, and the chance for a podium result would be gone.  Gilsinger would pit the car from third and Valiante would take over.  While the car’s chances for a good finish were done, the team decided to have Valiante continue, in order to pick up as many points as possible.
Now that Gilsinger was out of #93, the team planned to pit #92 once it reached its pit window for a one-stop strategy.  Boehm was now running in the top three, but was starting to have some misfire concerns.  As the car came in, the HART crew performed another amazing pit stop, and got #92 serviced without losing any time.  Gilsinger was now behind the wheel, and ready to make up for the problems of #93.  Unfortunately, #92 was already having problems of its own.  On multiple occasions per lap, the car would develop a misfire, causing a lack of power/acceleration feeling.  This would make it nearly impossible to pass other cars, while also making it difficult to defend position against other cars.  Gilsinger brought #92 back to the pits for diagnosis, but ultimately, there was nothing the team could do.  Both #92 and #93 would have to endure until the end of the race, simply trying to pick up the most points possible.  They finally crossed the finish line in 21st and 22nd places, respectively.  Later, it was discovered that #92 had a “fouled” spark plug which was causing the misfire.
"This track is the hardest track I have ever been to,” said Kevin Boehm, driver of the #92 car. “The corners are so fast and blind, with no run-off areas.  A small mistake can lead to a major crash.”  Even though the finishing results were not what the team members had hoped, they were still very thankful that the cars (and drivers) made it through the event with no damage.  Not all the teams were so lucky.  This would make it much easier to prepare for the next race at Indianapolis, now less than two weeks away.  The Continental Tire Challenge cars will be running on the new Grand Prix circuit used by the Indy cars, while also kicking off the Brickyard weekend. 

You can follow all the action on the new IMSA website, www.imsa.com

The Canadian Tire race will be televised on Fox Sports 1, Sunday 7/20 at 10am EST.

The next Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge event will be at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, July 24-25.

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. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

HART Gets Redemption at Kansas Speedway


After HART crossed the finish line first in the 2013 Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge event at Kansas Speedway, the celebration was short-lived, as the Race Director handed the team a 10-spot penalty for “manipulating the restart” on the final lap.  The team appealed the penalty, but ultimately had to go home in 11th position after fighting so hard throughout the race.  For 2014, the team still had high hopes but cautiously approached the event, as it would be battling against the new Porsche Cayman and anything could happen.
The Kansas schedule would be unlike any other schedule this year.  There would be two, one-hour practice sessions running into the evening on Friday and qualifying would not take place until 9:15pm.  With a busy day and a late night ahead, the team prepared for the worst (and it’s a good thing they did).

Both cars headed on track for the first practice with strong hopes of running up front.  Michael Valiante was able to place the #93 car at the top of the list before pitting, while the #92 was getting up to pace since Steve Eich and Kevin Boehm had little time on the Kansas circuit.  As Chad Gilsinger started his first stint behind the wheel in the #93, he managed to run only two laps before the clutch disk broke.  At almost the exact same time, the #92 had a drive shaft failure.  Both cars were able to make it back to the paddock and the team went to work.
With only a few hours in between sessions, the crew had its work cut out to perform the necessary repairs.  Luckily, the HART crew is one of the best in the paddock and did not panic. They simply got the job done.  Both cars would be ready for the second practice and the team still needed to gather valuable data on both setups and the new brake package which had been provided by HPD.   As both cars hit the track, the #93 quickly had a problem.  The transmission would permit gear changes, but the gates were very “notchy,” making it difficult to change gears quickly.  Gilsinger brought the car in immediately so the crew could diagnose the problem, as qualifying was only a couple hours away.  Meanwhile, the #92 car was providing valuable data for the team and its drivers were gaining needed experience on track.  Crew chief Andrew Salzano was also running calculations on fuel mileage to use for race strategy.  With the session winding down, the #92 once again started having drive shaft problems and the 4th gear of the transmission was starting to feel weak.
As qualifying approached, the team was working diligently trying to get both cars prepared. The #93 was found to have the wrong pressure plate/clutch disk pairing, so the team had to pull the transmission one more time for repairs.  For #92, the team worked to build new drive shafts, but decided to wait to change the transmission until after qualifying.  In order to better understand the drive shaft concerns, the team installed a GoPro camera on the subframe and pointed it towards the drive shaft to see what was happening.  This would give the team a “real time” visual on the car and would hopefully indicate the cause of the failure.
At Kansas, the draft is worth up to two seconds in lap time so it is crucial to pair up with someone in qualifying.  Luckily, HART runs a multi-car team and the plan for #92 and #93 was to work together to provide each other a draft.  With all the repairs that were needed, the #92 car was not quite finished when the cars went to grid.  This left #93 without a “wingman” and would make things more challenging.  As the cars rolled onto the track, the #93 tried to pair up with one of the Porsches that had demonstrated good pace earlier.  Unfortunately, the Porsche overshot Turn One starting its first hot lap and cost #93 valuable time.  The #92 was able to make it on track and was searching for a drafting partner.  With both cars having radio communication, Eich and Gilsinger planned a method to get both cars a good lap.  As time was winding down, Eich was able to get a good draft off of the CRG Civic Si and #93 and posted a lap time that put it in the top five.  Gilsinger was still struggling trying to find a draft, so Eich put himself in a position to help.  On the last lap, Gilsinger was able to get a small draft off #92 and bettered his time to take the sixth position.  As qualifying came to an end, Gilsinger managed to hold onto sixth, while Eich was bumped back to seventh.  All in all, it was a great ending to a disastrous day.
After a wild Friday, the team had some time to rest on Saturday, since the race would not start until 6:15 p.m. and would end under the lights.  Steve Eich would start the #92 car and Chad Gilsinger started the #93.  Even though the race was late, the team had plenty to prepare for.  The #92 still needed a transmission and the drive shaft failure was still a concern.  The team analyzed the GoPro video and it seemed that the failure was occurring when the car was loaded up on the banking.  To reduce some of this compression and angle on the drive shafts, the team decided to stiffen up the front of the car by adding higher-rated H&R springs.  Once again, the team did an amazing job and had both cars cleaned and ready for the Fan Walk before the race.
This would be the first time the cars could start near each other.  The goal of the drivers was to work together and work their way into the top five.  The team knew it had a tough battle, as four of the top five cars we new Porsche Caymans.  As the green flag flew, Gilsinger had a great run going into Turn One and was able to move  into fourth place.  Meanwhile, Eich lost a couple spots because the car in front of him was “sleeping” at the start and he was not allowed to pass until crossing the start/finish line.  With this race taking place on a smaller road course inside an oval, there were not many corners, so the anticipation of yellows was low.  Eich was able to battle back up to fifth position and Gilsinger was able to stay in fourth after the first hour of the event.
Seeing that a yellow flag condition was unlikely, Andrew Salzano formulated a strategy to pit both cars under green as their pit windows opened.  Both were able to open up a bit of a gap to the cars behind them and this would give them an advantage.  Once again, the team did an amazing job in the pits and both cars were serviced and out without losing any time.  As the first round of pit stops came to a close HART found itself sitting in second place for #93 and seventh place for #92, with Valiante and Boehm, respectively, now at the wheel.
With about an hour left, the final caution period of the race was ending and Valiante was ready to move to the front.  As the track went green, Valiante took his Honda into the lead, passing Charles Espenlaub in the Porsche Cayman, which had started from the ST pole.  At the same time, another Cayman was moving  through the field and putting major pressure on Valiante.  The two battled back and forth and even made periodic contact.  It was a true nail-biter, but in the end Valiante and Gilsinger came out ahead in a tough battle with the Porsche Cayman of Will and Wayne Nonnamaker. The Honda edged the Nonnamaker Porsche by just 79 one-hundredths of a second at the checkers.  Unfortunately, the #92 once again had a drive shaft failure which forced Boehm to retire the car.
"This was one of the toughest wins I've had, with that much pressure and knowing that second and third [places] were coming," said Valiante. "I knew I couldn't make any mistakes, particularly when they were on my bumper. I kept telling myself, 'Hit your marks … hit your marks' and get good exit shots, and I was able to pull it off. That's one of the toughest wins I've had.
"The team finally got the “monkey off its back” and hopes to see the season turn around as it heads to Watkins Glen at the end of the month, a track where the team has seen victory  before.

You can follow all the action on the new IMSA website, www.imsa.com

The Kansas race will not be televised, but watch for upcoming events on Fox Sports 1.

The next Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge event will be at Watkins Glen, June 27-28.

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. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

HART Returns To Victory Circle at Kansas Speedway


HART Returns To Victory Circle at Kansas Speedway
 
Equipped with Honda Performance Development’s new brake system, the Honda of America Racing Team duo of Chad Gilsinger and Michael Valiante returned to victory Circle Saturday night at Kansas Speedway, claiming the ST class honors at the fifth round of the 2014 Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge Championship.
 
The updated Honda Racing/HPD brake package, recently approved for compeititon by the International Motor Sports Association sanctioning body, enabled the 2014 Honda Civic Si fielded by HART and other Honda-equipped teams to run  the brakes hard from start to finish for the first time this season.
 
After two hours and 30 minutes on the Kansas Speedway road course, Valiante and Gilsinger came out ahead in a battle with Will and Wayne Nonnamaker, with the Honda edging the Nonnamaker Porsche by just 79 hundredths of a second at the checkers.
 
“This was one of the toughest wins I’ve had, with that much pressure and knowing that second and third were coming,” said Valiante, who took over from starting driver Gilsinger near the mid-point of the contest. “I knew I couldn’t make any mistakes, particularly when they are on your bumper. I kept telling myself, ‘hit your marks, hit your marks’ and get good exit shots, and I was able to pull it off.  That’s one of the toughest wins I’ve had.”
 
Valiante first took his Honda into the lead with 45 minutes remaining, passing Charles Espenlaub in the  Porsche Cayman, which co-driver Corey Lewis had started from the ST pole. Wayne Nonnamaker – who took over for his brother Will at the mandatory pit stop - made repeated challenges in the final 30 minutes, but was unable to find a way past the HART Civic Si.
 
Lewis and Espenlaub finished third, followed by Ryan Eversley and Kyle Gimple in the No. 75 Compass360 Racing Civic Si. Eversley showed great confidence in his new brake package, repeatedly taking competitors deep into Turn 1,  while managing a driveshaft vibration and shifter issue for the final hour.
 
His valiant effort gave Honda two finishes in the top four at Kansas.  Both top-finishing Civics were running the sealed Honda K24 engine package, also available to competitors through the Honda Racing Line.
 
The next race for the Continental Tire Challenge will be at Watkins Glen International on Saturday, June 28.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Susquehannock Trail Pro Rally with B-SPEC Honda Fit


Wellsboro, PA. (May 30-31st 2014) – HPD and THR capture another B-Spec win at the 2014 Susquehannock Trail Pro Rally with B-SPEC Honda Fit
 
Team Honda Research partnered with Honda Performance Development and Maxxis Tires to showcase the B-Spec Fit developed specifically for Rally competition at the fourth 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.  “We hope that 2014 will bring more competition and excitement in the class, thanks to the continued involvement of Ford Racing and Toyota.” 
 

In the first three rounds in the 2014 Championship, the B-Spec Fit collected three wins and two overall 2WD podium finish at the Sno*Drift, and Oregon Trail events.  With this strong start to the season, the team was prepared to fight for another victory in the fast, flowing stages of Pennsylvania. 
 
The Susquehannock Trail Pro Rally [STPR] marked the second event where THR and HPD partnered with Maxxis Tire to provide competition rally tires for the B-Spec Fit.  “We had great success with the R19 rally tire at the Oregon Trail Rally earlier this month, so we are looking forward to trying them out on this unique dirt / gravel surface!” Robinson explained at the start of Day 1. 
 
Starting the first day of competition in the notoriously rough stages, the team’s overall strategy was to keep competitive times, but try to avoid damage.  “There are two key stages today that are absolute car killers, and it’s very common for competitors to take themselves out of the race by trying to set fast times,” said Brian Penza, Robinson’s co-driver in the Fit.  “Our goal is just to stay competitive and safe, so that we’re ready for tomorrow’s fast, smooth stages.”
 
After the evening stages were finished, the B-Spec Fit was first in class, and running sixth fastest in 2WD.  “We had a bit of trouble with one of our front dampers, but we were able to make it through the first five stages without any real issue,” said Robinson at the end of the first night.  “Our goal now is to see how much we can push the pace tomorrow!”
 
Moving into the second day of competition, which included 11 new stages, the B-Spec Fit quickly started to move up the 2WD leader board.  “The roads are great, and we’re building a decent gap on our competition in B-Spec on every stage,” said Robinson at the first service of the day.  “We’re putting ahead by one to two minutes every stage, and setting the fourth-fastest time in 2WD at the same time!.”
 
By the second service on Day 2, the Fit was now 12th overall, fourth in 2WD, and first in B-Spec.  In addition, the smooth road surfaces were hardly putting any wear on the Maxxis R19 rally tires!  “We have three long stages remaining, and we haven’t even touched the tires since the start of the race. You really can’t ask for a more reliable setup!” Penza stated before heading back out for another round of stages.    
 
There was one big upset during Day 2, which saw the B-Spec competitor of Tracey Gardiner and Tabitha Lohr crashing out on Stage 10.  “We were sorry to hear about their crash, but we’re very happy that they’re both OK!” Robinson said. “Hopefully, this means we’ll see them at the next round.”
 
By the end of Stage 14, the B-Spec Honda Fit was running trouble-free and still first in B-Spec, fourth in 2WD, and 12th overall.  “We’re having a great time on these fast flowing stages, and I’m amazed at how well the R19 tire is working here at STPR,” Robinson noted. “We have only two remaining stages back at the fairgrounds, and we’re hopeful of another strong finish here at STPR.”
 
The team completed the final round and returned to the Main Time Control with another win in B-Spec, and a fourth-place overall finish among 2WD entries.  With this finish, the B-Spec Fit now has a dominant lead in the B-Spec National Championship, and moves into third place overall in the 2WD National Championship. 
 
“We really couldn’t have asked for a better result!” said an enthusiastic Robinson afterwards. “A huge thanks to HPD, Maxxis, and our fantastic crew for supporting us through this event.”

Look for the Honda Fit at the New England Forest Rally, the sixth round of the Rally America National Championship in Maine on July 18th!!
 
About Susquehannock Trail Pro Rally:
 
The fourth race on the Rally America National Championship schedule, and one of the oldest rally races on the schedule, Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally (commonly known as STPR) began in 1977. It is not only the oldest, but it is also the fastest rally in North America. With roads consisting of clay and gravel, the course is slippery, fast and extremely dangerous. Drivers travel at speeds reaching 100 MPH through densely wooded roads. The speeds combined with the dangerous course ensure that this rally is not for the faint at heart.
 
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.comwww.rally-america.com
 

Friday, June 6, 2014

HART Visits Historic Lime Rock Park


Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge: Northeast Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park recap
 
 
HART traveled coast to coast from Laguna Seca to Lime Rock for the fourth in a 12-race season.  Lime Rock Park is situated in the hills of Connecticut and is known for its park-like atmosphere. It is also known as a “bull ring” with its short track and tight confines.  This track is very difficult to pass on and can lead to aggression amongst competitors.  It is also a fairly high-speed circuit,  frequently producing lap times of under one minute.

This would be the first time for the HART drivers to visit Lime Rock.  With no test day and only two, 25-minute practice sessions, the team would need to use its expertise and engineering skills to dial the cars in with little data.  HART relied on driver feedback to get the most out of the reduced track time.  Since Lime Rock is made up mostly of right hand corners (only one left hand corner), Andrew Salzano and Ryan Breed worked their magic on the initial setup to add cross weight to the car, thus putting more weight on the right front tire in order to reduce abuse to the outside (left) front tire.

In the first practice session, all drivers were getting used to the track and trying to find their pace.  The weekend would include off-and-on rain showers, so the track was very “green,” with little grip.  By the end of Practice 1, the drivers were coming up to speed, but due to the short duration, HART’s drivers were only able to slot into the 23rd and 25th positions.  However, even though the times did not show it, HART was getting valuable information from both the drivers and the data logging.  HART was also testing a new brake package developed by Honda Performance Development (HPD) on the #92 car.  This package was intended to reduce weight, reduce heat build-up, and improve pad life, allowing for more consistent braking performance throughout a race.

In the second practice session, the drivers were more familiar with the track, so they could focus more on setting up the cars.  The team made changes to the dampers and stabilizer bar to increase grip and better balance the chassis, front to rear.  These changes proved to be effective, as the drivers moved near the top 10 and took almost a second off their lap times.  Leading into qualifying, the team attempted a few more improvements to the car, but these could not be validated as a rain shower moved through the area, causing IMSA to cancel the session (the IMSA series races, but does not qualify, in the rain).  When qualifying gets canceled, the starting grid is determined by championship points. This situation would work out all right for the #92 car, as it would be starting 10th but would be disastrous for the #93 car due to its poor finishes in the first two races (a DNF at Daytona due to contact and a poor finish at Sebring due to a driveshaft failure).  The #93 car would be relegated to 26th (out of 33) on the grid.

Steve Eich would start the #92 car, Chad Gilsinger started the #93 car.  Heading into race day, there was a strong chance for wet conditions, so the team prepared for anything weather-wise.  The goal for both cars was to stay out of trouble during the opening laps while trying to gain positions.  As the green flag flew, the 33-car field jockeyed for valuable track position going into Turn 1.  Needless to say, contact occurred and cars went everywhere.  Eich was able to make it through, but lost a couple spots in the process.  Gilsinger had a great run and weaved his way up to gain 10 spots on the first lap. On a track like Lime Rock, track position is key.  The team had to watch the race closely, updating strategy with each lap to make sure the cars pitted at the best time in order to gain track position.
Gilsinger never had a time to rest.  He managed to jump about 15 positions in the first 30 minutes of the race.  There would be another yellow before the 45-minute mark bunching the cars up once again.  Gilsinger was hoping to move up additional spots on the re-start, but was blocked by a slow-moving vehicle and was forced to make an evasive maneuver going into Turn One.  This sent the #93 car back a few positions, but fortunately no contact was made.  Around the one-hour mark, the #92 and #93 were separated by only one car, and both were running just outside of the top 10.  A full-course caution came out at that point, and the team decided to bring in both cars.

Michael Valiante was now behind the wheel of #93 and Kevin Boehm took over the #92.  Due to the great work of the crew, HART had the second-fastest pit stop and was able to gain about five spots in the pits.  With about an hour left in the race, Boehm was headed into the top 10 and Valiante had moved up to third!  As the race went on, there would be no more yellows.  The HART cars had good track position but due to all the battling to get there, their tires were wearing, and without a yellow they would be forced to stop for fuel.  As the time ticked down to about 20 minutes remaining, the team hoped for yellows, but they didn’t come.  The #93 car was in seventh position, with the #92 car battling for 13th.  As crew chief Andrew Salzano planned for a fuel stop, he also decided to put left front tires on the cars to give them more grip and hopefully, an advantage in the last few laps.  Once again, the team did an amazing job to get the cars in, serviced, and back on track without losing positions. The #93 was still in the top 10 and the #92 car was just outside.  All was looking good until the final couple of laps.  With two laps to go, the #92 car had an electrical glitch and lost power momentarily, causing it to lose about five spots. Then, with only one lap to go, the #93 car was hit by the #74 car of Compass 360, sending Valiante into the tire wall outside of Turn One. Valiante managed to maintain control and get the car back on track to cross the finish line in 10th.

“With the contact, we lost a few more positions than we should have, but coming home with a top-ten finish after startng 26th at a track like this is amazing,” said Gilsinger.  “The crew did an awesome job; they had the second-fastest pit stop and planned a great strategy. If we could just steer clear of other teams’ mistakes, maybe we could bring it home with a little less damage next time.  I would like to make it easier on the crew between events one of these days!”

“The new brake package worked great,” said Kevin Boehm. “We lowered our pad temperatures and were able to run the same set of pads through the practice sessions and the race.  We can’t wait to get this package on both cars for the Kansas race. That track is brutal on brakes.”

You can follow all the action on the new IMSA website, www.imsa.com
The Lime Rock race will not be televised but watch for upcoming events on Fox Sports 1.
The next event will be at Kansas Speedway, June 6-7.

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.

Friday, May 23, 2014

HART Visits the West Coast at Laguna Seca


Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge: Laguna Seca Monterey Grand Prix recap for HART Racing

 

After a long break, the HART Racing Team returned to action, traveling across the country to Monterey, CA, home to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.  Laguna has a number of challenging aspects, including elevation changes, blind corners, and the infamous “corkscrew” turn.  The track tends to favor handling and RWD competitors, so members of the HART team knew they would have an uphill battle ahead.
This would be only the second time for three of the four HART drivers to visit Laguna, while Kevin Boehm would be driving the track for the first time.  Due to the team’s minimal data, and to give Kevin some needed seat time, HART decided to take advantage of the test day.  One of many nice things about Monterey is the weather. Every day of the trip was sunny, and the team was able to collect plenty of data throughout the weekend.
Throughout the test day, HART focused on collecting vehicle data and trying to get the cars set up to run well on used tires.  Laguna is typically hard on tires, and the FWD vehicles tend to wear tires out quickly.  “If we can get our cars to run good pace on worn tires, then we should have a good chance,” says crew chief Andrew Salzano.
On Friday, the IMSA event sessions would officially begin, and the team prepared for two 45-minute  practice sessions.  The goal was to try chassis settings that would work with the low grip conditions to give a consistent pace throughout the stint. The HART team knew it could make the car go fast, but could it keep up a consistent pace, lap after lap?  The advantage of having two identical cars is that you can try multiple changes simultaneously. The team tried different combinations on both #92 and #93 cars to see what worked best.  Throughout the practice sessions, the cars were typically among the top five in overall speed, so the key focus was longevity.  The team needed to control its tire management against the lighter-weight and better-balanced Mazda MX-5.  At the close of practice, HART members were happy with their pace, but they knew it would be tough to stay in the top 10 by the checkered flag.
The final session on Friday would be a 15-minute qualifying session.  Steve Eich would qualify the #92 car and Chad Gilsinger would qualify the #93 car.  The drivers took the track at the back of the field to make sure they could create a gap and have clear track ahead of them.  The Laguna surface is very hard on tires, with little grip, so it would be important to get a good lap early, when the tire was at its optimum.  Gilsinger jumped to the pole quickly on his first flying lap, but soon was knocked back to sixth.  Eich was struggling with traffic, which passed him on the “out” lap, but still managed to better his time for the weekend. After the post-tech qualifying results were released, Gilsinger had held his sixth place starting position, while Eich managed to slot into 15th.
“I am very happy with sixth,” admitted Gilsinger. “We knew the Mazdas and Porsches would be strong here, and there are four Mazdas and one Porsche ahead of me. We are the fastest front-wheel drive car, so I don’t think there is much more we could have done. Thanks to the team for preparing such a good car.”
Heading into Race Day, the team knew it would be a struggle.  Throughout the evening, HART worked hard to get the cars ready, but also worked on strategy, to get the best finish possible.  Race Day brought beautiful weather with a little bit of overcast (this would help with tire longevity).  The goal for both cars was to focus on tire and brake management, and keep the cars in the top 10.  As the green flag flew, both cars were able to maintain or gain position, while maintaining a consistent pace.
Gilsinger managed to jump into the top five before his pit stop.  There would be three caution flags in the first hour of the race, and this would help both cars conserve tires.  The team decided to pit #93 with the leaders to stay on the same strategy as they were. The top five cars pitted during the third full-course yellow.  This strategy would have worked out perfectly, but unfortunately, there was a GS class car being worked on in the pit stall just in front of HART’s.  There was not enough room to pull into the pit, and Gilsinger was forced to overshoot the pit stall, requiring the team to push the car back into place for fueling.  Everyone did a great job of reacting, but the #93 lost four to five positions in the process.  The plan for the #92 car would be to stay out longer and get closer to the fuel window, in order to give Boehm fresher tires for the end of the race.  This catapulted #92 into the top three before Eich brought the car in for the driver change.
Meanwhile, Michael Valiante was now behind the wheel of #93. With about an hour left in the race, he managed to battle into the top 10 and was in a three-way battle for seventh with two other Honda Civic Si’s.  The race brought multiple yellow flags, and each restart was a nail biter.  The Porsches had more power, and there were two of them waiting to take positions away from both #92 and #93.  Valiante and Boehm did a great job of defending their positions but ultimately, the tire wear was too much, and on the last lap, Valiante dropped two positions to finish in 11th and Boehm managed to hang on to wind up 17th. 
“With the yellows, we lost a few more positions than we hoped, but overall we are happy with the results,” said crew chief Andrew Salzano.  “The crew did an awesome job, we had the fourth-fastest pit stop out of more than 60 cars, and we sustained very minimal damage.  We knew this was not our track, but the events coming up on the schedule should fit the strengths of the Civic; we are sure to see the podium soon.”
You can follow all the action on the new IMSA website, www.imsa.com
The Laguna Seca race will air on Fox Sports 1 Sunday, May 11, at 10 a.m. EDT.

The next event will be at Lime Rock Park, May 23-24.

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

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