HPD Blog

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.

http://usacracing.com/news/25/item/4381-youth-take-center-stage-at-25-showcase-of-champions

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:
www.GeriAmaniRacing.com

G-Speed Race Management:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/G-Speed-Race-Management/141021149316181
 

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 )
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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. 

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. 

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