HPD Blog

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Team Honda Research Caps Impressive Year

T3 National Championship Highlights Season
RAYMOND, Ohio (November 3, 2009) – Bob Boileau’s victory at the SCCA National Championship Runoffs last month was a fitting finish to a season of race wins and divisional titles for BFGoodrich-sponsored Team Honda Research.

Driving his THR Honda S2000 CR in the competitive Touring 3 class, Boileau started from the pole and battled both fellow competitors and a wet-but-drying Road America circuit to claim his first national title, and the second in as many seasons for THR, a team formed by American Honda engineers working in the company’s Research & Development subsidiary.

“I can’t express enough how well the THR Honda ran at the Runoffs,” Boileau said. “The BFG R1 tires were perfect for Road America. The BFG/THR combination was unbeatable at the Runoffs this year and I was thrilled to be part of it!”

From their Central Ohio base, THR drivers posted seven race wins in SCCA National events in 2009 aboard Touring 3 class Honda S2000 CRs; and another 10 victories driving Honda Civic Si’s in the Showroom Stock B category. The THR program helped launch the Honda Racing Line, a program of support for grassroots Honda and Acura racers, announced earlier this year by Honda Racing/Honda Racing Performance [HPD], the competition arm of American Honda Motor Co., Inc.

With three wins and two poles in five starts, Inness Eisele led the THR’s season-long T3 attack in the Midwest to claim the SCCA Great Lakes Divisional Championship. New to THR this season, Sage Marie won four times in seven starts of his Honda S2000, and qualified on the pole three times to finish second in the highly competitive Southern Pacific Division.

“This season served as a great foundation for the launch of the Honda Racing/HPD racer-support initiative, and the Honda S2000 CR proved to be the ideal race car: fun, reliable, competitive and – with the help of the H&R dampers – perfectly balanced and controllable,” Marie said. “Our ace in the hole was really the BFG tires, which gave us a definite competitive advantage throughout the season.”

Defending SSB National Champion Lee Niffenegger also won a divisional title for THR this year, taking SSB honors in the SCCA’s Southern Pacific Division with a near-perfect record of six wins and seven poles in seven race starts.

T3 National Championship for THR - 2

Chad Gilsinger also approached perfection during the SCCA regular season, winning four times in as many events to claim the Great Lakes Division SSB title. Completing THR’s SSB lineup, rookie Matthew Staal finished fourth in the Great Lakes SSB championship to qualify for his first SCCA Runoffs.

All six THR drivers featured in their respective classes at the Runoffs, at which a single, final race determines the national champion. After several years at Heartland Park Topeka in Kansas, this year the Runoffs moved to the famed Road America circuit in southeastern Wisconsin and more than 600 competitors turned up to take part in 25 national championship races.

Marie started his S2000 CR alongside Boileau on the outside of the T3 front row in his first Runoffs appearance, but was hit and knocked off course on the opening lap to end his day. Eisele completed a THR 1-2-3 performance in qualifying, starting on the inside of the second row. After falling back in the early, wet laps, Eisele gained ground during the final half of the race and finished fifth.

Niffenegger was unable to repeat as SSB champion in his Civic Si, but still finished second for his third consecutive SSB podium result at the Runoffs (second in 2007, prior to winning the 2008 championship). Gilsinger started third and finished fourth in his THR Civic Si, with rookie Staal starting fourth and finishing seventh in his Civic.

“At the start of 2009, the future of THR was uncertain due to the economic conditions we all faced,” Niffenegger recounted. “Fortunately, Honda Performance Development stepped up to expand Honda’s presence in grassroots motorsports. I also can’t say enough about our partner, BFGoodrich, for sticking by us while everything got sorted out. They make the best tire in the paddock right now and we are fortunate to have them on our side. The combination of Honda performance and BFGoodrich R1 tires has proven once again to be as good as anything out there.”

Honda Performance Development (HPD) is Honda’s racing company within North America. Founded in 1993, and located in Santa Clarita, Calif., HPD is the technical operations center for Honda and Acura’s high-performance racing cars and engines. In addition to its new grassroots motorsports business, HPD is the single engine supplier to the IndyCar Series and spearheaded Acura’s championship-winning efforts in the 2009 American Le Mans Series.

Through its new Honda Racing Line program, Honda Racing/HPD provides support and incentive programs to Honda and Acura racers competing at the SCCA Runoffs and in other forms of grassroots motorsports competition. Additional details on the Honda Racing Line can be found at

Friday, November 13, 2009

Paddock Report: Homestead season finale and a look ahead to the 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series

It’s been a couple of weeks since the IndyCar Series wrapped up with Dario Franchitti’s race win and championship, but the typical off-season November/December doldrums have yet to kick in. Instead, there’s been a lot going on, highlighted by the long-anticipated announcement of IZOD as the new series title sponsor in a multimillion-dollar, multi-year, deal.

But first, how ‘bout a recap of Homestead, a.k.a. “How Dario Beat The Odds, Snookered His Rivals, and Claimed His Second Semi-Consecutive Crown”?

It began during the race’s opening stint. After starting on the pole, Franchitti soon found out that both teammate Scott Dixon and Team Penske’s Ryan Briscoe – Dario’s sole remaining rivals for the 2009 IndyCar championship – had better setups for race day. Not sure what it was; wing angles, tire pressures, but something wasn’t working quite as well for the red #10 as it was for his fellow contenders.

Mind you, all three were still head-and-shoulders above the rest of the 23-car starting field, pulling away from Marco Andretti, et al, from Lap 1 onward. It was almost too good to be true; the three remaining championship contenders battling for the race win and title.

Midway through the first fuel run, Dario realized that he didn’t have enough outright speed to go for the win. He’d spent a half-dozen laps running side-by-side with Dixon, then another 20 or so running behind both ‘Dixie’ and Briscoe. By the time the first round of pit stops approached, Dario, team boss Chip Ganassi and race engineer Chris Simmons had made the tough call to pull the trigger on what they euphemistically called their “alternative” strategy, i.e. … ‘save fuel at all costs.’ Desperate times call for desperate measures, right?

IF Dario ran lean and could make pit stops at 50-lap intervals, he could do the race on three stops. Dixon and Briscoe would need to make four, IF there were no yellows. A single yellow, at any point up until about Lap 190 or so, and either Dixon or Briscoe would be your 2009 champion.

The problem for Franchitti & Co.: in the entire history of the Indy Racing League, there had NEVER been a race run without at least one full-course caution. Until Homestead, 2009.

By mid-race, it was apparent that Briscoe was the fastest of the quick three. But he also was getting the worst initial fuel mileage, pitting for the first time on Lap 45. His second stint was a bit better, and he didn’t need to pit again until Lap 95. Briscoe made his third stop on Lap 143. Ryan did everything he could, grabbing the bonus points for leading the most laps and holding amazing, l-o-o-o-o-o-o-ong powerslides coming out of Turn 4 lap after lap, ending just inches from the wall nearly every time. The guy was driving the race of his life. But it all went for naught, as the track stayed “clean and green” and Briscoe had to make a fourth and final stop for fuel on Lap 193.

Dixon was in slightly better shape early in the race, but then had to turn the wick up in a vain attempt to keep Briscoe away from the two points for most laps led. As a result, he had to make his final ‘splash n’ go’ one lap prior to Briscoe. When both were done, Dario went from being ALMOST one lap down to instead holding a comfortable, 10-second lead.

Game. Set. Match.

It wasn’t a grip-the-edge-of-your-seat, scream-at-the-top-of-your-lungs, side-by-side for lap-after-lap-type race, but it was terribly interesting strategically. Franchitti and his guys REALLY rolled the dice and played some very long odds. If you had asked me prior to the start if the race would go yellow-free, I would’ve said no way. Yet, that’s exactly what happened.

And how close was Dario on fuel? He ran out while trying to celebrate with donuts and a reverse victory lap. Technically, it was his second consecutive IndyCar title, following his abortive year in NASCAR in ’08.

It also marked 10 years since his CART title fight went down to a tie-breaker with Juan Montoya at the season-closing California Speedway race – the same event where we lost Greg Moore. Props to Dario for remembering and speaking about his good friend after this year’s victory.

Race trivia and other bits that don’t fit anywhere else:

  • It was HOT at Homestead. I’m talking Kansas-in-July, with-tons-of-humidity hot.

  • At 36, Dario became the oldest champion in IndyCar Series history. Hmmm, he still looks like a punk kid to me….

  • It was another great year for the IndyCar teams at HPD and Ilmor. We had only one in-race failure all year, and that was due to a chafed alternator wire on Ryan Hunter-Reay’s car at Infineon. When you think about all the miles and abuse these engines take, that’s an incredible record of reliability. Take a bow, folks.

  • What was up with all the suspension-failure crashes at Penske this year (there were at least three, and I think I may be forgetting one or two)? The latest befell Helio’s car in practice at Homestead, as the left-rear corner collapsed, putting him into the fence – hard. Are they running the car so that they’re shock-loading a wishbone or pushrod? Or is it something else? Either way, it’s something that needs to be fixed for 2010, obviously.

  • Shameless plug to keep you reading: There were a couple of announcements at Homestead regarding new programs for 2010, and a couple of more have followed since then. They’ll follow later in this blog.

  • Did I mention it was bloody HOT at Homestead????

IZOD Signs On!

Biggest and best news of the off-season has been the long-expected and very welcome news that IZOD has signed on as a multi-year, multi-million dollar title sponsor. It’s been a long courtship (starting back in 2008), but it looks like that will pay big dividends starting next year.

This year, the clothing maker spent a reported $6 million in the series, with about a third of that going to keeping Ryan Hunter-Reay on the track with Vision, and later A.J. Foyt, Racing. The rest went into sorely-needed marketing and promotional work, including TV commercials, billboards, magazine ads and the like.

For 2010, that investment will more than double, with everyone getting a taste. The series will get a large lump sum each year; RHR will get enough to move “upmarket,” from Foyt to about-to-be-renamed Andretti Green Racing; full-time teams will get increased financial support; and there will be increased advertising and marketing activation for the series and drivers. The total is expected to be in the neighborhood of $10 million annually. In the immortal words of Pete-the-coach-driver: “It’s all good”.

A Look Ahead to 2010

Since it’s never too early to gossip and speculate, here’s my initial look at the field we’ll be seeing in 2010, ranked from the top of the food chain on down:

Target Chip Ganassi Racing: Standing pat with Franchitti and Dixon. Ten wins and the championship says it all. Why mess with success?

Team Penske/Penske Racing: Holds with Briscoe and Castroneves. Meanwhile, expect a third full-time car for Will Power entered under the separate-but-equal banner of Penske Racing, with Verizon as the likely sponsor. This might just be enough to tip the scales in their direction.

“Michael Andretti Racing”: a.k.a. AGR minus Kim Green and Kevin Savoree, who have left to focus their efforts on race promotion. Tony Kanaan will be back, seeking to rebound from a simply disastrous 2009; as will Danica Patrick (with a new three-year deal in hand, regardless of any NASCAR stuff she’ll have going on the side) and Marco Andretti. Hideki Mutoh is gone to Newman Haas Lanigan (see below), but in his place comes Ryan Hunter-Reay, armed with the aforementioned IZOD money.

Newman Haas Lanigan: Appears to be growing to three cars next year. Graham Rahal is expected back (although not signed yet), and Alex Lloyd appears to be bringing sponsorship from HER energy drink for the second seat. The third is a bit of a surprise, but since it’s already out on the “interweb”, it looks like Hideki Mutoh will be headed here from AGR. Hey, he already lives in Chicago, anyway…

Dale Coyne Racing: Ever thought you’d see the day when Coyne was ranked this high? Well, this was the only team to win this year outside of Ganassi and Penske. Justin Wilson would like to improve his lot in life (he really DID drive for “hot dogs and peanuts” this year) so he should be back at even a halfway-decent salary. Coyne also would like to add a second car to his steadily improving operation, but that depends on $$$. If the long-mooted Brazilian race actually does come off, maybe Bruno Junqueira could return with home-country support….

KV Racing Technology: Again, he’s not yet re-signed, but it looks like Mario Moraes will be returning. Mario had great speed all year long, but there were certain, errr, lapses in judgement from time to time. Still, as the old racing saying goes, “you can teach smart, but you can’t teach fast” and Mario has the speed. The team definitely wants to run two cars full-time. Paul Tracy has enough support for five to seven races or so, but can they find the rest? There are other drivers floating around with partial sponsorship deals (see below), so we’ll have to see what develops here.

Luczo Dragon Racing: For IndyCar Rookie of the Year winner Raphael Matos, see “Mario Moraes” above. Unlike Mario, “Rafa” most assuredly does not come from money (he moved to the US six years ago with all of $50 to his name …), but he has the speed and flash of Moraes. And, like his fellow Brazilian, he had several moments of brain fade in ’09 (see “Danica Patrick at St. Pete” and “Vitor Meira at Indy”) but he’s really, really fast. He should be back.

Vision Racing: On occasion (Kentucky), Ed Carpenter could be as quick as anyone on the ovals. On road courses … well … But Vision and Carpenter showed marked improvement on the left-turn-only circuits this year. The key now for Tony George’s team is to build on that base. For that, it needs more sponsorship. Indeed, it needs increased support just to guarantee it can run the full schedule next year. Hopefully, they’ll find it.

Panther Racing: Here’s a team you would normally expect to be ranked near the top of this table. Not after the 2009 they had. It’s very safe to say that both the team and new recruit Dan Wheldon were deeply disappointed. Most of the time they simply weren’t quick enough, and on the days they WERE fast (Indy, Chicago, etc), something always happened to knock them out of the picture. Despite all that, Dan will be back with the “Panther Pack” for 2010, but this team needs to turn things around fast.

Dreyer & Reinbold: Having finally stopped throwing his car at various immovable objects over the final quarter of the season, Mike Conway is expected back next year. As for a second (or even third) car, there are several possibilities, including Milka Duno, Tomas Scheckter, E.J. Viso and even Oriol Servia, among many others. I doubt if anything will be resolved here before January – or later.

A.J. Foyt Racing: Vitor’s back, and A.J.’s got him. Meira’s healed up and raring to go, but Foyt’s team still has a long way to go to match the abilities of Panther or Rahal, where Meira has previously run. Still, it’s a paid drive, and “Vic Myers” is grateful for that – as well as for A.J. and Larry’s loyalty during his recovery from the back injuries he sustained at Indy.

HVM Racing: Underperformed by its standards last year, and E.J. Viso has left the building as a result. E.J. has some sponsorship, so he should land somewhere. Meanwhile, Robert Doornbos was equally disenchanted with Hewman Haas Lanigan by mid-’09, so he rejoined his former Champ Car team, where they’ve won in the past. They were unable to rediscover the magic over the last six races, but will try again next year. Second driver wanted. Apply within. Bring $$$.

Fazzt: Guess what, I’ve ranked this new team above regular ’09 entrants Conquest Racing and Team 3G. Why? Because they appear to have decent funding, Alex Tagliani is still one fast (spelled right this time) driver, and Team Manager Rob Edwards has been around a long time and will find good people to fill out the squad. Plans are for a full year, with a second car at Indy and the Canadian rounds (for someone like Canadian Indy Lights driver James Hinchcliff, perhaps?).

Team 3G: Stanton Barrett is a really nice guy, the kind of guy you wish good things for. But can he run at this level? The jury is still out. Meanwhile both Jaques Lazier and Richard Antinucci showed they were better than the team when they drove the #98 car.

Finally, there’s Conquest Racing: A once decent operation that has, unfortunately, been spiraling downhill these last few years (including its tenure in both CART and IndyCar). Tagliani bolted after Edmonton, while Nelson Philippe came onboard at Infineon, only to suffer season-ending injuries in the very first practice session. Philippe may return in 2010, but not necessarily with Eric Bachelart’s team.

Sarah Fisher Racing: Ran a half-dozen races in 2009, but will be adding events and an occasional second car next year. Sarah is scheduled to race nine times, including the road courses at St. Pete and Mid-Ohio. After a year away, former Indy Lights champ Jay Howard is set for at least four races in a second car. This is a team that is improving steadily.

Taken all together, that gives us 22-24 likely full-time entries for 2010. Pretty encouraging, all things considered. Then there are:

Other Possibilities

Polestar Racing: A veteran Atlantic team run by Jim and Pam Griffith, who were at Homestead with a sponsor in tow, and making plans to step up with a single-car, full-time effort next year. More news here as it develops.

Newman Wachs Racing: The championship-winning Atlantic team this year, with former F. Mazda champ John Edwards. Has some funding, and is looking to move up to IndyCar in partnership with an existing team (KV?, DRR?). There’s more to come here, too.

de Ferran Motorsports: This ALMS team is also trying to move into IndyCars. But, along with Walker Racing and Rahal Letterman Racing, is still lacking the budget to run. Still, hope springs eternal….

Then, there are the perennial “Indy only” entries, such as Hemelgarn and Sam Schmidt. They’ll be back, too, along with “Indy only” drivers like Davey Hamilton and John Andretti.

On the Outside Looking In

It’s an unfortunate fact of IndyCar life, but there are always more talented, proven drivers out there than rides available. There are also numerous ”Young Turks” hoping to move up from Atlantic, Lights, GP2 etc.

Here’s a partial rundown of the veterans: Bruno Junqueira, E.J. Viso, Buddy Rice, Oriol Servia, Nelson Philippe, A.J. Foyt IV, Buddy Lazier, Jaques Lazier, Dan Clarke and Darren Manning.

Some potential new kids on the block: Indy Lights champ JR Hildebrand, Atlantic champ John Edwards, multiple ALMS race-winner Simon Pagenaud, James “Hinchtown” Hinchcliff, Jonathan Summerton and even P.J. Chesson.

That’s a wrap for now. More later as the countdown to the 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series continues.

-- Dan Layton

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Acura made history by becoming the first manufacturer to win the LMP1 and LMP2 drivers’, team and manufacturers’ championships in the same year.

Patrón Highcroft, Monterey, California, at the Laguna Seca raceway.
The American Le Mans® Series season came to a victorious end this month as Acura made history by becoming the first manufacturer to win the LMP1 and LMP2 drivers’, team and manufacturers’ championships in the same year. To top it off, Gil de Ferran, driver and team owner of de Ferran Motorsports, announced his retirement from professional racing earlier this month and he finished off his career in dramatic fashion.

The last race of the season was held in Monterey, California, at the Laguna Seca raceway. Coming into the race, both LMP1 Acura cars were in the hunt to cement their place on the team championship podium. The Acura LMP2 team, Lowe’s Fernández, had already clinched the team and manufacturers’ championships two weeks before but still made history by winning their eighth LMP2 victory this year, tying them with the 2007 Penske Racing team for most class victories in a season.

For the fifth time this season, Acura swept the race, with de Ferran placing first overall, Lowe’s Fernández coming in second and Patrón Highcroft rounding third. As a result, Acura took home the ultimate prize, the 2009 LMP1 Manufacturers’ Championship. Patrón Highcroft took home the 2009 LMP1 team championship crown even after a horrific crash that forced them to rebuild a new Acura ARX back in September.

Acura, which entered the American Le Mans Series only two seasons ago, has clearly made a name for itself as a powerhouse in the racing world. We congratulate all three Acura teams and their drivers, who bravely competed this season and made 2009 a year to be recorded in the history books.

Friday, November 6, 2009

SEMA Show: Day 4 (11/06/09)

Finally, we have made it to the last day of SEMA. It has been a great experience all around. We have learned that you should take part in preventative maintenance by using band-aids on your feet at the beginning of the day, as opposed to at the end. We have learned to always have water at hand, because all the talking will inevitably cause you to be parched. We have learned that Advil, or some kind of pain reliever, is a necessity, because, between the neon lights and the sore legs from standing all day, we definitely should have invested in the economy-sized supply. Can you expense a full body massage as ‘trip miscellaneous’? Seriously, though, it has been a great experience all around.
The FAQ for today was about the Honda timeline which was featured along the back wall of the Honda Racing/HPD display. Many attendees enjoyed reading and reminiscing about a certain period in time, and the most talked about Hondas. I guess we found one of our potential pieces of literature and/or giveaways for another show in the future…take-home timeline magnets, anyone?
Throughout the week, the new Honda slogan: “Everybody knows somebody who loves a Honda” has definitely stood true. Now, don’t get me wrong, there have been some challengers to Honda brand loyalty. We have listened to those who are devout Toyota owners and even a passionate Datsun owner, but each of them, somewhere in the conversation, has dropped the fact that he or she knows someone, or several people, including their own family members, who love their Hondas. Lisa Kubo, “The First Lady of Racing”, and her car were featured next to the Honda display, and she has taken loving Honda to an extreme. She has an “H” tattooed on her shoulder; it’s a real tattoo, not henna or removable. For all of you Honda lovers out there who don’t have Honda logos permanently tattooed on your bodies, she’s got you beat. The best quote came from a Honda Goldwing owner who showed us his motorcycle key and told us that he calls himself a “grandma chaser” (FYI: He was an older gentleman), and told us that the difference between him and a Harley owner is that he gets dates because the ladies don’t mind riding on the back of his bike. Let’s face it, there are many different reasons way people love their Hondas. You gotta love them all!
On a personal note … and anyone who knows me (Jenn) will appreciate this. I have not allowed my OCD to stop me from shaking any hand that was offered to me, and I didn’t even use antibacterial disinfectant after each one, either! That may not sound like a big deal to most of you, but it was definitely a feat for my psyche. Part of me would like to say that I have overcome some of my germophobic issues, but I will probably be back to sterilizing my hands as soon as I leave this town. Moving on …
As time ticked away and the 2009 SEMA Show came to an end, there was once again, as on every previous day, an announcement over the P.A., telling everyone that the show was now closed. What made today differ from days past was the roar of applause, followed by the even louder roar of almost every engine in the convention hall. For all of you engine, car and racing fanatics out there, it was quite a sound to hear. However, if you are trying to write a blog before the power to your display is turned off, it can be a tad distracting…cool, nonetheless. All of us at the Honda display would have liked to have overpowered all the other motors with the sound of our IndyCar engine, but maybe we will save that for next year.
Well, seeing as the display and the desk I am using to type this on are literally being disassembled around me, I am going to have to bid farewell. It was a great show and an overall great experience. Now it is time to think about HPD’s Open House and then, the PRI show, come early December. Ahhh, more cars, girls, racing stories from the “good ole days” and the sound of engines roaring … What more could any girl want? Thanks for tuning in…Jenn, OUT!

SEMA Show: Day 3 (11/05/09)

Theme music of the day at the Honda display is primarily rap. Yep, you heard me right, Honda, the fairly conservative company where I have personally worked for almost five years, is playing rap music. I guess the “no music in the workplace” policy doesn’t apply to a trade show … and speaking of policies, just so you know, the ladies in the Honda display are definitely sticking to Honda’s dress-code policy and are NOT going with traditional trade-show-girl attire, if you get my drift!
We have had a steady flow of people visit our corner of the South Hall today. This morning was a little slower than the first two, but maybe people are spending a little more time at the blackjack tables or bars as the week goes on. If that is true, we may have the weekend party crowd come through sometime tomorrow, and that should be an interesting way to end the week.
By Day 3, those of us who have been here since the beginning of the week have pretty much gotten the groove down, and there are definitely frequently asked questions (FAQ) we get used to answering. The FAQ for the day was related to the chassis concept IndyCar for 2012. Attendees loved the futuristic and recognizable look of the car. At one point, I saw a man running through the display and he was headed towards the concept car. I didn’t really understand why he was running because the car doesn’t have an engine and it is on a pedestal surrounded by Plexiglas, but hey, he was excited, and in the long run, that is what we are hoping for.
We have yet to mention the presence of the Boileau brothers, Bob and Al. They have a long-standing family history with Honda Racing and two Boileau-driven cars are on display here. The first, frequently discussed around these parts, is the 1974 Honda Civic 1200 driven by the late Bob Boileau, Jr. (their father). Then, there is the most recent, the 2009 SCCA Runoffs Championship-winning S2000 driven by Bob Boileau, III. The brothers are very proud of their family’s history and accomplishments, and they very much welcome any conversation having to do with their father’s car, which, by the way, is now exhibited at the Honda Collection museum in Torrance.
A funny thing happened toward the end of the day having to do with the Boileaus. There was discussion of a potential photo-op involving the two Boileau-driven Honda race cars and the Boileau brothers. It was decided that the cars needed a little touch-up to add some shine before the impromptu shoot. (To be honest, it was actually just Marc Sours, Large Project Leader for HPD’s grassroots motorsports efforts, with a camera!) So, a visit was paid to the Mother’s (Polishes-Waxes-Cleaners) display to get some free polish. When the ‘touch-up’ party returned, they had not only gotten some free polish, they brought a Mother’s rep to help shine up the cars, too. That’s not the last of it, though. As soon as they approached the Honda display, HPD associates began to gather around one of the cars. Come to find out, the Mother’s rep wasn’t just a rep of the company, he was actually the OWNER! So now, we had the owners of Mother’s polishing our 1974 Honda Civic 1200. It was a classic moment, for sure.
At this point, there are only seven hours of show time left. I can’t believe we have made it through 24 hours in the first three days of SEMA. What will today bring? The Honda Racing/HPD key chains are almost gone and hopefully, we can give away the last of the stickers (the fewer we have to bring home, the better). It has definitely been an interesting experience thus far, and I am sure there is more to come…

SEMA Show: Day 2 (11/04/09)

We are back! One day under our belts, three more to go. Today brought another set of high-profile visitors: Bobby and Graham Rahal stopped by to check out the Fit engine, Sarah Fisher and Jay Howard came by to say hello and rumor was that Danica was at the Apex show across the way, but we have yet to see her in our neck of the woods.
Again, there has been a lot of interest in the Fit engine and HPD’s Honda Racing Line program. We actually met a father-and-son duo who race their Honda Accord on dirt and were interested in fitting traction-control to their Accord racecar. With all the stories we have heard about the various racing series around the country, Accords racing on dirt was a first, at least for me.
One cool thing that I didn’t mention from yesterday was the badge-scanning system they have here. Any exhibitor can order a scanner and use it to track all the visitors to the display. Each person attending the event, whether an exhibitor, buyer, media member, or attendee, wears a badge that has a barcode on it. The barcode stores each person’s information, i.e. name, company, position, contact information, etc. We can scan an interested party’s badge and immediately, we have all their contact information. After the show, we can send out information about HPD and our various, upcoming racing activities. Some visitors are aware of the scanner and ask us to “scan them”; others learn about it when we offer to “scan then” and sometimes, just for fun, we do ‘drive-by’ scans, scanning those who least expect it. When you are at the show all day, you find ways to make the work even more fun.
News alert: Giveaways are huge around here! At our Honda display, we have key chains and Honda Racing/HPD decals that are literally flying off the countertops by the handful. We actually had to have HPD send us another case of decals, but I guess that is a good thing, and maybe soon we will see our Honda Racing/HPD logo on cars and tool boxes everywhere. As for myself, I picked up a Falken Tires stress ball in the shape of a helmet. I am sure that as the week goes on, it will come in handy.
Something interesting that someone new to the tradeshow scene might not be aware of (at least I wasn’t), is that many attendees travel with rolling suitcases. I didn’t know exactly why at first – it is Vegas, after all – but soon you notice people dropping giveaways into a top opening. It is crazy! There are people with suitcases full of free stuff. I can’t help but picture them trying to open their cases up at the end of the day, and stuff just comes pouring out. Some exhibitors are actually giving away (or selling, I am not quite sure) cardboard suitcases with slots at the top made for dropping in literature and small items. Maybe it is our fascination with free stuff, but I can’t even begin to imagine what these attendees are going to do with their cases of stuff, especially if they are here for all four days. What I want to know is, after they get home, where do they put it?
So, today was full of giveaways, interesting “racecars” and drive-by scanning. What will Day 3 have in store for us? Tune in tomorrow to find out…

Thursday, November 5, 2009

SEMA Show: Day 1 (11/03/09)

It has been long in coming, but we made it. Honda Performance Development (HPD) has survived and frankly, in our humble opinion, flourished, on the first day at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas, NV today. It was quite the debut, and we are proud of the turn-out. There were some high -profile visitors, some Honda Racing fans, a potential family reunion and all-around car fanatics to be seen everywhere. In what better place could we spend our time during the off-season, when not at the race track?
The day started off with a press announcement at the Honda display given by Erik Berkman, president of HPD, and Bruce Smith, vice president of parts operations for American Honda, relating to both Honda’s production cars and HPD’s grassroots activities, specifically the Formula F engine and Honda Racing Line programs. That was followed by a visit from Paul Tracy himself. He stopped by to say, ‘Hello’, and admire the new Honda Racing/HPD Formula F modified Fit engine. (If you haven’t seen it, you should check it out!)
As the day progressed, race fans, car enthusiasts and potential business contacts made their way through the maze of production cars and both grassroots- and pinnacle-level race cars and engines. Still, one of the more interesting non-car-related things to happen in the Honda booth today was the meeting of two potential relatives. One gentleman spotted another’s last name on his SEMA credential and, lo and behold, both had a cousin from the same city, with the same first and last name. The family connection has yet to be confirmed, but we at HPD would like to think that Honda Racing has brought the family together – or at the very least, provided the platform/booth to help make it happen.
Continuing into the afternoon, we got another high-profile visitor: Marco Andretti. Marco came by and spent some time signing autographs for Honda Racing fans and car fanatics alike. It was great to have Marco as a part of HPD’s presence at this inaugural trade-show event, considering his family’s history with Honda Racing.
We got to meet many people from all over the country today. There were many who had a story about a CART race they saw “back in the day,” or how Honda had “dominated” the competition in IndyCar, resulting in no competition at all. And then there were those devoted Honda car owners who were simply interested in all in which Honda is involved. No matter what their reason for visiting the Honda display, we at HPD and American Honda were pleased to talk with them. It gave us a chance to speak to the public about all the things we work so hard on behind the scenes, and many were happy to be our captive audience … well, at least until they exited the display and re-entered the madhouse that is SEMA!
With Day 1 under our belts, we would like to think we are a little more prepared for what to expect from the crowds and fans at SEMA, but we will have to wait and see and let you know tomorrow whether our expectations are as reliable as our engines. Stay tuned…

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