HPD Blog

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Happy New IndyCar Year

-Dan Layton

Historically, the period from Thanksgiving to the New Year is the slowest time of the IndyCar season. This is usually when things DON’T get done. But not this year, when one of the busiest off-seasons in memory started in early November, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down one bit as we approach Christmas.

If you follow the sport even casually, you’ve undoubtedly seen/heard/read that Chevrolet and Lotus will be joining the series in 2012 to take us on; that sponsors are returning or stepping up (Verizon, Shell, NTB); and the driver and car count is growing.

Here’s a quick rundown of where things stand for 2011:

Ganassi (4 cars total):
Grows from a single, two-car team to a pair of them. Defending champion Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon are back with the “parent” and nearly intact Target Chip Ganassi Racing team. Graham Rahal, joined by Indy Lights graduate Charlie Kimball, will lead a new “junior” team that will be based out of drag-racing legend Don Prudhomme’s shop in Brownsburg (about five miles west of the existing Ganassi shop). Veteran team manager Mitch Davis returns to Ganassi to run the new team after a year at Coyne and Martin Pare, who engineered Rahal at Newman Haas, will do so again at the House of Chip.

Andretti Autosport (3-4 cars):
It’s been a bit of a rough autumn at AA, as the team lost three sponsors (two of them to Penske!) and its senior driver, Tony Kanaan. On the other hand, Go Daddy has expanded its program – which will now include Ryan Hunter-Reay – and Danica Patrick returns along with Marco Andretti. The team is working hard to remain a four-car operation, soliciting sponsorship for Dan Wheldon while also talking to some funded drivers, including F2 champion Andy Soucek.

Team Penske (3 cars):
The rich get richer, as Penske has brought Shell/Pennzoil back into IndyCar racing after a 10-year absence, will benefit from a expanded presence from Verizon, and snagged both IZOD and Meijer from Andretti Autosport! All three drivers – Will Power, Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe – will be back.

Panther Racing (1 car):
Despite being most often the “best of the rest” for the last couple of years, especially on ovals, the marriage between Dan Wheldon and Panther Racing was never a happy one, and it has now come to an end. Indy Lights grad JR Hildebrand will take over behind the wheel, as Panther tries to recreate the magic that ensued when it pulled the then-unknown Sam Hornish out of Formula Atlantic.

KV Racing Technology (3+ cars):
KV had a true year-from-hell in 2010, enduring more than 40 crashes from their three full-time drivers. Yet, at least two of those drivers – Takuma Sato and E.J. Viso – are expected back next year, along with increased backing from Lotus Group in preparation for the auto manufacturer joining the series in ’12. As for the third full-time seat, Mario Moraes MIGHT return (if the family continues to pay for the privilege), but veteran Paul Tracy is working hard to put himself in the chair. Other possibilities include Dan Wheldon (the team could certainly use his setup talents on ovals), IndyLights champion J.K. Vernay, Soucek, Tomas Scheckter or even Mike Conway. The team also will run a fourth car at Indy with funding from Redline energy drink. Scheckter is a possibility for this ride, too.

Dreyer & Reinbold (2 cars):
Justin Wilson, who came so close to pulling off an upset win in Toronto last year, returns to a small team that continues to raise its game. Mike Conway may yet return to the second seat after recovering from his Indy injuries, but the team is also looking at other possible drivers, including Tracy, Wheldon, Moraes, Ana Beatriz, etc.

A.J. Foyt Racing (1 car):
Done & dusted: Vitor Meira will be back in the #14 and is signed through the ’12 season. The teams had its moments (Brazil) in ’10, and has decent sponsorship. Vitor and Larry Foyt know what needs to be done to get to the next level; it’s just a question of if they can get there.

FAZZT Race Team (1-2 cars):
Veteran Alex Tagliani (who co-owns the team) will be back, along with his braintrust of Rob Edwards and Allen McDonald. The only question waiting to be answered is if Chinese/Dutch driver Ho-Pin Tung secures enough backing (Red Bull is one rumor) for FAZZT to run a second car.

de Ferran Dragon Racing (1 car):
In a swap of Brazilians announced this week, Tony Kanaan is IN and Raphael Matos is OUT. For the veteran TK, it’s a perfect lifeline after he lost his ride at Andretti in the wake of sponsor 7-Eleven’s departure. For Matos, it’s certainly unfortunate, but while he frequently was very, very quick, he just as frequently threw it at the scenery – or the other competitors. Call it the “Parker Johnstone syndrome” (sorry Parker!!!). But as one of IndyCar’s most popular drivers, TK needs to be in the series. Plus, I want to be a spectator when the at-times-equally-stubborn Kanaan and de Ferran, inevitably, butt heads…..

Newman Haas Racing (1-2 cars):

My, my, how the once mighty have fallen. Two years ago, N-H would have been near the top of this report, now, they’re near the back of the field. But the team from the Chicago Northside isn’t about to give up. Hideki Mutoh will not be back, but the team just tested veteran Oriol Servia and Canadian rookie James Hinchcliffe. If the funding can be found, this could be a potent combination, ready to spring a surprise or two in 2011.

HVM (1 car):
This little team has had a productive off-season, securing a new sponsor (not ready to be identified yet, but the deal is done) to help last year’s most popular new driver, Simona de Silvestro. The core of this team, engineer Mike Cannon and the rest, have stuck with Simona and it will be interesting to see them progress next year.

Dale Coyne Racing (1-2 cars):
The “other” team from Chicago will (once again) be rebuilding behind pit wall, as the respected team manager/engineer/chief-cook-and-bottle-washer Mitch Davis has left after 18 months to return to Ganassi. Alex Lloyd will be back in the “Boy Scout” car (another sponsor that is apparently stepping up for next year). Milka “Milk & Donuts” Duno is NOT expected to return, but any second Coyne entry will almost certainly have to be driver-funded.

Conquest Racing (1-2 cars):
Again, Conquest fills the role of a “prep shop” with two cars ready, willing and able, just in need of funded drivers to pay for their upkeep. After a bit of a rough start, Belgian Bertrand Baguette definitely “rose” to the occasion [groan] throughout the second half of ’10, and he has some backing from Europe, so I expect him back. For the second car, Brazilian Mario Romancini ran out of money early and French F3 driver Francesco Dracone was a disappointment, so we’ll have to see what develops here after the first of January.

Sarah Fisher Racing (1 part-time car):
Easy Ed Carpenter’s back – and Sarah Fisher Racing’s got him, for the ovals at least, and perhaps more. Sarah is stepping out of the cockpit to focus on running the team and Ed is a good choice for the ovals. Whether the team runs the road and street courses will depend on funding.

The Rest (???):

In addition to SFR and KV’s fourth car at Indy, you can expect an Indy-only entry from Indy Lights team Sam Schmidt Racing (Jay Howard and/or Townsend Bell driving), and possible additional entries from AFS Racing (which has split off from Andretti), Bryan Herta Autosport, Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan Racing (RLLR??) and possibly Derrick Walker Racing. There will certainly be more Indy-only entries, and I suspect we could have a legitimate 40+ driver/car combinations once again at the Speedway.

Finally, a quick word about John “Ando” Anderson. In a sport filled with unique, larger-than-life figures, Ando still managed to stand out. Incredibly skilled (give the man a pair of tin snips and a sheet of aluminum and he could make almost anything), Ando was an incredibly hard worker, a great teacher, and a natural leader who was both admired AND liked.

In the 30 years he spent here after moving from his native Australia, Ando worked in almost every area of the sport, for teams great and small, primarily in IndyCar but with the odd detour into other forms of racing from time to time – such as his run with de Ferran Motorsports in the recent Acura ALMS program.

There’s not enough time & space here to recount all of his great qualities, or even the hilarious “Ando-isms” that were sprinkled throughout his everyday language. What really stood out with Ando was the sheer joy he brought to everything he did. Here’s just one example:

As the USF1 project – where he’d been hired in 2009 to oversee the never-built car’s production – collapsed around them, Ando found ways to keep workers on the shop floor motivated and the rest of us amused with his updates of “fresh paint on the floor” and “carbon-fiber toasters” (hey, they had to made SOMETHING in those autoclaves….).

Outside of racing, his two loves were flying (an excellent pilot, the tales of “Air Ando” are legendary in the paddock) and his wife, Lesley. Although she has her own successful career in real estate, Lesley was Ando’s true partner in life and it was a rare day indeed when you saw one without the other nearby.

Ando died suddenly last week after an apparent heart attack. He was just 65. To Lesley – and all Ando’s multitude of friends – we offer our most sincere condolences. We’ll not see the likes of him again anytime soon – and the world will be emptier for his absence.


Monday, December 20, 2010

FAQ: HPD Sale of CR125 Kits

What/who is HPD? 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 American Honda’s high-performance racing cars and engines. In addition to its grassroots motorsports business, HPD is the single engine supplier to the IZOD IndyCar Series and spearheaded Acura’s championship-winning efforts in the American Le Mans Series.

Why is HPD entering the karting market? We are continuing to expand our outreach to individual grassroots competitors who are running Honda products. In the past, the CR125 engine kit was only available through Honda Motorcycle dealers. HPD is now making this kit available to individual competitors.

Does HPD’s market entry mean that individuals can no longer purchase parts from their current source? No. If a competitor has a current relationship with a parts shop or engine builder, that’s great. HPD’s involvement in the sport will not affect existing relationships.

Does HPD’s participation mean that dealers or engine rebuild shops must now buy their parts from HPD? No. Independent shops can continue to purchase parts from Honda Motorcycle dealers. These shops can also purchase parts from HPD through the Honda Racing Line as an alternative source.

Why should I as an individual competitor buy CR125 kits/parts from HPD? The Honda Racing Line can offer door/door part delivery through our website sales portal. Our sales staff can also offer technical support, providing racer support for racers, by racers!

What engine models/parts are available from HPD? The CR125, which is sanctioned for use in Spec Honda (Stock Moto) classes.

Is HPD offering the CR125 as a crate engine? No. HPD is offering a parts kit, which the customer will need to assemble.

Will HPD offer any other karting products in the future? HPD will consider expansion of the product line as market needs dictate.

What is the Honda Racing Line? Launched in July 2009, the Honda Racing Line is a program targeted at licensed participants in sanctioned amateur and entry-level professional racing. The Honda Racing Line was formed to provide its members with a direct connection to Honda Performance Development and its unparalleled record of success at the highest levels of motorsport. Competitors may register for the Honda Racing Line through HondaRacingLine.com.

Do I need to be a Honda Racing Line member to buy parts from HPD? Yes. Currently, we are accepting Honda Racing Line applications in preparation for parts sales. Applications will help HPD to forecast product demand, and ensure timely customer delivery.

What is required for kart racers to join the Honda Racing Line? To be eligible for membership you must:
  • Be able to prove current membership in a nationally recognized sanctioning body.
  • Demonstrate that you’re a racer; able to provide official race results for two event finishes within the last year.
  • Complete and submit the Honda Racing Line registration form.
    Be a resident of the United States.
When CR125 parts go on sale, how much will they be? Price lists will be available in early 2011.

Will HPD provide other parts for karters? For now, we are focused on ensuring adequate supply of the CR125 engine/parts to individuals. HPD will consider expansion of the product line as market needs dictate.

Who should I contact at the Honda Racing Line in order to obtain more information? Please contact HPD for sales and product information. HPD can be reached via email at grmsadmin@hra.com, or by calling (661) 702-7777.

Does Honda offer any contingency money for karters? Not at this time.

Does Honda sponsor a particular series at this time? We sponsored the S2 class at the 2010 SuperNats. No sponsorship plans for 2011 have been made at this time.

Does Honda have a driver ‘ladder’ development program? Honda’s range of products offers competitors the opportunity to matriculate into more advanced levels of the sport. HPD’s Honda Racing Line staff can be called upon to offer product insight and support.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

THR Stages Strong Rally

Millville, NJ. (November 7, 2010) – The Honda Performance Development-supported Team Honda Research Rally team returned for the third and fourth rounds of the RallyCar US Rallycross Championship held at New Jersey Motorsports Park, finishing 13th and 4th overall. THR returned with Jordan Guitar piloting the 2007 Civic Si.

Changing from the first round, the course was altered to a fraction of its former size, with more dirt sections added in an attempt to increase visibility for a growing fan base. Similar to the first round, each lap featured a jump, and each competitor was required to take the “Joker Lap” during the race, which adding a unique feature and time to that lap. Qualifying and Heat races seeded the top drivers into the Main races.

Utilizing experience gained from Round 1, THR equipped the Civic Si with tires and brakes more suited to dealing with the rigors of tarmac driving, as well as rally dampers to cope with the bumpy dirt sections. Throughout Round 3, this proved a good setup and THR was able qualify for the C Main event. "We finished 13th today, I gained some experience with this style of racing, and have confidence that with the HPD-supported Civic Si, we can find a few more places tomorrow," stated Jordan.

As Round 4 got underway, THR was able to post competitive times through qualifying and the Heat races, and was top-seeded for the C Main. As the race started, a BMW got the jump on everyone off the line, rocketing from fifth to first place, but through the dirt sections, Jordan was able to overtake the BMW before the end of the first lap. Demonstrating strategic use of the "Joker Lap" and maintaining a smooth and consistent line, THR grabbed the win in both the C Main and the B Main, proceeding to the A Main with the top five 2WD cars, and finished 4th overall.

"We had a lot of fun this weekend," Jordan said, "The Honda Performance Development car was reliable all weekend long, and it was great to have the opportunity to drive it. We will continue to make improvements and will return for the 2011 season."

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Mazda & Honda Unveil B-Spec Racers

SCCA & NASA Adopt “Freeshare” Rules

ORLANDO, Fla. (Dec. 9, 2010) – With the goal of providing close racing in affordable cars from a variety of manufacturers, Honda and Mazda jointly announce the formation of “B-Spec” Showroom Stock racing.
Mazda and Honda debuted their new B-Spec cars at the recent NASA 25 Hour RaceHonda Performance Development, the racing arm of American Honda Motor Co., Inc.; and MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development, the performance division of Mazda North American Operations, today unveiled their entries for the proposed new low-cost B-Spec, developed from the MAZDA2 and Honda Fit. Both cars will be on display at the annual Performance Racing Industry trade show in front of 40,000 racing insiders.

B-Spec refers to all cars meeting a common set of rules that can be adopted by any race circuit or sanctioning organization. Together, Honda and Mazda solicited an independent body to develop a set of vehicle specifications that will be available for all to use – the motorsports equivalent of “freeware.” The final rules should be ready for release within 60 days.

One of the fastest-growing segments of the automobile business, B-segment cars are among the most affordable, and enjoy great support from younger demographics. In addition to the MAZDA2 and the Honda Fit, the category includes the Chevrolet Aveo, Ford Fiesta, Hyundai Accent, Nissan Versa and Toyota Yaris.

Two prototypes for the class – a MAZDASPEED-run MAZDA2 and a Honda Fit, prepared and entered by Team Honda Research-West – debuted at last weekend’s 25 Hours of Thunderhill season-ending NASA endurance racing contest in Willows, CA.

Designed to be an entry-level category, B-Spec cars will feature showroom stock racing cars utilizing stock engines and chassis, fitted with a competition roll cage, racing seat and other safety equipment; and manufacturer-approved suspension components, tires and wheels. Weight distribution will be used to balance performance among competing manufacturers.

The manufacturers will use an independent third party to homologate competing cars and provide equalized specifications to any interested sanctioning bodies or race tracks. A racer who builds a B-Spec car will be able to race the same car across multiple sanctioning bodies by simply changing the sanctioning-body decals. Only homologated OEM models will be eligible within the rules.

This is intended to be a grassroots class of racing, and at present, there are no plans for a B-Spec professional series.

Marc Sours, General Manager, HPD -- “A cornerstone of our grassroots motorsports initiative has been to establish a connection between Honda’s passenger cars and the racing cars which evolve from these models. The B-Spec category provides a relatively low-cost means for the prospective racer to enter the sport, and the Honda Fit offers a natural point of entry. These are inexpensive, great-handling cars that should provide both excellent competition and help grow the sport at the entry level.”

John Doonan, Manager, Motorsports Team Development, MAZDASPEED -- “Road racing remains a highly popular activity, but affordability is a huge challenge. Mazda enjoys the largest spec class in the world in Spec Miata and the easy way to race the MAZDA2 would have been to create a similar spec class. But we feel cooperation and multi-manufacturer competition can grow the sport for everyone.”

Jeff Dahnert, SCCA President & CEO – “We’re very intrigued by the collaboration of Honda and Mazda on a common rule set for these sub-compact market cars. It’s often perceived that manufacturers are seeking any advantage possible over their competition, but this effort is proof that rivals can work together toward a common goal—one that will likely be attractive to many of SCCA’s members. We look forward to seeing these cars in National competition in 2012”

Jerry Kunzman, Executive Director NASA – “NASA supports the OEMs in their endeavor to create a multi-manufacturer race class for the new B category cars like the MAZDA2 and the Honda Fit. A tightly controlled ruleset which will control costs and limit modifications will make this a drivers’ class and help expose this new segment of vehicles. This is in line with the NASA goals of making racing as affordable as possible to draw even more participants.”

In addition to the four confirmed participants, others have been involved in the discussion with an eye to joining the B-Spec ranks in 2011 or 2012. Ron Stukenberg, Senior Manager, Motorsports, Nissan North America noted that “Nissan Motorsports is very interested in the B Spec program and is closely evaluating it for possible future Versa entrants. The concept of cost-effective, entry-level sedan racing is certainly a great way to hone a driver’s motor-racing skills and hearkens back to the days of our involvement with the BRE 510. In the next few months, Nissan Motorsports should be in a position to finalize our intentions in this new class.”

About the participants:

MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development is the motorsports division of Mazda North American Operations, and has provided support and competition parts for Mazda teams and racers since 1983. MAZDASPEED is involved in racing activities at all levels of the sport, from local autocrosses through multiple levels of professional open-wheel and sports-car racing. On any given weekend, more Mazda cars are road-raced than any other brand.

Honda Performance Development is the Honda racing company within North America. Founded in 1993, and located in Santa Clarita, Calif., HPD is the technical operations center for high-performance Honda racing cars and engines. In addition to its grassroots motorsports business, HPD is the single engine supplier to the IZOD IndyCar Series and spearheaded championship-winning efforts in the 2009-2010 American Le Mans Series, 2010 Le Mans Series and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Since 1944, the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) has championed one mission: To bring motorsports to the masses of American men and women who are passionate about automobiles, speed and competition. From National Championships to regional events, whether professional or amateur, we exist to organize, support and develop auto racing at every level and provide an outlet for you to get out of the armchair and into the action. So, whether your passion is autocrossing, rallying or road racing as a professional or as a weekend warrior, SCCA wants to help you fuel your passion.

The National Auto Sport Association (NASA) was formed in 1991 to deliver high-quality motorsports events to enthusiasts at major racing venues throughout the nation. NASA has created programs that allow owners of both racecars and high-performance street-driven vehicles to enjoy the full performance capabilities of their cars in a safe and controlled environment. NASA offers many different programs that will allow you to enjoy motorsports on a number of different levels, including our High Performance Driving Events (HPDE), Rally Sport, Time Trial, NASA-X and Competition Racing programs.


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