Honda and Acura teams will make up a quarter of the starting field in the Street Tuner class as the 2011 Grand-Am Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge season opens this weekend at Daytona International Speedway. Six teams will field a total of 10 Honda Civic Si’s and an Acura TSX as Honda seeks a third consecutive ST manufacturers’ championship.
Leading the Honda effort once again is the four-car Compass360 team, which is seeking to extend its streak of consecutive team and drivers’ championships to three. The team also returns with their bright orange Civic Si’s as the defending Daytona ST class winner. David Thilenius will attempt to repeat his drivers’ title, partnered with Zach Lutz.
Another series mainstay, Jorge and Juan Leroux from the Dominican Republic, return with their expanded LRT Racing operation, now featuring both a Civic and a TSX in their transporter. The Honda of America Racing Team (HART), made up of associates from Honda of America Manufacturing in Ohio, will field a pair of Civics driven by Mike Galati, John Schmidt, Chad Gilsinger and Steve Eich.
Individual Civics will be run by CA Sport from Utah, Marren Motorsports (for Toby Grahovec and John Costello) and the Quebec-based 89 Racing Team.
They’ll face off against more than 30 opponents representing BMW, Mazda, Volkswagen, Mini Cooper and KIA. The Honda teams will also have to cope with off-season technical changes – including a new inlet air restrictor – that have cut their available horsepower.
“We’ve definitely lost some of our top speed from last year, which is critical at Daytona,” said Compass360 team boss Karl Thomson. “We’ve got four great driver pairings, but we’re definitely going to have to be right on top of our race strategy, as well.”
In 2010, the ST championships all came down to the final race of the season, with just seven points separating Honda from BMW, and both the drivers’ and team championships decided by a tie-breaker.
The 2011 Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge looks to be just as exciting. The season-opening Grand-Am 200 starts Friday, January 28th, at 1:30 p.m. EST; with tape-delayed television coverage at 3 p.m. EDT Saturday, February 5th, on SPEED.