HPD Blog

Thursday, May 26, 2011

I RACE A HONDA: CHAD GILSINGER

My name’s Chad Gilsinger and I race a Honda, but I also work for Honda. In fact, one of the reasons I came to work for Honda was because it had an internal race team. While studying mechanical engineering at Purdue University, I found out about the race team through the Honda recruiting process. I had always wanted to race, so from Day One, I knew I wanted to be involved in any of their racing programs. I started at Honda in 1999, working at the manufacturing plant, and started on the Honda of America Race Team (HART). In 2000, I transferred to Honda R&D and started working with Team Honda Research (THR). I began driving with both teams in late 2000.

My career and racing have progressed well over the past decade. On the work side, I’m in the Project Management group, dealing with the suspension and steering specifications, most recently for the Acura TL. In racing, I can now claim an SCCA National Championship in Touring 3, and I’ve done some professional racing in the Grand-Am Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge.

My SCCA championship came last year at Road America, in a 2008 Honda S2000 CR. The CR is the package specifically developed by Honda for club racing, and it became the final model of the S2000 line-up. Two cars came to us right before the launch of the CR, and we built them to run in the NASA 25 Hours of Thunderhill endurance race. After that, we decided to run them in the then-new SCCA class of Touring 3. Over the last few years, we’ve traded off the opportunity to drive the car; last year was my year and it obviously worked out really well. The car is amazing to drive … very reliable … very fun.

I’m rather proud of my SCCA Club Racing national championship. There have been some big names that have tried and missed – Michael Andretti is one. It’s always been a goal and something I strived for. But, to be honest, I went into it last year not even thinking about it. I’ve been so close three or four times before. I’ve had two second-place finishes, a third, a fourth, and a fifth. So I went into it wanting to have fun and, if it was meant to be, it was meant to be.

The S2000 is a very good handling car, but it’s rear-wheel drive, so in wet conditions, it’s a lot trickier to drive. Sure enough, when we woke up on the morning of the race, there were sprinkles around and the track was damp. It looked like it was not going to be my year again. But, in the end, it all worked out and it’s way more than I could have really hoped for.

For 2011, I plan on defending the Touring 3 title. SCCA officials have made a couple of changes to the S2000, though. They’ve added a restrictor and reduced the maximum size tire we can run, so that’s going to hurt us a little bit. Because I won the 2010 championship, I basically have a free pass to contest it again in 2011, so, if I can get a car in time, I’m also going to build a new TL SH-AWD for the Touring 2 class, where it has just been classified by the Club Racing Board.

The TL might seem like an unusual choice for a class populated by cars like the Ford Mustang GT, BMW M3, and Porsche Cayman; but, not only do we have fast cars, what really makes me proud to race our cars is that they’re so reliable. The Honda Fit and Acura TL are cars most people wouldn’t think of making into race cars. But to see our products on the race track, and out there winning championships, it’s a really good feeling.

I get to race because of my job, but racing also helps me in my work. My daily activity is testing cars; but also working with other groups to understand how the changes I’m making affect others. As I’m working on race cars, I’m working on areas I’m not normally working on, such as engines, transmissions and brakes. Racing helps me better understand how everything works together. Also, the car control and consistency I learn and develop through racing directly feeds into my competence in testing very expensive prototype cars. Being able to test a car and drive it the same way time after time, and being able to do it without really thinking about it, allows me to focus on what the changes are doing to the car.

It’s a privilege to be able to do what I do, both in my job and on the track. I look forward to winning more championships in a Honda or Acura in the years to come. This year, if I get that TL with SH-AWD for T2, the more sprinkles, the better.

Look for Chad Gilsinger and other members of Team Honda Research at the 2011 SCCA Club Racing National Championships at Road America on Sept. 19-25. You can also see him in the Grand-Am Continental Tires Sports Car Challenge at tracks across the country.

And if you’re a racer in a Honda or with Honda power, don’t forget to register for the Honda Racing Line program, at www.hondaracingline.com.

Honda Racing Line is proud to offer original equipment replacement parts, performance parts and crate engines to Honda and Acura grassroots racers in the entry-level through professional ranks.

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