HPD Blog

Friday, May 27, 2011

Team Honda Research-West Delivers More Wins and Track Records in BFGoodrich Super Tour Races at Buttonwillow

April 30 – May 1, 2011

THR-W drivers Sage Marie, Matthew Staal and Lee Niffenegger wrapped up their West Coast series of SCCA National races with a combined four wins and two track records at the Buttonwillow, CA BFGoodrich Super Tour event.

Sage Marie once again claimed the T3 class checkered flag in each of the two races in his Honda Racing/HPD BFGoodrich Honda S2000 CR. The racing was close, however, as fellow Honda S2000 CR driver, Tom Wickersham, started first in class on Saturday, while Marie was the top T3 qualifier on Sunday. The intense battle in Saturday’s race pushed Marie to a new T3 track record, while a brake problem put Wickersham a few laps down in Sunday’s race and no other drivers in the T3 field challenged for the lead.

Lee Niffenegger’s SSB class Honda Racing/HPD Civic Si showed impressive pace all weekend, posting lap times many seconds ahead of his competition, and delivering him first place finishes in both races. Niffenegger also earned a new SSB track record in Sunday’s race.

A tuning problem with Matthew Staal’s HPD BFGoordrich Acura RSX left him down on power and off the pace of the leader, but Staal was able to deliver strong third place finishes and entertaining battles for second in each of the two races in a deep field of 9 STU class competitors.

“Our success this season is a testament to the competitive edge the BFGoodrich tires deliver, especially since the competition has talented drivers and newer hardware” said Marie. “It was very gratifying to be able to deliver such strong results in front of the BFGoodrich team at one of their premier events. Of course, without Honda Performance Development, we wouldn’t be here at all, so much of the credit must go them.”

The team’s next race is a NASA Western Endurance Racing Championship (WERC) event at Buttonwillow Raceway Park on June 18th, and then its sights will be set on the pursuit of SCCA National Championship titles at the Runoffs in September.

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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.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Honda Performance Development joins TMI AutoTech in announcing the 2011 Spec: RaceAtom Series

Monday, May 23, 2011

TMI AutoTech, exclusive North American manufacturer of the Ariel Atom, together with Honda Performance Development(HPD) are pleased to announce the launching of an exciting new racing series that will provide grassroots racers with an affordable, competitive, wheel-to-wheel series.

Building on the incredible worldwide success of the Ariel Atom as an ultra-performance track-day car, the only next logical step is to transform it into a successful competition car.

The Spec Race Atom (SRA) competition vehicle builds on the Atom 3 production chassis with the addition of a SRA specific roll structure as well as other motorsport safety additions. Performance is kept reliable and consistent with the use of naturally-aspirated Honda K20 engines from HPD.

The 2011 Spec: RaceAtom series presented by Honda Racing/HPD will mark the first time in the 10 year history of the Ariel Atom that there has been an exclusive one-make series for this exciting vehicle.

“We have had tremendous response to the SRA series since the announcement only a few months ago and are very excited by the opportunity we can provide the racers with this grassroots program.” enthused Mark Swain, V.P. sales and marketing for TMI AutoTech. “Having Honda Racing/HPD involved during this initial season is a fantastic platform to build upon in years to come for the vehicles, the competitors, as well as the series as we look to expand into new markets.”

Marc Sours, HPD general manager agrees that the series is great for grassroots motorsport “We look forward to working with TMI and taking part in the Spec Race Atom series.”

2011 Spec: RaceAtom presented by Honda Racing/HPD schedule:

Race#1: June 11 – Virginia International Raceway – South
Race#2: June 12 – Virginia International Raceway – South
Race #3: July 16 – Virginia International Raceway – Full
Race #4: July 17 – Virginia International Raceway – Full
Race#5: August 20 – Virginia International Raceway – North
Race#6: August 21 – Virginia International Raceway – North
Race#7: September 17 – Virginia International Raceway – Full
Race#8: September 18 – Virginia International Raceway – Full
Race#9: November 26 – Virginia International Raceway – Grand
Race#10: November 27 – Virginia International Raceway - Full

For more information on the Spec: RaceAtom series presented by Honda Racing/HPD contact:

Mark Swain, TMI AutoTech, Inc. mswain@arielatom.com 434.822.9130x303

A Bump Day to Remember?

-Dan Layton

As this is being written, practice is well underway for the 100th anniversary Indianapolis 500, and what are shaping up to be the most competitive qualifying days I can remember since my first two “500s” back in 1994-95.

Right now, 40 different drivers have taken to the track – and one or two more may yet join the fray – meaning that at least seven will go home bitterly disappointed on Sunday night.

Who those seven will be is anyone’s guess. We’ve had 1 ½ solid days of practice as of Tuesday and for the most part it’s “the usual suspects” at the top of the time sheets: Ganassi (Dixon, Rahal, Franchitti); Panther (Hildebrand), a team that’s always strong at Indy; and Penske (Briscoe, Castroneves, Power).

You’ve also had a couple of mild surprises posting some fast lap speeds in the first few days of practice: Alex Tagliani, fastest of all so far with a 225.8 for Sam Schmidt Motorsports; Vitor Meira with Foyt; Ed Carpenter (Sarah Fisher) and Oriol Servia with resurgent-in-2011 Newman Haas Racing. All are solidly in the top 10, and should have at least an outside chance of mixing it up with the Ganassi/Penske “big dogs” on Pole Day.

At least a couple of the names mentioned in my previous paragraph should blast their way into the top-nine shootout on Saturday. But the smart money for the pole qualifier should still stay with Power, Franchitti and their teammates. With up to three qualifying runs per driver, it’s going to be almost impossible to knock off someone with the resources – and determination – of a Castroneves or Dixon for the pole.

Last year, it was Castroneves taking the honors with a four-lap run of 227.970 mph in decent weather conditions. Given good weather and the fact that both the Honda engines and Dallara chassis are about as well-developed as humanly possible, I expect it will take something in the neighborhood of a 228 mph to once again prevail.

In all, the top-24 starting positions will be settled on Saturday. And then the real fun for us (spectators and non-driving participants) begins … and the real sweating starts for the final half-dozen or so drivers just trying to make the field.

In 2010, the slowest qualifier was then-rookie Sebastian Saavedra at 223.634 mph, and four drivers (including Paul Tracy!) missed the field in a frantic final hour of Bump Day qualifying. I expect this year to be even more drama-filled; and for it to take a similar – or higher – speed just to make the field.

Certainly, if I’m a driver and NOT able to run consistent 223s and the odd 224 by Friday, I’d be VERY worried……

All in all, and weather permitting – a constant consideration in the Circle City during the Merry Olde Month of May – it should be an exciting Pole Day on Saturday and an absolutely riveting Bump Day. I’m looking forward to it.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Shea Holbrook Makes History at Long Beach

Florida-based Honda racer Shea Holbrook rewrote the SCCA World Challenge record book during its recent Long Beach round, becoming only the second woman in series history – and the first in the Touring Class – to win a World Challenge race in the 22-year history of the production-based racing series.

Driving her #67 Lucas Oil/Shea Racing Honda Civic Si, Holbrook’s victory capped a dramatic month for the 21-year-old University of Central Florida student, who was piloting her third different Honda in as many races.

After her own Civic sustained significant damage in the season-opening race at St. Petersburg, Holbrook utilized a back-up Honda from Compass360 Racing in the second St. Pete race. She drove a Peterson Racing Civic Si to her Long Beach victory.

The drama continued following the checkered flag on Sunday. Holbrook had finished second on the track to Rafael Navarro, already the best finish of her short, two-year professional racing career.

But Navarro’s Volkswagen was found to be non-compliant in post-race technical inspection, handing the win to an initially disbelieving Holbrook.

“I officially found out around 6:30 p.m.,” Holbrook said. “It was unfortunate for Navarro, who also just experienced an emotional rollercoaster. It was an odd feeling because I experienced it differently. At first I literally thought, ‘Okay…’ but when the official looked me in the eye and said, ‘Shea, you won the Grand Prix of Long Beach. Not many people can say that,’ everything changed. It went from a high to an ultimate high. I was living what I had dreamt about over the past five years.”

Holbrook also becomes the third-youngest woman to win a race at Long Beach, trailing Simona de Silvestro’s win in the Atlantic Championship at the age of 19 in 2008 and Danica Patrick’s Pro/Celebrity race win at the age of 20 in 2002.

Qualifying seventh in the Touring Car class, Holbrook managed to avoid a number of issues that eliminated other drivers at the 11-turn, 1.968-mile California street circuit. Three Touring Cars came together just after the start, ending the day for pole qualifier Lawson Aschenbach’s Compass360 Honda Civic.

Holbrook had moved to third after the opening lap, and fell to fourth on Lap Two after being passed by Navarro, but she was back in a podium position again on Lap 10 after passing Eric Meyer”s Mazda RX-8. Holbrook moved past Devin Cates’ Volkswagen GTI on Lap 15 and had only Navarro’s Touring Car ahead of her at the checkers.

“This race win means so much to so many people that are a part of Shea Racing,” Holbrook said, “but this first race win is dedicated to my cousin Matthew, who passed away in 2008 from Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Being an advocate for Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy has become a huge and life-changing part of my life.”


Holbrook’s racing career has been used to raise funds and awareness for Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy, a charity seeking a cure for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Using donations from fans and corporate partners both at and away from the track, Holbrook and Shea Racing have raised more than $20,000 in a little more than a season in World Challenge.

Round Four of the SCCA Pirelli World Challenge Championship is scheduled for May 29-30 at Miller Motorsports Park, with Holbrook third in the drivers’ championship. Holbrook has 252 points, trailing fellow Honda racer Aschenbach (367) and Cates (278). Holbrook’s win also boosted Honda to a three-point lead over Volkswagen in the Manufacturers’ Championship.

The Long Beach Grand Prix World Challenge event will be televised on VERSUS, April 30, at 2:30 p.m. EDT.


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Monday, May 2, 2011

Formula F Pro Series Makes A Spectacular Debut

The inaugural round of the new F1600 Formula F Championship Series had it all: a large, 29-car field; diversity (encompassing the driver line-up, range of chassis and engines) and exciting side-by-side finishes for 1st-2nd, 3rd-4th and even 5th-6th!

The five-weekend, 10-race championship opened April 8-10 at the classic Virginia International Raceway circuit. Jim Goughary wrote his name into the history books by scoring the inaugural race win in his Honda-powered Piper DF5, by the oh-so-narrow margin of just five-thousandths of a second over the Ford-powered Swift DB-6 of two-time national champion John Robinson II.

Additional side-by-side finishes saw Bill Balet and Tim Kautz finish third and fourth, respectively, in their Ford FFs, while Art Foster’s Van Diemen Ford barely edged the Honda Swift of young Colin Thompson for fifth. In all, 11 Honda-powered FFs were spread throughout the 29-car field, with the top 10 finishers divided evenly at five each between Ford and Honda entries.

“I couldn’t be happier that we were able to give Honda its inaugural win,” Goughary said after the thrilling finish. “It is so nice not to have to worry about the engine at the race track. The Honda allows us to focus solely on the handling of our car.

“I think it is a big advantage over the Ford-powered cars not having to worry about the carburetor or fuel mixture, and we can probably run it [the engine] for several seasons.”

Sunday’s second race of the weekend was claimed by Kautz, who won from the pole. Canadian racer Caitlin Johnston led the Honda contingent home with a sixth-place run, just ahead of Goughary. The father-son duo of Sean and Sam Maisey rounded out the top 10 for Honda.

“My Honda-powered Formula F was just awesome today,” Johnston said following her finish. “It was pretty good battling it out with a couple of the guys, but then Colin [Thompson] spun and we came around the ‘Oak Tree Turn’ and he was literally sitting right in the middle of the track. My first weekend in the F1600 Series with two top-10s … we can’t complain about that!”

Next up for the F1600 Formula F Championship will be the June 3-5 Grand-Am weekend at Watkins Glen International Raceway, home track for Race 1 winner Goughary.

“I can’t wait for The Glen,” Goughary said. “This series is so competitive. We are going to step it up to try and make sure we put Honda on the top of the podium again. Twice!”

In addition to the eastern U.S.-based F1600 Formula F Championship, a similar professional series is in the planning stages for the West Coast, to be run by the same organization conducting the F2000 Pacific Series.
More information on the F1600 Formula F Series is available on the web at www.F1600Series .com and on Facebook. Interested participants can also call (860) 364-5252 or e-mail the Series Director, Michael Rand, at michaelrand@sbcglobal.net.

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