HPD Blog

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Franchitti Claims Third "500" Win in Honda 1-2 Finish

Dario Franchitti came from the rear of the field to win a dramatic Indianapolis 500 Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, leading Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon to the checkered flag in a 1-2 finish for Honda in near-record heat and humidity. It is the third Indianapolis 500 victory for Franchitti, and the third for Honda with engine manufacturer competition.

After starting 16th, Franchitti was hit during his first pit stop by the car of E.J. Viso, spinning Franchitti around and dropping him to the rear of the field. But he fought back to the front, reaching the lead for the first time on Lap 151 and then entering into a multi-car battle for the victory over the final laps.

Once at the front of the field, Franchitti spent the late laps trading the lead with Dixon, part of a record 34 lead changes during the race; while the Honda Dallaras of Takuma Sato and Justin Wilson; as well as the cars of Tony Kanaan and Ed Carpenter all looked like potential race winners.

Carpenter was the first to fall by the wayside, spinning without contact on Lap 180. On the Lap 184 restart, Kanaan jumped from fourth to the front on the run to Turn One, but the yellow came out again just three laps later as Marco Andretti spun and crashed without injury.

On Lap 194, the green flag waved for the final time and both Franchitti and Dixon passed Kanaan. Sato also was quickly past Kanaan and then Dixon. On Lap 199, Sato moved alongside Franchitti and attempted a last-lap pass for the lead as they entered Turn One. But Sato lost control mid-corner, made contact with Franchitti and then spun hard into the wall, crashing without injury.

Franchitti was momentarily sideways, but corrected for the slide and claimed his third Indianapolis 500 victory, and the 96th IndyCar win for Target Chip Ganassi Racing at the 96th running of the Memorial Day weekend classic. Dixon finished second, with Honda drivers Justin Wilson seventh, Charlie Kimball in eighth and Townsend Bell, ninth.

The IZOD IndyCar Series now enters June with a run of four consecutive race weekends, starting with the June 3 Belle Isle Grand Prix temporary street circuit race in Detroit, Michigan, followed by oval races at Texas Motor Speedway, The Milwaukee Mile and Iowa Speedway.

Dario Franchitti (#50 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) started 16th, finished 1st, his third Indianapolis 500 victory, 31st IndyCar victory (all with Honda power) and first win of 2012: "I moved over for Takuma [Sato]. I knew he was coming and I moved up the track. I felt it was a good move, but he got loose underneath me. It was the last lap of the Indianapolis 500 and I didn’t expect him to lift. I think he did everything right up until the point he lost the rear of the car. It kind of reminded me of Emerson [Fittipaldi] and Little Al [Unser, at the 1994 Indianapolis 500] at the end there. This means the world. This is Indianapolis.

I also have to say ‘thank you’ to Honda. I have all of my [IndyCar] wins with them and today showed us all exactly why. They worked incredibly hard throughout the event, and never more so than in the week after qualifying. Honda showed us all today what they can accomplish."

Scott Dixon (#9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) qualified 15th, finished 2nd, led 53 laps: "We had the car to win today. Between the efforts of the team and Honda we had the power, reliability and mileage we needed, but at the end it was Dario’s race. He did a hell of a job today, so I’m super happy for him, but super gutted for myself. Still, it couldn’t be a better day, a 1-2 finish for the Target Chip Ganassi team at the Indianapolis 500."

Art St. Cyr (President, Honda Performance Development) on today's Honda victory in the Indianapolis 500: "This is why we go racing. To be able to participate in such a competitive race is one of the most amazing things in my career with Honda. It was an exciting day, and a great race for the fans – but pretty stressful for the participants! Any of several Honda drivers would have been a deserving winner today, but somehow it seemed destined that this was Dario’s day. He drove a fantastic race, never giving up after getting hit during his first pit stop. It was an inspiring drive, and an incredible race, that had all of us riveted throughout. My congratulations to all our associates at Honda Performance Development, who worked so hard to make this victory a reality. What a great day."

Friday, May 25, 2012

HONDA RACING FLASHBACK - Buddy Rice gives Honda its first Indy500 win as he dominates the 88th Indianapolis 500

Indy 500, Buddy Rice, Honda, IndyCar, Pioneer, Argent

Buddy Rice backed up his pole position performance with a dominating drive to win the 88th Indianapolis 500 in what turned out to be a Honda benefit at 16th & Georgetown.

In a race shortened 20 laps by violent thunderstorms, the rain couldn’t deny Rice’s reign, as the 28-year-old native of Phoenix led 91 laps in his Argent/Pioneer G-Force to score Honda’s initial triumph in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” for Rahal Letterman Racing.

So decisive was Honda’s month-long dominance that it swept the top seven spots at Tony Kanaan, Dan Wheldon, Bryan Herta, Bruno Junqueira, Vitor Meira and Adrian Fernandez trailed Rice under the checkered flag.

“We were strong all month and we knew it, and I can’t begin to thank Honda enough,” said Rice, who was filling in for the injured Kenny Brack but now has a steady job the rest of 2004. “My car was perfect and Scott (Roembke, team manager) made all the right calls on fuel and my pit crew was fantastic. I thought we had a couple of these deals won but we had little mishaps that weren’t our fault so this just feels great.”

The lone scare of his race came with Buddy stalled on a Lap 94 pit stop and dropped back to 16th.

“We had a little issue on one of the stops but these guys have been fighting hard all year,” he reasoned. “We knew traffic was going to be a problem but there was no reason to panic because we were only halfway through the race so I wasn’t concerned. I knew I had a great car under me.”

He flexed his muscles on a Lap 138 restart by charging from sixth to first in 14 laps. “Once I got back in front, I caught a couple of breaks in traffic. I made a late pass on somebody and that got Tony bottled up and gave me a little cushion,” said Rice, who owned a three-second lead when the skies opened up.

The only other drivers to keep Rice honest all afternoon were Andretti Green Racing teammates Kanaan and Wheldon, but both conceded the right guy would up in Victory Lane.

“Buddy was much stronger today and I thought he deserved it,’ said Kanaan, who led 28 laps in the 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda.

Indy500, Brickyard, yard of bricks, Buddy Rice, Honda, IndyCarWheldon paced 26 circuits in his Jim Beam/Klein Tools Dallara/Honda and tipped his cap to the polesitter. “You’ve got to hang it out to win it and Buddy certainly did it today. Other than somebody from our team, you couldn’t have a better winner than him.”

Herta, in the XM Satellite Radio Dallara/Honda, gave Andretti Green Racing a 2-3-4 performance and the 2002 Indy Polesitter Junqueira came home fifth in the Newman/Haas Racing PacifiCare G-Force/Honda.

Meira gave Rahal Letterman a solid sixth place in the Team Centrix G-Force/Honda while Fernandez started sixth and would up seventh in the Quaker State-Tecate-Telmex G-Force/Honda.

Herta pretty much summed up the overall feeling of Gasoline Alley. “It was a great result for our team and for Honda,” he said. “But Buddy had the fastest car and won the race. That’s the way the Indy 500 is supposed to be.”

Monday, May 21, 2012

Team Honda Research-West Takes SCCA SoPac Division BFGoodrich Super Tour Class Wins

THR-W drivers Matt Staal and Lee Niffenegger continued their 2012 SCCA National season with a pair of class wins at Buttonwillow Raceway Park in their Honda Racing/HPD BFGoodrich machines.  Staal ran uncontested in his Touring 3 Honda S2000 CR to claim valuable first-place points and complete his qualifications for the 2012 SCCA National Championship Runoffs.  Niffenegger bested two other competitors in Showroom Stock B (SSB) to win the prized BFGoodrich Super Tour event on Sunday after missing the Saturday portion of the Double National.

The Sunday event consisted of a late-morning qualifying session, followed by a late-afternoon race.  The schedule worked out well for Niffenegger, who returned at 2:30 a.m. on Sunday morning from Miami, Florida after performing his official duties as HPD’s representative to the Grand-Am series and teams.  Teammate Staal raced Saturday as well, finishing second in T3, and already had most of the support equipment at the track.

“I can’t thank the THR-W team members enough,” said Niffenegger.  “Matt and I prepped the car prior to my travels to Miami.  The rest of the team hooked up the trailer and loaded the car so I could jump in and go upon my return in the wee hours of the morning.”

Qualifying went without a hitch, as Staal continued to push the envelope in his adaptation to the rear-wheel-driven S2000.  Niffenegger grabbed pole in SSB and the pair then went about its preparations for the afternoon session.

In the race, Staal spent his time chasing a T2 class competitor setting his fastest times of the weekend.  Niffenegger pulled away from the other SSB competitors to post his third race win of the season.

 “This was my second weekend racing the Honda S2000, which gave me more confidence to reach the upper limits of the car.” said Staal.  “I am very grateful to my teammates at THR in Ohio for the opportunity to campaign the S2000 at the Nationals.  I am also looking forward to the intense competition at the Runoffs at Road America in September.”

The SCCA Southern Pacific Division Nationals season continues on the weekend of June 9-10 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Cunningham, Lamb Score Pirelli World Challenge Victories

Peter Cunningham and his RealTime Racing Acura TSX fought off a determined challenge from the Porsche Cayman S of veteran Jack Baldwin to win the GTS class at the Laguna Seca on May 12, in the fourth round of the 2012 Pirelli World Challenge.

The victory was the first for Cunningham since switching to Acura V6 power at the start of the season, and moved both driver and manufacturer to the top of the GTS championship standings.

In the Touring Car class, it was Todd Lamb coming through to post his second class victory of the season aboard his Compass360 Honda Civic Si, also taking over the drivers’ championship points lead and moving Honda to the top of the TC manufacturers’ championship.

Starting from the GTS pole for the fourth time this year, Cunningham fell back to second behind Baldwin on the opening lap, but regained the advantage on the second lap. From there, Cunningham was never headed, but Baldwin was relentless in his pursuit, finishing less than a half-second behind at the checkers. Nick Esayian finished fourth in the second RealTime Acura V6.

“I was pleased we had such good speed at the start,” Cunningham said. “We were able to get a good run out of [Turn] Six. We went side-by-side up the hill and we touched a little, but ended up in the lead. From there, it was a controlled pace for awhile. I could do my laps and still be nice to the tires. Then two yellows. Of course, we’ve been there before so we know what can happen. The first restart was great, and I had a good advantage after the first lap. Then the yellow came out again. After the second restart, Jack was coming and he was doing a great job and pressuring pretty hard and I managed to just stay ahead of him to the checker.”

Touring Car

In TC, Lamb started second, but moved around pole qualifier Tristan Herbert’s Volkswagen GTi at the start. Lamb led for the entire race, but was challenged mid-race by the GTi of Jeff Altenburg. Late in the contest, Lamb was able to put a lapped car between his Civic Si and Altenburg’s car, giving him the margin needed for his second TC win of 2012. Teammate Shea Holbrook finished fourth in her Truecar Civic Si for Compass360.

“It was a great [championship] points day,” Lamb said at the finish. “It’s nice to win races, but we’re here to win the championship for Honda, and taking over the points lead today is a huge step forward.”

The Pirelli World Challenge Championships next travel to the streets of Belle Isle Park for the Detroit Grand Prix, June 1-3, with live timing and scoring available at www.world-challenge.com. The Laguna Seca round of the Pirelli World Challenge Championships will be televised on the NBC Sports Network, Sunday, May 27, at 11 p.m. EDT.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Professional B-Spec Racing Debuts With Honda Fit Victory at Miller Motorsports Park

B-Spec, a new and more affordable form of Touring Car racing, made its professional debut April 28-29 with multiple events on both the East Coast and in the Western U.S. At Miller Motorsports Park in Utah, Honda’s Sage Marie led a 1-2 finish for Honda in his B-Spec Fit in Sunday’s weekend finale.

An eight-car field, including a pair of Honda Fits, was on the grid at Miller for the inaugural three B-Spec races held as part of the SCCA Pirelli World Challenge weekend. Across the country, at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida, another eight B-Spec machines turned up for the first “Sportsman Showcase” B-Spec race as part of the Grand-Am Continental Tire Challenge Series.

Marie finished fourth in both of the two races on Saturday at Miller, as he dialed in the handling of his B-Spec Fit. Connor Ford, driving a second Fit in addition to racing in the companion Formula F races, finished fifth in the opener, but did not start the second round.

On Sunday, Marie was part of a four-car battle for the lead in the early laps, but then pulled away to a 3.354-second margin of victory as the others challenged for what became second place. Ford’s Fit prevailed in that battle, just ahead of the Fiesta of Craig Capaldi and Jonathan Start’s Fiat 500, to make it a 1-2 finish for Honda.

“It’s good for Honda Performance Development, it’s good for Honda and it’s good for the class,” Marie said after scoring his first B-Spec victory. “All the difference in the world today, with some fresh tires up front and some [air] pressure changes. The Pirellis worked much, much better today, and made it much easier to balance the car and put down some good, consistent lap times.

“I watched those guys battle behind me, the three of them, and I loved watching them battle back-and-forth, because I was just notching away tenths of a second each lap. I’m very happy,” Marie continued.

“The Fit's top-in-class performance on the track demonstrates that its versatility extends well beyond great packaging and fuel economy,” commented Michael Accavitti, vice president of national marketing operations for American Honda.

In addition to the pair of Honda Fits, the eight-car B-Spec field at Miller included a pair of Ford Fiestas, two Kia Rios, a Fiat 500 and a Mazda2. All entries use stock engines and chassis, fitted with a competition roll cage, competition seat and other safety equipment, and manufacturer-approved suspension components, tires and wheels. Weights and other variables are used to balance competition between the manufacturers, and the target cost for a race-ready car is $25,000-$30,000.

“It’s amazing right how close these cars are right out of the box,” Marie noted. “The first time, you can’t get much better than that. Everybody raced clean, and I have to thank my fellow drivers out there for some good racing.”

 B-Spec racing will continue this season at select events in both the SCCA and Grand-Am series. In addition, the category will be part of the Canadian Touring Car Championship and is approved for competition in SCCA Club Racing.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Ford Doubles Up in Formula F at Miller Motorsports Park

Conner Ford took over the 2012 Corsa Car Care presents Pacific Formula F Super Series championship points lead with a pair of victories April 28-29 at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah.

Ford and his PR1 Honda Mygale were untouchable at Miller, qualifying on the pole for both races, leading series rookie Tommy Boileau home on Saturday; and heading Sage Marie, another first-time Formula F competitor, to the checkers in Sunday’s race.

Ford’s pair of wins at Miller, combined with a win at the Willow Springs season opener, have vaulted him to an early-season lead in the Pacific Formula F Super Series standings, with 129 points to 57 for Ed Erlandson, who won the second of the two Willow rounds last month, but did not make the trip to Miller for Rounds 3-4.

On Saturday, Ford went flag-to-flag for the victory over Boileau, a second-generation Honda racer and SCCA Showroom and Touring car veteran, who was making his open-wheel racing debut in a Honda-powered Piper Formula F.

In Sunday’s second round, Ford again dominated, recording his third victory in four starts this year and turning the tables on Marie, who earlier in the day had led Ford to a 1-2 finish for their Honda Fits in the new B-Spec race series at Miller.

Next up for the Corsa Car Care presents Pacific Formula F Super Series is the May 19-20 doubleheader weekend at California’s Buttonwillow Raceway. More information on this exciting series is available at www.pacificF2000.com. Meanwhile, the eastern U.S.-based F1600 Formula F Championship Series resumes its own 10-race season May 25-26 at Lime Rock Park.

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