HPD Blog

Monday, September 30, 2013

RSR Meets Kansas Speedway

My name is Corey Fergus. I race the #198 Honda Civic Si for RSR Motorsports in Grand-Am’s Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge ST class with co-driver Chris Puskar.

For the ninth race of the season we were at Kansas Speedway. This track is most familiar to fans of NASCAR, as it’s mainly an oval track. Recently, an infield road course was paved, making it a track we could visit. The configuration we run is what we call a roval or a road/oval course because we use the combination of the two. The track is similar to Daytona or Homestead in that respect.

Being that the infield road course portion is new, this was Grand-Am’s first time heading to this venue. Most people had never been to the track before. But back in October, Grand-Am held a test at Kansas Speedway in preparation for this year’s visit. Luckily, I attended that, but I didn’t drive a Honda. I got the opportunity to test in Jack Roush’s Mustang Boss 302 GS car. Then Mike Shank asked me to test his Daytona Prototype for a few laps! Since I want to race as a profession, it was a
great opportunity to get some variety and experience other types of cars I’d never driven.

Even though I hadn’t been in an ST car on the track, I was prepared before heading into the race weekend. iRacing, an online racing simulation, recently got Kansas Speedway as well, so I could actually practice doing many laps around the circuit. When I arrived in Kansas, I was ready and already ahead of the curve.

This race weekend was a little unique in that we had just been at Road America the week before. The team actually drove straight from Wisconsin to Kansas without going home. As a team, we skipped the test day to give the crew guys a break and catch up. That tight schedule left very little time to work on the cars. At Road America, another competitor damaged our car. Because of the back-to-back weekends, it could not be fixed for Kansas, so we had to campaign the older Honda Civic that I ran in the beginning of the season. The older car doesn’t have quite as much torque or power. A track like Kansas, with a huge straight, really made me miss the new Honda!

With most of the lap time being made up of the long straight, we qualified the car in 11th, only .5 seconds off the pole though. We knew we had a tough race ahead of us. Chris had a good stint and pitted in 7th for our driver change. When I got in the car, I soon realized we didn’t have 1st or 2nd gear, and 4th was getting notchy. This really hurt us coming off of the corners. Then, for the third race in a row, another competitor slammed their car into mine. That put us down a lap and we finished in 14th. You can probably imagine that it’s getting a little frustrating at this point. I think we have a big red “X” on our car saying, “Hit me.” 
Kansas Speedway is an interesting place. I think the venue makes sense from an economic point of view. There is so much to do by the racetrack to attract fans. There’s a casino, mall, soccer stadium, baseball stadium, and theme park nearby. From the racetrack point of view, I’d say the fun meter wasn’t exactly pegged. The infield course could have been a lot more technical. It’s needs to be a little bit more demanding. I think adding a bus stop would help to separate the men from the boys.

With two races left in the season Honda is still hanging in there. In the three-way tie for the championship lead are Ryan Eversley and Kyle Gimple in their Civic Si. Honda is also in a close third in the Manufacturer’s championship.

Look out for our next blog from Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Salinas, CA.

See you at the track!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Formula F Drivers Honored As Championships Speed to the Finish

A pair of young American Honda-powered Formula F drivers garnered headlines in September when newly-crowned F1600 Formula F Championship winner Jake Eidson and Pacific Formula F Championship contender Joey Bickers were selected as winners of the 2013 Team USA Scholarship program.

Bickers, a 21-year-old Californian in his first season of racing, and Eidson, 18, winner of the 2013 eastern US Formula F title, will travel to England in October to represent the USA and take part in both the annual FF Festival at the famed Brands Hatch circuit, and the Walter Hayes Trophy race weekend at Silverstone, home of the British Grand Prix. 

As the newest members of Team USA Scholarship, Bickers and Eidson follow in the footsteps of previous scholarship winners [and eventual Honda-powered IndyCar drivers] Jimmy Vasser, Bryan Herta, Buddy Rice, Charlie Kimball, JR Hildebrand and Josef Newgarden.

“Being selected as a Team USA Scholarship driver is a dream come true, especially knowing the number of successful drivers who have come through the program in the past,” said Eidson, who won seven of 12 races this year to claim the F1600 Formula F Championship crown, run in the eastern United States.  “Having the opportunity to be in the same position as they were in their early racing careers is an incredible honor.”

“Words cannot explain how honored I am to be given this opportunity,” said Bickers, who raced motocross for several years before switching to karting in 2011 and has won four races so far this season in the west coast-based Pacific Formula F Championship.  “It means so much to join a long list of successful graduates such as Jimmy Vasser and Bryan Herta.  I am very excited, and ready to give my maximum effort on- and off-track, and carry the prestige of the Team USA Scholarship.”

The Team USA Scholarship program has been boosting the careers of young (ages 16-22) American racers since 1990.  Honda Performance Development has been a proud sponsor of this effort since the institution of the Honda Racing Line program in 2010.  More information on Team USA can be found at the organization’s website, www.TeamUSAScholarship.org, as well as on Facebook and Twitter. 

Eidson Claims F1600 Formula F Championship Series

Just prior to being named to the 2013 Team USA, Eidson closed out his successful F1600 Formula F Championship Series title chase with a record-setting seventh victory of year in the season finale at Summit Point Raceway in West Virginia. 

Eidson began his championship run with a May run four consecutive victories at Road Atlanta, Lime Rock Park (both races) and Mid-Ohio in his Cape Motorsports Spectrum Honda.  A sweep of both races in the second Mid-Ohio race weekend then vaulted him into a championship lead the Colorado-based driver would not surrender. 

But Eidson faced tough competition all season long from several other young chargers, led by fellow Team USA Scholarship finalists Adrian Starrantino, who swept the opening race weekend at Virginia International Raceway aboard his Bryan Herta Autosport Mygale Honda.  Starrantino went on to win two more times – once each at Mid-Ohio and Summit Point – to finish second in the championship.

Aaron Telitz has combined one win at Road Atlanta with a series of podium results to finish third in the championship in his Wisko Racing Mygale Honda and also was an early contender in the Team USA Scholarship competition. 

Additional information on the F1600 Formula F Championship Series can be found at http://www.f1600series.com/.

Herta, Bickers Battle for Pacific Formula F Championship

In California, the Pacific Formula F Championship heads to its October 4-6 triple-header season finale in Las Vegas with Bickers battling with Colton Herta for the series title. 

Herta, the 13-year-old son of former Honda-powered IndyCar and ALMS driver Bryan Herta has followed up a stellar karting career by scoring seven race wins so far in his first season of Formula F racing, and currently holds a 35-point advantage going into Las Vegas. 

But with 50 points available for a victory, and three races on the schedule for the Vegas weekend, the championship is still very much up for grabs between Herta and four-race winner Bickers, who has combined four wins with seven runner-up finishes to hand tough in the battle for the title. 

Herta and Bickers both drive Mygale Hondas for PR1 Motorsports, but continue to race each other hard and close as each seeks his first auto racing championship.  They also face strong competition from the Lynx Racing Spectrum Hondas of Alex Keys and Andrew Evans and all four “young guns” should be racing hard at the front throughout the Las Vegas season finale.

More information on the Pacific Formula F Championship series is available at www.pacificF2000.com. 

Honda Formula F Field Grows at SCCA Runoffs

More than 700 SCCA club racers – including a record total of 63 Honda Racing Line drivers – have gathered this week at Road America in Wisconsin for the annual SCCA National Championship Runoffs. 

Included in that number are 12 Formula F racers utilizing the HPD L15A7 engine, also a record for Honda participation in the revitalized category and making up exactly half of the 24-driver entry.

Tim Kautz, the first Honda-powered Formula F National Champion with his victory in the 2012 Runoffs, is back to defend his title in his Piper Honda; along with local favorite Jeff Bartz, who runs a Van Diemen Honda with support from David Hobbs Honda in Milwaukee.  Former champion Scott Rubenzer is another to switch to Honda power for his new Spectrum chassis, as is class mainstay Bill Kephart in his unique Vestal Honda. 

Drivers from across North America qualify for the Runoffs with their race finishes in SCCA National competition throughout the season, but the title “national champion” can only be earned by winning the final race of the season, which this year is celebrating its 50th anniversary and fifth consecutive run at the historic Road America circuit in central Wisconsin.  Additional information on the SCCA National Championship Runoffs can be found at www.scca.com. 


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Detroit Lakes, MN. (August 23-24th, 2013) – HPD and THR head to 2013 Ojibwe Forest Pro Rally with B-Spec Honda Fit

Team Honda Research partnered with Honda Performance Development to showcase the B-Spec Fit developed specifically for Rally competition at the Ojibwe Forest Pro Rally (OFPR), the sixth round of the Rally America National Championship. 

“Based on the interest in B-Spec from its inaugural year in 2012, we wanted to come back and run a full season to showcase the true competitiveness of the B-Spec Rally Fit," stated James Robinson, Honda engineer and driver for THR.  “In 2013, we hope to have more competition and excitement in the class, thanks to the continued involvement of Ford Racing and Toyota.” 

Moving on to the sixth of seven National Championship rounds, the B-Spec Fit was in a difficult position after the damage incurred at the New England Forest Rally.  “We had some pretty significant damage to our car from some of the rough stages at NEFR, and a very short time to tackle everything.” said Robinson.  “Fortunately for us, though, we had some huge help to get us prepared.”

With the strong support of the following Honda dealers; Honda of Keene, Della Honda of Plattsburgh, The Automaster Honda, Prime Honda – Saco, and Lee Honda, the B-Spec Fit was brought back to competition form in fewer than 10 days.  “Basically, when we finished the New England Forest Rally, we could barely drive the car onto the trailer.  Within two weeks, we had the car back from these dealerships ready to go! We can’t thank them enough for their support and belief in our racing program,” stated Robinson at the start of the OFPR, “Now, we need to make sure their hard work is rewarded with another good finish.”

With six stages to contest on Day One, the Fit set off looking for a safe and conservative run.  “Unfortunately, we’re running again with no service crew at this event, which means we really need to keep the car together as best we can,” Robinson noted.  “We’re fortunate in that we don’t have any direct competition in B-Spec at this race, so our primary goal is to finish.” 

By Stage 3, The Fit was setting top 20 overall stage times, and was eighth fastest among two-wheel-drive entries.  “We’re happy with our pace and, based on the conditions, I think we can maybe push a bit more, just for fun!” stated Jim Guitar, co-driver for the B-Spec Fit.  As Robinson mentioned at the final service on Day One, “Really, the only issue we’re dealing with is excessive dust.  We had an issue with our headlight alignment on Stage 4, but other than that things are going well.”

Unfortunately, in Stage 5, fellow competitor Cameron Steely’s Ford Focus caught fire, and the remainder of Stages 5 and 6 were cancelled.  “Of course, missing the last two stages is secondary to the safety of our fellow competitors, and we are just glad that they weren’t injured in the fire,” stated Robinson at the completion of Day 1.  “We were the second car to come up on the fire, so we did what we could to help until the emergency crews could respond, but unfortunately the car was lost.” 

Two Super Special stages started off competition on Day Two.  “These Super Special Stages are always difficult to deal with, because you have conflicting feelings about putting on a good show for the crowd while at the same time minimizing damage to the car,” Robinson explained before the start of the two identical short stages.  After seeing some of the key features of the stage, the B-Spec team opted for a very conservative run during Stages 7 and 8.  It ended up being the correct direction, as several cars ended their rally as a result of significant damage incurred from the large jump right in front of the grandstands. 

After completing Stages 9, 10, and 11, the B-Spec Fit headed in for the first of two major services.  “We couldn’t have been happier with the car overall,” said co-driver Guitar.  “We haven’t had to service anything so far – just add a few gallons of gas.” In fact, both the Fit and the THR Civic required no actual service besides occasional topping off of the fuel tanks.  “Although it’s very challenging to run Rally without a service crew, our Honda cars are proving that it’s possible,” added Robinson. 

By the final stage, the B-Spec Fit was setting the 15th-fastest time overall and fourth-fastest 2WD time.  “I think this shows that even with the power and weight disadvantages to the more highly prepared 2WD cars, the B-Spec formula can still net some competitive times,” Robinson said at the conclusion of the event. 

By the end of the OFPR event, the B-Spec Fit had finished first in B-Spec, fourth in 2WD, and 11th overall.  “The best part is that we never had to touch the car once,” Robinson noted. “We literally never changed or rotated our tires, and added 15 gallons of regular gas for the entire event.

“We honestly can’t highlight enough how reliable and economical this car has been this season. All told, we’ve changed brake pads twice, and this is the second set of competition tires that we’ve used all year. There’s enough life left in our current tires that we’ll be able to run the final round in October without buying another set.” 

“We want to thank everyone who made it possible for us to make it to this round – especially Marty Martin, Bob Phinney, John Aremburg, Dale Fillion, Joe Bombard, and Nate Dossantos for all their help in getting the Fit back into fighting shape for us,” Robinson said.  “Without their help, we wouldn’t have been here, nor had such an easy race.”

Look for the THR B-Spec Fit at the final round of the Rally America National Championship Series, on October 19-20th in Houghton, Michigan.

About Rally America:
Based in Williston, VT, Rally America, Inc. sanctions the Rally America National Championship, which consists of at least seven national-level events located at a variety of venues across the country, from Portland, Oregon to Newry, Maine. Top competitors in the Rally America National Championship reach speeds of well over 100 miles per hour, driving highly modified street cars such as Mitsubishi Evolutions, Subaru WRX STIs, Ford Fiestas and Scion XDs on natural-terrain courses consisting of gravel, dirt, ice or snow. For more information regarding Rally America’s National Championship or the sport of performance rally, visit www.rally-america.com

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