HPD Blog

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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