HPD Blog

Friday, May 23, 2014

HART Visits the West Coast at Laguna Seca

Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge: Laguna Seca Monterey Grand Prix recap for HART Racing


After a long break, the HART Racing Team returned to action, traveling across the country to Monterey, CA, home to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.  Laguna has a number of challenging aspects, including elevation changes, blind corners, and the infamous “corkscrew” turn.  The track tends to favor handling and RWD competitors, so members of the HART team knew they would have an uphill battle ahead.
This would be only the second time for three of the four HART drivers to visit Laguna, while Kevin Boehm would be driving the track for the first time.  Due to the team’s minimal data, and to give Kevin some needed seat time, HART decided to take advantage of the test day.  One of many nice things about Monterey is the weather. Every day of the trip was sunny, and the team was able to collect plenty of data throughout the weekend.
Throughout the test day, HART focused on collecting vehicle data and trying to get the cars set up to run well on used tires.  Laguna is typically hard on tires, and the FWD vehicles tend to wear tires out quickly.  “If we can get our cars to run good pace on worn tires, then we should have a good chance,” says crew chief Andrew Salzano.
On Friday, the IMSA event sessions would officially begin, and the team prepared for two 45-minute  practice sessions.  The goal was to try chassis settings that would work with the low grip conditions to give a consistent pace throughout the stint. The HART team knew it could make the car go fast, but could it keep up a consistent pace, lap after lap?  The advantage of having two identical cars is that you can try multiple changes simultaneously. The team tried different combinations on both #92 and #93 cars to see what worked best.  Throughout the practice sessions, the cars were typically among the top five in overall speed, so the key focus was longevity.  The team needed to control its tire management against the lighter-weight and better-balanced Mazda MX-5.  At the close of practice, HART members were happy with their pace, but they knew it would be tough to stay in the top 10 by the checkered flag.
The final session on Friday would be a 15-minute qualifying session.  Steve Eich would qualify the #92 car and Chad Gilsinger would qualify the #93 car.  The drivers took the track at the back of the field to make sure they could create a gap and have clear track ahead of them.  The Laguna surface is very hard on tires, with little grip, so it would be important to get a good lap early, when the tire was at its optimum.  Gilsinger jumped to the pole quickly on his first flying lap, but soon was knocked back to sixth.  Eich was struggling with traffic, which passed him on the “out” lap, but still managed to better his time for the weekend. After the post-tech qualifying results were released, Gilsinger had held his sixth place starting position, while Eich managed to slot into 15th.
“I am very happy with sixth,” admitted Gilsinger. “We knew the Mazdas and Porsches would be strong here, and there are four Mazdas and one Porsche ahead of me. We are the fastest front-wheel drive car, so I don’t think there is much more we could have done. Thanks to the team for preparing such a good car.”
Heading into Race Day, the team knew it would be a struggle.  Throughout the evening, HART worked hard to get the cars ready, but also worked on strategy, to get the best finish possible.  Race Day brought beautiful weather with a little bit of overcast (this would help with tire longevity).  The goal for both cars was to focus on tire and brake management, and keep the cars in the top 10.  As the green flag flew, both cars were able to maintain or gain position, while maintaining a consistent pace.
Gilsinger managed to jump into the top five before his pit stop.  There would be three caution flags in the first hour of the race, and this would help both cars conserve tires.  The team decided to pit #93 with the leaders to stay on the same strategy as they were. The top five cars pitted during the third full-course yellow.  This strategy would have worked out perfectly, but unfortunately, there was a GS class car being worked on in the pit stall just in front of HART’s.  There was not enough room to pull into the pit, and Gilsinger was forced to overshoot the pit stall, requiring the team to push the car back into place for fueling.  Everyone did a great job of reacting, but the #93 lost four to five positions in the process.  The plan for the #92 car would be to stay out longer and get closer to the fuel window, in order to give Boehm fresher tires for the end of the race.  This catapulted #92 into the top three before Eich brought the car in for the driver change.
Meanwhile, Michael Valiante was now behind the wheel of #93. With about an hour left in the race, he managed to battle into the top 10 and was in a three-way battle for seventh with two other Honda Civic Si’s.  The race brought multiple yellow flags, and each restart was a nail biter.  The Porsches had more power, and there were two of them waiting to take positions away from both #92 and #93.  Valiante and Boehm did a great job of defending their positions but ultimately, the tire wear was too much, and on the last lap, Valiante dropped two positions to finish in 11th and Boehm managed to hang on to wind up 17th. 
“With the yellows, we lost a few more positions than we hoped, but overall we are happy with the results,” said crew chief Andrew Salzano.  “The crew did an awesome job, we had the fourth-fastest pit stop out of more than 60 cars, and we sustained very minimal damage.  We knew this was not our track, but the events coming up on the schedule should fit the strengths of the Civic; we are sure to see the podium soon.”
You can follow all the action on the new IMSA website, www.imsa.com
The Laguna Seca race will air on Fox Sports 1 Sunday, May 11, at 10 a.m. EDT.

The next event will be at Lime Rock Park, May 23-24.

To keep up with HART’s progress and to see pictures and video of the cars and team, ‘Like’ us on Facebook  ( www.facebook.com/HARTracingteam )

Follow us on Twitter @HARTracingteam

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Oregon Trail Rally

Mt. Hood, OR. (May 2nd-4th, 2014) – HPD and THR capture another 2WD podium finish at the 2014 Oregon Trail Rally with B-SPEC Honda Fit

THR partnered with HPD and Maxxis Tires to showcase the B-Spec Fit developed specifically for Rally competition at the third round of the Rally-America National Championship. 
“We had a fantastic 2013 season, where we were able to finish first in the B-Spec National Championship and fourth in the 2WD overall National Championship. We wanted to come back and build on that success by refining the B-Spec package for the Honda Fit," stated James Robinson, Honda Engineer and driver for THR.  “We hope that 2014 will bring more competition and excitement in the class, thanks to the continued involvement of Ford Racing and Toyota.” 

In the first two rounds in the 2014 Championship, the B-Spec Fit collected two wins and an overall 2WD podium finish at the Sno*Drift event.  With this strong start to the season, the team was prepared to fight for another victory in the fast, technical stages in Oregon. 

In addition, THR and HPD were able to partner with Maxxis Tire to provide competition rally tires for the B-Spec Fit.  “We’re excited to try out the Maxxis R19 rally tires!  We know they have had success in Asia and South America, but this would be the first time to try them out in North American Rally,” James explained at the beginning of the event. 

Starting out on the first day of competition at Portland International Raceway, the team’s overall strategy was to feel out the new setup and tires, and try to avoid damage.  “Although the stages themselves are short and mostly take place on portions of the raceway, there is still danger in taking yourself out of the race by trying to set fast times,” said Josh Kramer, James’ co-driver in the Fit.  “Our goal is just to stay competitive and safe, so that we’re ready for tomorrow’s fast stages outside Dufur [OR].”

After the evening stages were finished, the B-Spec Fit was first in class, and running sixth fastest in 2WD.  “We had no issues with the car and the tires were giving us good confidence to push a bit on Stage 4,” said James at the end of the night.  “We’re hoping we can keep our overall position on the long, fast stages tomorrow!”

Moving into the second day of competition, which included eight new stages, the B-Spec Fit struggled to keep up with the faster 2WD cars on the wide open stages outside Dufur.  “We literally couldn’t have gone any faster today!” James stated at the second service of the day.  “Everything is going great with the car, but we’re just not able to keep up with the high-powered 2WD cars. We’re looking forward to tomorrow’s more technical stages.”
By the end of the Day Two, the Fit maintained its class position in B-Spec, but now was in sixth overall for 2WD. 

The final day began with the promise of more tight, technical stages, along with more inclement weather. As James said at the start of Stage 12, “We got rain last night, and it’s going to be raining a bit this afternoon, as well… This should help us out tremendously!” 

By the end of Stage17, the B-Spec Honda Fit had moved from sixth to fourth in 2WD overall.  “We’re having a great time on these tight stages, and we’re getting a lot of confidence from the new Maxxis R19 tire,” James noted. “Our goal is to conservatively push through the last stage and try and collect the most points we can in 2WD.”

The team finished the final event and returned to the Main Time Control to find out that the third-place 2WD car couldn’t finish the last stage, meaning that the B-Spec car not only finished first in B-Spec, but also collected another 2WD third-place podium finish! “We’re shocked that we were able to get this finish for the second time this year, and very thankful that we were able to run a completely clean race without mechanical issues,” Robinson said. “Due to the reliability of our car and setup, we were able to get ourselves back on the overall 2WD podium, which is a huge benefit to Honda for manufacturers’ points.

“We really couldn’t have asked for a better result! A huge thanks to HPD, Maxxis, and our fantastic crew for supporting us through this event.”

Look for the Honda Fit on display at the 2014 Grand Prix of Indianapolis on Saturday May 10th, and in action at the fourth round of the Rally America National Championship in Pennsylvania!

About Oregon Trail Rally:
The third race on the Rally America National Championship schedule, Oregon Trail is the only three-day rally event in the Championship, taking place in urban Portland, OR and through the Mt. Hood farmlands outside the city. With fast stretches and twisting foothill runs, this rally is always packed with excitement. This rally offers fans the best rally viewing opportunities, due to its accessibility and wide-open, unobstructed areas.

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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