HPD Blog

Friday, June 20, 2014

HART Gets Redemption at Kansas Speedway

After HART crossed the finish line first in the 2013 Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge event at Kansas Speedway, the celebration was short-lived, as the Race Director handed the team a 10-spot penalty for “manipulating the restart” on the final lap.  The team appealed the penalty, but ultimately had to go home in 11th position after fighting so hard throughout the race.  For 2014, the team still had high hopes but cautiously approached the event, as it would be battling against the new Porsche Cayman and anything could happen.
The Kansas schedule would be unlike any other schedule this year.  There would be two, one-hour practice sessions running into the evening on Friday and qualifying would not take place until 9:15pm.  With a busy day and a late night ahead, the team prepared for the worst (and it’s a good thing they did).

Both cars headed on track for the first practice with strong hopes of running up front.  Michael Valiante was able to place the #93 car at the top of the list before pitting, while the #92 was getting up to pace since Steve Eich and Kevin Boehm had little time on the Kansas circuit.  As Chad Gilsinger started his first stint behind the wheel in the #93, he managed to run only two laps before the clutch disk broke.  At almost the exact same time, the #92 had a drive shaft failure.  Both cars were able to make it back to the paddock and the team went to work.
With only a few hours in between sessions, the crew had its work cut out to perform the necessary repairs.  Luckily, the HART crew is one of the best in the paddock and did not panic. They simply got the job done.  Both cars would be ready for the second practice and the team still needed to gather valuable data on both setups and the new brake package which had been provided by HPD.   As both cars hit the track, the #93 quickly had a problem.  The transmission would permit gear changes, but the gates were very “notchy,” making it difficult to change gears quickly.  Gilsinger brought the car in immediately so the crew could diagnose the problem, as qualifying was only a couple hours away.  Meanwhile, the #92 car was providing valuable data for the team and its drivers were gaining needed experience on track.  Crew chief Andrew Salzano was also running calculations on fuel mileage to use for race strategy.  With the session winding down, the #92 once again started having drive shaft problems and the 4th gear of the transmission was starting to feel weak.
As qualifying approached, the team was working diligently trying to get both cars prepared. The #93 was found to have the wrong pressure plate/clutch disk pairing, so the team had to pull the transmission one more time for repairs.  For #92, the team worked to build new drive shafts, but decided to wait to change the transmission until after qualifying.  In order to better understand the drive shaft concerns, the team installed a GoPro camera on the subframe and pointed it towards the drive shaft to see what was happening.  This would give the team a “real time” visual on the car and would hopefully indicate the cause of the failure.
At Kansas, the draft is worth up to two seconds in lap time so it is crucial to pair up with someone in qualifying.  Luckily, HART runs a multi-car team and the plan for #92 and #93 was to work together to provide each other a draft.  With all the repairs that were needed, the #92 car was not quite finished when the cars went to grid.  This left #93 without a “wingman” and would make things more challenging.  As the cars rolled onto the track, the #93 tried to pair up with one of the Porsches that had demonstrated good pace earlier.  Unfortunately, the Porsche overshot Turn One starting its first hot lap and cost #93 valuable time.  The #92 was able to make it on track and was searching for a drafting partner.  With both cars having radio communication, Eich and Gilsinger planned a method to get both cars a good lap.  As time was winding down, Eich was able to get a good draft off of the CRG Civic Si and #93 and posted a lap time that put it in the top five.  Gilsinger was still struggling trying to find a draft, so Eich put himself in a position to help.  On the last lap, Gilsinger was able to get a small draft off #92 and bettered his time to take the sixth position.  As qualifying came to an end, Gilsinger managed to hold onto sixth, while Eich was bumped back to seventh.  All in all, it was a great ending to a disastrous day.
After a wild Friday, the team had some time to rest on Saturday, since the race would not start until 6:15 p.m. and would end under the lights.  Steve Eich would start the #92 car and Chad Gilsinger started the #93.  Even though the race was late, the team had plenty to prepare for.  The #92 still needed a transmission and the drive shaft failure was still a concern.  The team analyzed the GoPro video and it seemed that the failure was occurring when the car was loaded up on the banking.  To reduce some of this compression and angle on the drive shafts, the team decided to stiffen up the front of the car by adding higher-rated H&R springs.  Once again, the team did an amazing job and had both cars cleaned and ready for the Fan Walk before the race.
This would be the first time the cars could start near each other.  The goal of the drivers was to work together and work their way into the top five.  The team knew it had a tough battle, as four of the top five cars we new Porsche Caymans.  As the green flag flew, Gilsinger had a great run going into Turn One and was able to move  into fourth place.  Meanwhile, Eich lost a couple spots because the car in front of him was “sleeping” at the start and he was not allowed to pass until crossing the start/finish line.  With this race taking place on a smaller road course inside an oval, there were not many corners, so the anticipation of yellows was low.  Eich was able to battle back up to fifth position and Gilsinger was able to stay in fourth after the first hour of the event.
Seeing that a yellow flag condition was unlikely, Andrew Salzano formulated a strategy to pit both cars under green as their pit windows opened.  Both were able to open up a bit of a gap to the cars behind them and this would give them an advantage.  Once again, the team did an amazing job in the pits and both cars were serviced and out without losing any time.  As the first round of pit stops came to a close HART found itself sitting in second place for #93 and seventh place for #92, with Valiante and Boehm, respectively, now at the wheel.
With about an hour left, the final caution period of the race was ending and Valiante was ready to move to the front.  As the track went green, Valiante took his Honda into the lead, passing Charles Espenlaub in the Porsche Cayman, which had started from the ST pole.  At the same time, another Cayman was moving  through the field and putting major pressure on Valiante.  The two battled back and forth and even made periodic contact.  It was a true nail-biter, but in the end Valiante and Gilsinger came out ahead in a tough battle with the Porsche Cayman of Will and Wayne Nonnamaker. The Honda edged the Nonnamaker Porsche by just 79 one-hundredths of a second at the checkers.  Unfortunately, the #92 once again had a drive shaft failure which forced Boehm to retire the car.
"This was one of the toughest wins I've had, with that much pressure and knowing that second and third [places] were coming," said Valiante. "I knew I couldn't make any mistakes, particularly when they were on my bumper. I kept telling myself, 'Hit your marks … hit your marks' and get good exit shots, and I was able to pull it off. That's one of the toughest wins I've had.
"The team finally got the “monkey off its back” and hopes to see the season turn around as it heads to Watkins Glen at the end of the month, a track where the team has seen victory  before.

You can follow all the action on the new IMSA website, www.imsa.com

The Kansas race will not be televised, but watch for upcoming events on Fox Sports 1.

The next Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge event will be at Watkins Glen, June 27-28.

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

Special thanks to all our Sponsors/Partners. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

HART Returns To Victory Circle at Kansas Speedway

HART Returns To Victory Circle at Kansas Speedway
Equipped with Honda Performance Development’s new brake system, the Honda of America Racing Team duo of Chad Gilsinger and Michael Valiante returned to victory Circle Saturday night at Kansas Speedway, claiming the ST class honors at the fifth round of the 2014 Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge Championship.
The updated Honda Racing/HPD brake package, recently approved for compeititon by the International Motor Sports Association sanctioning body, enabled the 2014 Honda Civic Si fielded by HART and other Honda-equipped teams to run  the brakes hard from start to finish for the first time this season.
After two hours and 30 minutes on the Kansas Speedway road course, Valiante and Gilsinger came out ahead in a battle with Will and Wayne Nonnamaker, with the Honda edging the Nonnamaker Porsche by just 79 hundredths of a second at the checkers.
“This was one of the toughest wins I’ve had, with that much pressure and knowing that second and third were coming,” said Valiante, who took over from starting driver Gilsinger near the mid-point of the contest. “I knew I couldn’t make any mistakes, particularly when they are on your bumper. I kept telling myself, ‘hit your marks, hit your marks’ and get good exit shots, and I was able to pull it off.  That’s one of the toughest wins I’ve had.”
Valiante first took his Honda into the lead with 45 minutes remaining, passing Charles Espenlaub in the  Porsche Cayman, which co-driver Corey Lewis had started from the ST pole. Wayne Nonnamaker – who took over for his brother Will at the mandatory pit stop - made repeated challenges in the final 30 minutes, but was unable to find a way past the HART Civic Si.
Lewis and Espenlaub finished third, followed by Ryan Eversley and Kyle Gimple in the No. 75 Compass360 Racing Civic Si. Eversley showed great confidence in his new brake package, repeatedly taking competitors deep into Turn 1,  while managing a driveshaft vibration and shifter issue for the final hour.
His valiant effort gave Honda two finishes in the top four at Kansas.  Both top-finishing Civics were running the sealed Honda K24 engine package, also available to competitors through the Honda Racing Line.
The next race for the Continental Tire Challenge will be at Watkins Glen International on Saturday, June 28.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Susquehannock Trail Pro Rally with B-SPEC Honda Fit

Wellsboro, PA. (May 30-31st 2014) – HPD and THR capture another B-Spec win at the 2014 Susquehannock Trail Pro Rally with B-SPEC Honda Fit
Team Honda Research partnered with Honda Performance Development and Maxxis Tires to showcase the B-Spec Fit developed specifically for Rally competition at the fourth 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 three rounds in the 2014 Championship, the B-Spec Fit collected three wins and two overall 2WD podium finish at the Sno*Drift, and Oregon Trail events.  With this strong start to the season, the team was prepared to fight for another victory in the fast, flowing stages of Pennsylvania. 
The Susquehannock Trail Pro Rally [STPR] marked the second event where THR and HPD partnered with Maxxis Tire to provide competition rally tires for the B-Spec Fit.  “We had great success with the R19 rally tire at the Oregon Trail Rally earlier this month, so we are looking forward to trying them out on this unique dirt / gravel surface!” Robinson explained at the start of Day 1. 
Starting the first day of competition in the notoriously rough stages, the team’s overall strategy was to keep competitive times, but try to avoid damage.  “There are two key stages today that are absolute car killers, and it’s very common for competitors to take themselves out of the race by trying to set fast times,” said Brian Penza, Robinson’s co-driver in the Fit.  “Our goal is just to stay competitive and safe, so that we’re ready for tomorrow’s fast, smooth stages.”
After the evening stages were finished, the B-Spec Fit was first in class, and running sixth fastest in 2WD.  “We had a bit of trouble with one of our front dampers, but we were able to make it through the first five stages without any real issue,” said Robinson at the end of the first night.  “Our goal now is to see how much we can push the pace tomorrow!”
Moving into the second day of competition, which included 11 new stages, the B-Spec Fit quickly started to move up the 2WD leader board.  “The roads are great, and we’re building a decent gap on our competition in B-Spec on every stage,” said Robinson at the first service of the day.  “We’re putting ahead by one to two minutes every stage, and setting the fourth-fastest time in 2WD at the same time!.”
By the second service on Day 2, the Fit was now 12th overall, fourth in 2WD, and first in B-Spec.  In addition, the smooth road surfaces were hardly putting any wear on the Maxxis R19 rally tires!  “We have three long stages remaining, and we haven’t even touched the tires since the start of the race. You really can’t ask for a more reliable setup!” Penza stated before heading back out for another round of stages.    
There was one big upset during Day 2, which saw the B-Spec competitor of Tracey Gardiner and Tabitha Lohr crashing out on Stage 10.  “We were sorry to hear about their crash, but we’re very happy that they’re both OK!” Robinson said. “Hopefully, this means we’ll see them at the next round.”
By the end of Stage 14, the B-Spec Honda Fit was running trouble-free and still first in B-Spec, fourth in 2WD, and 12th overall.  “We’re having a great time on these fast flowing stages, and I’m amazed at how well the R19 tire is working here at STPR,” Robinson noted. “We have only two remaining stages back at the fairgrounds, and we’re hopeful of another strong finish here at STPR.”
The team completed the final round and returned to the Main Time Control with another win in B-Spec, and a fourth-place overall finish among 2WD entries.  With this finish, the B-Spec Fit now has a dominant lead in the B-Spec National Championship, and moves into third place overall in the 2WD National Championship. 
“We really couldn’t have asked for a better result!” said an enthusiastic Robinson afterwards. “A huge thanks to HPD, Maxxis, and our fantastic crew for supporting us through this event.”

Look for the Honda Fit at the New England Forest Rally, the sixth round of the Rally America National Championship in Maine on July 18th!!
About Susquehannock Trail Pro Rally:
The fourth race on the Rally America National Championship schedule, and one of the oldest rally races on the schedule, Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally (commonly known as STPR) began in 1977. It is not only the oldest, but it is also the fastest rally in North America. With roads consisting of clay and gravel, the course is slippery, fast and extremely dangerous. Drivers travel at speeds reaching 100 MPH through densely wooded roads. The speeds combined with the dangerous course ensure that this rally is not for the faint at heart.
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.comwww.rally-america.com

Friday, June 6, 2014

HART Visits Historic Lime Rock Park

Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge: Northeast Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park recap
HART traveled coast to coast from Laguna Seca to Lime Rock for the fourth in a 12-race season.  Lime Rock Park is situated in the hills of Connecticut and is known for its park-like atmosphere. It is also known as a “bull ring” with its short track and tight confines.  This track is very difficult to pass on and can lead to aggression amongst competitors.  It is also a fairly high-speed circuit,  frequently producing lap times of under one minute.

This would be the first time for the HART drivers to visit Lime Rock.  With no test day and only two, 25-minute practice sessions, the team would need to use its expertise and engineering skills to dial the cars in with little data.  HART relied on driver feedback to get the most out of the reduced track time.  Since Lime Rock is made up mostly of right hand corners (only one left hand corner), Andrew Salzano and Ryan Breed worked their magic on the initial setup to add cross weight to the car, thus putting more weight on the right front tire in order to reduce abuse to the outside (left) front tire.

In the first practice session, all drivers were getting used to the track and trying to find their pace.  The weekend would include off-and-on rain showers, so the track was very “green,” with little grip.  By the end of Practice 1, the drivers were coming up to speed, but due to the short duration, HART’s drivers were only able to slot into the 23rd and 25th positions.  However, even though the times did not show it, HART was getting valuable information from both the drivers and the data logging.  HART was also testing a new brake package developed by Honda Performance Development (HPD) on the #92 car.  This package was intended to reduce weight, reduce heat build-up, and improve pad life, allowing for more consistent braking performance throughout a race.

In the second practice session, the drivers were more familiar with the track, so they could focus more on setting up the cars.  The team made changes to the dampers and stabilizer bar to increase grip and better balance the chassis, front to rear.  These changes proved to be effective, as the drivers moved near the top 10 and took almost a second off their lap times.  Leading into qualifying, the team attempted a few more improvements to the car, but these could not be validated as a rain shower moved through the area, causing IMSA to cancel the session (the IMSA series races, but does not qualify, in the rain).  When qualifying gets canceled, the starting grid is determined by championship points. This situation would work out all right for the #92 car, as it would be starting 10th but would be disastrous for the #93 car due to its poor finishes in the first two races (a DNF at Daytona due to contact and a poor finish at Sebring due to a driveshaft failure).  The #93 car would be relegated to 26th (out of 33) on the grid.

Steve Eich would start the #92 car, Chad Gilsinger started the #93 car.  Heading into race day, there was a strong chance for wet conditions, so the team prepared for anything weather-wise.  The goal for both cars was to stay out of trouble during the opening laps while trying to gain positions.  As the green flag flew, the 33-car field jockeyed for valuable track position going into Turn 1.  Needless to say, contact occurred and cars went everywhere.  Eich was able to make it through, but lost a couple spots in the process.  Gilsinger had a great run and weaved his way up to gain 10 spots on the first lap. On a track like Lime Rock, track position is key.  The team had to watch the race closely, updating strategy with each lap to make sure the cars pitted at the best time in order to gain track position.
Gilsinger never had a time to rest.  He managed to jump about 15 positions in the first 30 minutes of the race.  There would be another yellow before the 45-minute mark bunching the cars up once again.  Gilsinger was hoping to move up additional spots on the re-start, but was blocked by a slow-moving vehicle and was forced to make an evasive maneuver going into Turn One.  This sent the #93 car back a few positions, but fortunately no contact was made.  Around the one-hour mark, the #92 and #93 were separated by only one car, and both were running just outside of the top 10.  A full-course caution came out at that point, and the team decided to bring in both cars.

Michael Valiante was now behind the wheel of #93 and Kevin Boehm took over the #92.  Due to the great work of the crew, HART had the second-fastest pit stop and was able to gain about five spots in the pits.  With about an hour left in the race, Boehm was headed into the top 10 and Valiante had moved up to third!  As the race went on, there would be no more yellows.  The HART cars had good track position but due to all the battling to get there, their tires were wearing, and without a yellow they would be forced to stop for fuel.  As the time ticked down to about 20 minutes remaining, the team hoped for yellows, but they didn’t come.  The #93 car was in seventh position, with the #92 car battling for 13th.  As crew chief Andrew Salzano planned for a fuel stop, he also decided to put left front tires on the cars to give them more grip and hopefully, an advantage in the last few laps.  Once again, the team did an amazing job to get the cars in, serviced, and back on track without losing positions. The #93 was still in the top 10 and the #92 car was just outside.  All was looking good until the final couple of laps.  With two laps to go, the #92 car had an electrical glitch and lost power momentarily, causing it to lose about five spots. Then, with only one lap to go, the #93 car was hit by the #74 car of Compass 360, sending Valiante into the tire wall outside of Turn One. Valiante managed to maintain control and get the car back on track to cross the finish line in 10th.

“With the contact, we lost a few more positions than we should have, but coming home with a top-ten finish after startng 26th at a track like this is amazing,” said Gilsinger.  “The crew did an awesome job; they had the second-fastest pit stop and planned a great strategy. If we could just steer clear of other teams’ mistakes, maybe we could bring it home with a little less damage next time.  I would like to make it easier on the crew between events one of these days!”

“The new brake package worked great,” said Kevin Boehm. “We lowered our pad temperatures and were able to run the same set of pads through the practice sessions and the race.  We can’t wait to get this package on both cars for the Kansas race. That track is brutal on brakes.”

You can follow all the action on the new IMSA website, www.imsa.com
The Lime Rock race will not be televised but watch for upcoming events on Fox Sports 1.
The next event will be at Kansas Speedway, June 6-7.

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
Special thanks to all our Sponsors/Partners.

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