HPD Blog

Friday, August 15, 2014

New England Forest Rally

Newry, ME. (July 18th-19th , 2014) – HPD and THR return to 2014 New England Forest 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 New England Forest Rally (NEFR), the sixth 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.
In the first 5 rounds in the 2014 Championship, the B-Spec Fit collected four wins and two overall 2WD podium finish at the Sno*Drift, and Oregon Trail events.  Even having missed the Mt. Washington Hill Climb in June, all the team needed was one more podium finish to clinch the 2014 B-Spec Championship.
The New England Forest Rally (NEFR) marked the third event where THR and HPD partnered with Maxxis Tire to provide competition rally tires for the B-Spec Fit.  “The Maxxis R19 Rally tire has worked well on the fast stages in Oregon and in Pennsylvania, so this weekend will be the real test for the durability of the tire,” Robinson said before the start of the first stage.
New England Forest Rally is extremely challenging for most rally teams due to its very rough, long stages.  With a promise of improved road conditions for the 2014 event, the new Fit team hoped to improve on last year’s result.  “Last year, we nearly couldn’t finish due to the severe conditions,” Robinson explained, “With the improvements we’ve made in the skid plates, we’re hopeful that we can make it through this event.”
With five stages to contest on the opening day, the B-Spec Fit team set out to fight against a newcomer to the B-Spec class, Veteran 2WD National Champion Chris Duplessis.  Unfortunately, his new B-Spec Ford Fiesta proved to be very quick on the rough stages.  “We’re going to have to work hard to keep up with Chris. He’s carrying a lot more speed over the rough conditions than we are,” Robinson noted at the first service of the day.  “It’s great to have such a challenging competitor, to push the limits of what this class can achieve!”
Moving into the second day of competition, the B-Spec Fit continued to trail the Ford B-Spec Fiesta by a little over a minute.  “It’s going to be tough for us to catch Chris; we’ve found that both of our front dampers have finally worn out,” Robinson stated at the beginning of Stage 6.  “Although the front suspension has worn out, we’re quite pleased that it lasted for two complete seasons, without any rebuilds.”
Moving through the second day, the B-Spec Fit maintained a competitive pace in 2WD but was predictably unable to reel in the hard-charging Fiesta of  Duplessis.  Finally, the Fit was able to finish 2nd in B-Spec, 5th in 2WD and 12th overall.
“Although we were hoping for a win today, we’re ecstatic about making it through the event without any huge issues, aside from our front suspension,” Robinson said at the awards ceremony. “The Fit was totally reliable over the whole event, and we had great success with the Maxxis R19 tire. 

“The best part is, our finish today allows us to mathematically wrap up the B-Spec National Championship, the B-Spec Manufacturers Championship, and also keeps our hopes of an overall 2WD National Podium alive, as well!”

Look for the THR B-Spec Fit at the next round of the Rally America National Championship Series, August 21-22 in Detroit Lake, Minnesota.
New England Forest Rally:

The sixth race on the Rally America National Championship schedule and always a favorite with drivers due to the technical demands of the course, the New England Forest Rally offers challenging logging roads with some of the longest stages on the Rally America National Championship.  This rally is also a crowd pleaser because of its stunning scenery and wildlife.  Quintessential northeastern settings such as winding creeks and one-lane bridges add not only beauty to the race, but also excitement, when encountered by drivers at breakneck speeds.

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.


Monday, August 11, 2014

Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge: Watkins Glen recap

HART Continues Podium Streak at Watkins Glen
HART has had a strong history at Watkins Glen International Raceway, with two podium finishes in the past two years.  Coming off of a win at Kansas Speedway, HART had high hopes for this year’s event at “The Glen”.  Both the #92 and #93 had shown strong pace leading into the weekend, and the team has been perfecting its pit strategy and pit-stop performance to give the cars an extra advantage in the race.
The weekend kicked off  with Practice 1 on Thursday afternoon.  The weather looked to be good all weekend, so the team planned for a dry race.  Watkins Glen is a much different track from the previous venue at Kansas, so the team used its valuable practice time to get the cars set up for the fast corners and large elevation changes of The Glen.  Due to past experience at this track, the cars were fast right off the truck, with #93 setting a top-five time.  The pace would be good but the drivers were struggling with longevity.  The cars could run fast times, but those times would fall off too quickly as the session went on, so the team focus for Practice 2 would be on consistency.
The team worked on chassis changes to make the cars more consistent and reduce tire wear.  Some focal points were camber changes and toe changes, to assist the car at turn-in, and support the car through the corner.  Practice 2 took place early Friday morning, so track temperatures were lower than they were earlier.  Both cars were able to lower their lap times, and the changes seemed to help the balance, as well as make the cars more consistent.  HART was able to move into the top three in the ST (Street Tuner) field, and the team looked good heading into qualifying.
As qualifying approached, the team had a more relaxed schedule than at Kansas. The cars had no mechanical issues and the team’s focus would be mainly on confirming chassis setup numbers.  The only hiccup during the entire weekend was a broken windshield on the #92 car.  Fortunately, HART always comes prepared and had a spare on hand which was installed before race day.  The strategy for HART drivers Steve Eich and Chad Gilsinger was to get a gap to the rest of the field and work together.  Gilsinger led Eich onto the track, and both drivers posted great times in the first couple laps.  Eich was able to get a nice “tow” off Gilsinger and posted his best lap on his first lap.  Gilsinger needed one more lap and posted his best on Lap Two.  Although both times were only about half a second apart, Gilsinger was able to qualify in the fifth position, while Eich would slot into the 12th spot. Both cars suffered from a little understeer during the session as the track temperature increased from Practice 2, but this would be similar to race conditions, so the team made note for future strategy.
Saturday was Race Day and the temperatures were in the mid-80s, with sunny skies.  HART was geared up to go for another podium finish.  As the race began, there was a multi-car crash on the front straight in the GS (Grand Sport) class, which forced the ST cars to take caution as they started their race.  The crash was right at the start/finish line and the track went back to green as the cars headed into Turn 1.  Gilsinger was able to make a pass for fourth place into Turn 1 while chaos ensued behind him.  Three ST cars came together and Eich weaved his way through the mess to pick up six positions by the time the track  went to a full-course caution on the first lap.  Due to the amount of debris, the caution lasted for more than 20 minutes.  When the track went green again, both HART drivers improved their positions even further, as both cars moved into the top five.  Just before the one hour mark, another full-course caution came out, putting both cars in their pit windows, so the team decided to make their driver changes.
Once again, the HART crew did an amazing job during the pit stop and put the #93 car, now in the hands of Michael Valiante, into the second position after pitting from fifth.  Valiante was able to pass for the lead at the restart and led the majority of his stint working with other Honda drivers who were running second and third.,  Meanwhile, Kevin Boehm was at the wheel of the #92 car and was moving towards the top 10 after being forced to pit out of sequence due to the team only having one pit crew.  Boehm was running great times when all of a sudden he felt a slight vibration, and then, the rear of the car fell down!  The right rear hub on #92 had broken, and the whole wheel and hub assembly came off of the car.  Running on only three wheels, Boehm did an amazing job of keeping the car off the guardrail, and safely managed to bring it back to the pits for service.  The crew once again did a great job, and actually got the car back on track to finish the race.
At the same time, Valiante was having a battle of his own trying to hold off the Honda Civic Si of Ryan Eversley and the Porsche Cayman of Remo Ruscitti.  The Hondas were no match for the Porsches, which used their power to motor past both of them.  With about thirty minutes remaining, the crew radioed to Valiante to save fuel whenever possible. If there were no more yellows, many cars would risk running out of fuel.  Valiante began to save fuel; unfortunately, this allowed cars behind him to close in.  With about fifteen minutes left in the race, the Porsche started to slow.  Ruscitti had run out of fuel, and this handed the lead to Eversley, with Valiante still in second and the #5 CJ Wilson Mazda on his bumper.  Ultimately, Valiante had to give up the second position due to concerns over fuel, but the team would still have been happy with a third-place, podium result.  The white flag flew with Valiante running third, but now, the Porsche Cayman of Will Nonamaker was closing fast.  Valiante made it all the way to the last corner when the fuel finally ran out, and the car “stumbled” coming onto the front straight as the Porsche motored by to take third.  Again, the team was happy to finish, and headed to post-race technical inspection in fourth position.
As with many professional races, teams often push the rules envelope to get the most performance possible out of the cars.  Sometimes they get away with it and sometimes the technical inspectors find that they have pushed too far.  The #5 CJ Wilson Mazda was found to have illegal suspension bushings and was disqualified from the race.  The #93 HART Honda Civic Si made it through tech and was moved back into the third position, extending a three-year podium streak at The Glen.
"I love racing here,” said driver Chad Gilsinger of the #93 car. “We have always been strong here and the crew once again made the difference in the race.  This year we did not have the strongest car, but we had the best package of crew, drivers, and car, and that is what kept us up front.  If the yellow [when HART pitted] would have come a couple laps later, I think we could have battled for the win, but I am happy with third and this helps us gain needed points in the championship.”
You can follow all the action on the new IMSA website, www.imsa.com
The next Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge event will be at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, July 12.
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. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge: Brickyard Sports Car Challenge recap

Indianapolis is the birthplace of motorsports in the US and crossing the yard of bricks is every driver’s dream.  For the eighth round of the Continental Tire Sports Car Championship, the HART drivers got to live that dream, and fight for a chance to stand on a podium shared with many racing legends of the past. This year would bring new challenges, as the road-course configuration had changed, but the team was up for the task of competing at such a historic venue.
The weekend kicked off Thursday, with two practice sessions and qualifying.  Most of the HART drivers had been to Indy before, but none had had the chance to drive the new layout that was finished earlier this year.  In the past, the Civic had been strong here, as Chad Gilsinger grabbed pole position during the inaugural event in 2012 and the team had led many laps in two previous outings here.  Lady Luck had been the biggest challenge for HART as both visits to Indy had ended with car damage after the #93 Civic tangled with competitors.
In Practice 1, the team focused on getting the drivers familiar with the new layout.  The team went out on older tires to give the drivers a feel for what the car would be like near the end of the race, and also used the opportunity to set the balance of the car.  As many other teams went out on fresh tires, HART struggled to stay at the top of the time sheets, but the drivers were gaining valuable track time.  The new road-course layout would not be as friendly to the Civic as the old one.  The circuit is tighter, and favors rear-wheel-drive cars like the MX-5 and the Cayman. It’s also much harder on brakes.
During Practice 2, the team investigated alternate brake pads, to guarantee it had a package that would last the entire race.  Both cars continued to work on the setup, as the team simulated a pit stop and installed new front tires to help understand the balance of the car following the stop.  With the front-wheel-drive Civic, it is crucial to get the tires to last as long as possible.  Once the front tires “fall away”, the car will lose almost three seconds a lap, while the RWD cars lose less than a second.  Understandably, this makes it VERY difficult to battle for position at the end of a race.  By the end of Practice 2, the team had made progress and managed to post times among the top 10, knowing that the car was capable of more.
As HART prepared the cars for qualifying, its strategy would be a little different.  Michael Valiante would qualify the #93 for this event, in order to get him out of the car sooner, so he could have more time to rest before his DP drive in the Tudor United Sports Car Championship race, which would start only 25 minutes after the conclusion of the CTSCC race.  Steve Eich was back after missing the previous race, and would once again qualify the #92.  Meanwhile, HART continued its strategy of having the cars work together to get the best qualifying advantage possible.  Valiante led the two on track and quickly jumped into the top three on the grid after his first flying lap.  The two cars ran nose-to-tail, pushing the limit every lap until the tires started to fall away.  At the end of the session, Valiante had managed to grab the third position on the grid, while Eich had to settle for 18th.  Both cars ran well, but neither was a match for the Porsche Cayman that grabbed pole with a time almost a full second faster than the Civic.
Friday was Race Day, and the temperature was once again in the low 80s, with sunny skies.  There was a small chance of rain later in the race, but the teams planned for a dry event.  The day kicked off the NASCAR Brickyard weekend, with opening NASCAR practice.  During the fan walk in advance of the CTSCC event, many fans shared their love for Honda and were excited to see the cars on track.   As the green flag flew, the cars were four and five wide heading into Turn One.  Valiante had a great run into the first turn, and tried to make a pass for the lead, but ended up losing a spot in the process.  Eich also had a great start and was moving his way forward.  After the chaos of the first few laps, #93 made a couple passes and had settled into second position, while #92 was trying to work his way into the top 10. It took only 15 minutes for a full-course caution caused by a crash in Turn One.  The caution would help the Civics conserve tires, but at the same time, it bunched the field again.  With plenty of car contact during the first few laps, there was already debris on the track.  This would make the restart tricky, as most cars would be forced to run “off line” in order to make passes and/or defend position.  When the track went green, #93 was already struggling, trying to keep the lightweight Mazda MX-5 behind him as the Civic’s tires started to fall off.  The #93 was in fourth place, trying to stay among the top five before the pit window opened.  Unfortunately, only 30 minutes into the race, the #93 ran over a piece of debris on track and its left rear tire went flat.  The team was forced to make an unscheduled stop for a tire change, and decided to also do the driver change and put Gilsinger in the car.
While #93 was in the pits, #92 was moving into the top 10.  As a result, the HART team would shift the “preferred” strategy to the #92 car, and hope that it could get the lap back for #93, while salvaging as many positions as it could.  Gilsinger would have an uphill battle, having to run almost two hours on a set of front tires.  With many cars involved contact, there would be multiple yellow flags. The #92 was able to pit in its fuel window to get Kevin Boehm in the car for the finish.  The car was in the top 10, and was on a great strategy to move up before the checkers.  Unfortunately for #93, HART was never able to get its lap back, and was forced to just run until the checkered flag, while hoping that others would drop out.  As the race moved into its final hour, radar showed rain moving into the area.  This could be an advantage for the FWD cars, but the question would be, when to pit?  Sprinkles of rain were falling on the front straight and in other spots on the track, but not enough to warrant rain tires. There was just enough moisture to make the conditions tricky for the drivers.  Boehm and Gilsinger did a great job keeping their cars under control during this time, but the rain came and went without creating the need for a tire change.  With less than thirty minutes remaining, Boehm was headed towards a top-10 finish when the car began to “stumble” in the switchback corners.  One lap later, the #93 was doing the same thing.  Both cars should have had enough fuel to make it to the end, but the symptoms seemed similar to low fuel conditions.  The #92’s situation worsened, and the team was forced to pit Boehm for fuel.  Gilsinger was able to alter his driving technique and nurse the #93 to the end.  As the checkered flag flew, HART could only manage to finish 15th with the #92 and 18th with the #93, while still being the highest-finishing Civics in the field.
After the race, the team analyzed the fuel systems of both cars and found that the fuel pickup lines had come loose from the bottom of the tanks.   This is why the cars had stumbled earlier than expected.  The team has already ordered new adhesive materials to address this issue, and will have the cars ready for the next event.
You can follow all the action on the new IMSA website, www.imsa.com
The next Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge event will be at Road America, August 8-9.
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. 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge: Canadian Tire Motorsports Park recap

                 HART Goes International and Visits 
                   Canadian Tire Motorsports Park

Canadian Tire Motorsports Park is the only international race on the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge schedule, but is well known to the U.S. and Canadian fans.  CTMP (formerly known as Mosport International Raceway) is an old-style circuit that is very fast, with many blind corners and little runoff area.  This is the kind of track where a small mistake can lead to big consequences, but a little bravery can gain many spots on the grid.

The event kicked off Wednesday with a promoter test day.  The HART drivers had never been to this circuit before, so it was crucial to get a head start on vehicle setup and allowing the drivers to learn the track.  Drivers Kevin Boehm and Michael Valiante would be the only ones able to make the test day, but both have plenty of experience setting up cars, so the team was in good hands.
In Practice 1, Boehm and Valiante had a good handle on the track, so the focus was to get the cars set up to run consistent pace.  The track is very fast, with little braking zones, which figured to make it very difficult to pass in the race.  Track position would be key, and the cars would need to maintain pace.  By the end of the opening session, #93 was in the eighth position and #92 landed in 15th .  There was very little time separating the top 10 cars, so a couple of tenths improvement in lap time could move a driver up many positions.
Practice 2 would be early Friday morning. With the absence of Steve Eich, who was unable to make the event, Chad Gilsinger would be slated for double duty this weekend, taking stints in both #92 and #93 during the race.  To do this, the rules required him to get practice time in each car, so Gilsinger started the session in #92 and finished it in #93.  With this being his first time seeing the track, he would spend the entire session working on his lap times.  Boehm continued to work on setup and perfecting his line, as well.  By the end of the session, both drivers felt much more comfortable even though their times were only good for 14th and 18th.
As the team prepared the cars for qualifying, the drivers were reviewing video and looking at data, seeking any little bit of time advantage.  As mentioned earlier, track position would be key, so qualifying would be more important than ever.  The qualifying session would also take place later in the day, when the track temperature would be much higher.  This often results in a drop in the cars’ lap times, so it would be crucial to get a good lap in early.  The two HART cars would once again plan to work together to optimize their qualifying performances.  There is one long straightaway at CTMP which can benefit the cars if they have a draft.  The #92 and #93 planned to share the draft lap after lap, in hopes of giving each car an advantage.  Boehm would be qualifying the #92 car for the first time, and Gilsinger would continue his qualifying efforts in #93.  Within the first couple of laps, the cars would see their fastest times before losing the sweet spot on the tires.  Gilsinger was able to make the best of his lap, putting the #93 in second place to start the race, while Boehm made a minor mistake on his lap and had to settle for 12th on the grid.  Once again, this proved how competitive the Continental Tire series is, as the ten-spot delta between the two cars represented only 0.7 seconds in elapsed time.
Saturday was race day and the temperature was in the mid 80’s, with sunny skies.  The crowd on hand was well into the thousands as many took advantage of the beautiful weather to see some great racing.  As the green flag flew, the roar of the cars filled the valleys of the circuit between its concrete barriers.  Gilsinger tried making a pass for the lead multiple times in the opening laps, but finally had to settle into second position.  Boehm had a good start and was able to maintain position just outside of the top ten.  Both drivers were pushing hard for almost an hour as the track stayed green.  Even though the tires started to show significant wear after about 30 minutes, #92 and #93 maintained position until the first caution flag came out, almost an hour into the race.  Gilsinger was sitting in third after being passed by the Mazda MX-5 driven by Randy Pobst, and the team needed to pit him to get him into the #92.  As the caution laps continued, the team prepared for its first stop, and all of a sudden, Gilsinger felt a vibration.  “I think I have a drive shaft going bad!”, Gilsinger radioed to the crew.   Shortly thereafter, Gilsinger found #93 without fourth gear.  The gear had broken, and the chance for a podium result would be gone.  Gilsinger would pit the car from third and Valiante would take over.  While the car’s chances for a good finish were done, the team decided to have Valiante continue, in order to pick up as many points as possible.
Now that Gilsinger was out of #93, the team planned to pit #92 once it reached its pit window for a one-stop strategy.  Boehm was now running in the top three, but was starting to have some misfire concerns.  As the car came in, the HART crew performed another amazing pit stop, and got #92 serviced without losing any time.  Gilsinger was now behind the wheel, and ready to make up for the problems of #93.  Unfortunately, #92 was already having problems of its own.  On multiple occasions per lap, the car would develop a misfire, causing a lack of power/acceleration feeling.  This would make it nearly impossible to pass other cars, while also making it difficult to defend position against other cars.  Gilsinger brought #92 back to the pits for diagnosis, but ultimately, there was nothing the team could do.  Both #92 and #93 would have to endure until the end of the race, simply trying to pick up the most points possible.  They finally crossed the finish line in 21st and 22nd places, respectively.  Later, it was discovered that #92 had a “fouled” spark plug which was causing the misfire.
"This track is the hardest track I have ever been to,” said Kevin Boehm, driver of the #92 car. “The corners are so fast and blind, with no run-off areas.  A small mistake can lead to a major crash.”  Even though the finishing results were not what the team members had hoped, they were still very thankful that the cars (and drivers) made it through the event with no damage.  Not all the teams were so lucky.  This would make it much easier to prepare for the next race at Indianapolis, now less than two weeks away.  The Continental Tire Challenge cars will be running on the new Grand Prix circuit used by the Indy cars, while also kicking off the Brickyard weekend. 

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

The Canadian Tire race will be televised on Fox Sports 1, Sunday 7/20 at 10am EST.

The next Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge event will be at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, July 24-25.

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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