HPD Blog

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Maxxis / HPD Have a Strong, Two-Podium Finish at Inaugural Southern Ohio Forests Rally!

Maxxis renewed its partnership with Honda Performance Development to continue campaigning the 2015 B-Spec Fit developed specifically for Rally competition at the Southern Ohio Forests Rally (SOFR), the fifth and sixth rounds of the 2017 Rally America National Championship.  In addition, the veteran Honda rally team would finally be debuting the 2017 Honda Civic Sport hatchback in overall two-wheel drive (2WD) competition. 

Over the past several years, the Maxxis/HPD Rally Team had already built up an impressive four National Championships in B-Spec, as well as some strong finishes in the 2WD Category.  Leading into 2017 season, the Ohio-based Rally team has begun plans to expand into outright competition in the highly competitive 2WD category. 

The overall plan has been to build a Type R-powered Civic and to work on getting its speed up to a level where the Maxxis team could complete with the fully prepared Ford Fiesta rally cars;  however, this plan became delayed due to the unavailability of certain key powertrain parts. 

“It’s awesome to get to work on the brand new Civic platform,” stated James Robinson, Honda engineer and driver for Maxxis/HPD. “Although we’ve had to postpone our plan to utilize the 300 horsepower engine from the new Civic Type R, we are still looking forward to having more horsepower than the Honda CR-Z that we ran at 100 Acre Wood [earlier in the season].”

An additional complication for the SOFR event was that the team was cutting it very close on the arrival date of key rally equipment – the suspension.  “We were hoping to receive the rally springs and dampers prior to the start of the Rally, but unfortunately, we had to run with what the car with stock parts,” explained James at Scrutineering.  “Running stock ride heights and soft springs will definitely add some complications to our race.”

The Southern Ohio Rally is set in the middle of the picturesque forests of southern Ohio, making it a beautiful and challenging round in the National Championship. The smooth, fast, yet technical roads for the SOFR take advantage of the unique hilly terrain in Ohio. They challenge 2WD competitors to find the best way to keep the cars moving quickly, despite the dangerous and tight nature of the corners. 

“This is the first time for any of us to run these roads ever,” Robinson explained, “Considering our stock suspension and the new platform that we’ll be testing out, we are very interested in running an exploratory Rally, just to get the feel for the car and bring it home in one piece.”

With 15 stages to contest on the opening day, the new Civic and the B-Spec Fit teams set out to establish a strong pace against the competition.  “We’ve got a super tough field here in B-Spec, so we’ll have work hard to get to the top of the podium,” driver Dan McCarron noted at the first service of the day.  “The conditions are fantastic, though, so we’re going to go as fast as we can!”

After Stage 5, the new HPD / Maxxis Civic rolled into the first service with no problems.  The most surprising situation was that, despite the new car and challenging vehicle setup, the veteran team of James Robinson and Brian Penza had moved up to fifth overall and second in 2WD.  “I am entirely shocked at how well this is going!  This is completely a blessing to be where we are, and I think this is a real testament to the drivability and speed of this new Civic,” stated Robinson at service.  “We were actually worried about having any competitiveness at all, but this car is really surprising us with its speed.”

In addition to the B-Spec Fit and the new Civic, the Maxxis CR-Z returned in the hands of 2016 B-Spec National Champion Jordan Guitar.  Quickly coming to terms with the new platform, Guitar and teammate John Sharps were setting competitive times in the 2WD class. 

Unfortunately, for the B-Spec Team of Dan McCarron and Matt Blake, an “off” on Stage Five put the B-Spec Fit on its roof.  “We had a super slow roll on Stage 5, which puts us down quite a ways on the leaderboard,” Dan said during service, “We’re lucky the Fit is so robust, because there is only cosmetic damage to the car and we’re ready to get back after it!”

By the end of Day 1, the Maxxis team had all three team cars running strong.  “We definitely slowed a bit during the night stages,” Robinson stated at the end of Stage 15.   “We’re feeling pretty confident about the Civic, though, and we’ll be ready to push again tomorrow,” he stated.

Moving into Day 2, the B-Spec Fit team was clawing back time against its competitors.  “We’re making time back against the Yaris [driven by the talented Tracey Gardner],” observed McCarron before the start of the final stages, “It’s definitely going to be a race to the finish.”

The new team of Jordan Guitar and John Sharps were keeping the CR-Z quick and consistent all day, as well.  “We’re really starting to get the hang of this car, and we’re going to ramp the pressure up!” said Guitar at the second service on Day 2. 

Proving that the new Civic platform will be a contender, the team of James Robinson and Brian Penza was trading overall fastest times in 2WD with the top teams.  “I’m so impressed with how drivable and easy this new Civic is,” observed Robinson before the start of the final stages. “We’re going to have a really fast car on our hands when we finish the conversion to the Type-R spec!”

By the end of Day 2, the Maxxis / Honda team had secured some excellent finishes, taking second in 2WD, sixth overall for the new Civic; fifth in 2WD, 11th overall for the CRX; and first in B-Spec, 26th overall for the B-Spec Fit. “What an amazing event for our team,” said Robinson at the event’s conclusion.  “Not only could we get all cars to the finish, but we were able to also get two of our cars on the National Podium!”

“We had an overall great event,” Robinson said at the awards ceremony. “I’m so impressed with Dan McCarron and Matt Blake, to see them get the B-Spec Fit to first place after rolling!  In addition, I am very grateful to have Jordan Guitar and John Sharps back in Rally [competition].  I’m very much looking forward to the next round and hopefully, driving our Civic with a lot more horsepower!” 

Southern Ohio Forests Rally Results:
Overall Finish Time
In Class
Honda Civic
Honda CRZ
Honda Fit

Look for the THR B-Spec Fit, CR-Z and the new THR Rally Civic throughout the 2017 Rally America Series.

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