2012 Honda North American Motorsports Strategy
3/13/2012 4:36:00 PM
"Ever since I was appointed as the president of the company, I have been prompting systems and capabilities which enable us to develop edgy products."
- Takanobu Ito, Honda Motor Co. CEO; November, 2011; Tokyo Motor Show
American Honda Motor Co., Inc. (AHM) and its subsidiary, Honda Performance Development, Inc. (HPD), will continue to expand HPD's performance-brand footprint to highlight Honda's exciting and fun automotive products. This strategy gets a turbo boost in 2012 through three basic elements:
1. Underscoring the performance pedigree of Honda products through HPD. With the return of OEM competition in the IZOD IndyCar Series; its expanded sports-car programs in ALMS, WEC, and Le Mans; and new performance-product introductions across the grassroots racing spectrum, the Honda and HPD brands will demonstrate high value for our customers and unprecedented exposure for the Honda brands.
2. Customer-focused information and service. A major restructuring of HPD's customer-facing website offers a unique opportunity for fans to obtain real-time information about their favorite racing programs, an e-commerce platform to conveniently obtain Honda and HPD-branded products, and a chance to interact directly with HPD and its community of followers. HPD's new website, launching this month, will also be a place for consumers to experience the "fun" of experiencing Honda and HPD racing products.
3. A connection between Honda, on the track and in the showroom. Today, Honda's Fit, Civic, and Accord engines power racing efforts for many of our customers. This demonstration of power and durability provides an important proof-of-concept for consumers looking to buy the finest road cars in America's new-car showrooms. Many of AHM's and HPD's marketing activities at INDYCAR events will focus on this proof-of-concept. For example, HPD's new HI12RT IndyCar engine will feature Direct Injection (DI), allowing validation of DI technology in advance of its introduction into the all-new Honda Accord, which launches in mid-September, 2012. Technologies such as these will emphasize HPD's efforts to serve as a bridge between the track and the showroom.
In 2009, American Honda Motor Co., Inc. (AHM) and its subsidiary, Honda Performance Development, Inc. (HPD) launched a strategy to thrill customers who love the fun-to-drive characteristics of Honda automotive products. From 2009 through 2011, AHM and HPD expanded Honda's product delivery from "grassroots to pinnacle," serving customers in North American amateur and professional racing ranks.
The year 2011 proved to be successful for AHM, HPD, and their customers. Honda Indy V-8 engines powered every Indy car throughout the season, including the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race, without an engine failure. An HPD-powered team won the American Le Mans Series LMP2 championship and campaigned a Honda-powered LMP2 prototype to a class podium finish at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Additionally, Honda customers ascended the winner's podium in myriad grassroots events in North America, from karting to open-wheel to production-car racing.
Seeking continuous improvement, Honda will not spend 2012 reminiscing. This year's racing season promises to be an exciting one for Honda, its customers, and its fans, with new challenges and automotive products.
Honda Racing Line
The Honda Racing Line is the place where fun begins for Honda racing enthusiasts. Judging from the growth of the program since its launch in 2009, there are many more Honda customers enjoying the thrill of HPD's performance racing products.
In its expanding efforts to serve customers from "grassroots to pinnacle," HPD provides engines, parts, chassis components, and support for professionals and amateurs alike. In 2012, Honda Racing Line customers will participate across the North American motorsports scene. Their chosen venues include:
- QMA and USAC Quarter Midgets
- SKUSA and WKA Karting
- Pro Formula F Championships
- Atlantic Championship Series
- NASA Honda Challenge
- SCCA Club Racing
- Pro Touring Car Championships
- SCCA Pro Solo
With the diversity of racing classes and series served, the Honda Racing Line has become a virtual ladder to success for America's young race-car drivers. With robust Honda / HPD programs at the highest levels of open-wheel and sports-car racing, "grassroots to pinnacle" means something real to the racer who wants to use Honda's racing products to progress from karting all the way to a pro racing career in IndyCar or ALMS.
Honda Racing Line registrants will retain the opportunity to purchase performance automotive parts, HPD-designed parts, and branded components. These products are rigorously tested to give consumers the confidence that comes from HPD's years of success at the highest levels of motorsports.
HPD offers a line of race engines for track applications from pinnacle racing - as in Indy cars and prototype sports cars - to karting; for professional, amateur and entry-level efforts. In 2011, HPD augmented its line of crate-engine products with the HPD K20 engine. In 2012, HPD's in-house designed HI12RT will enter the IndyCar arena for the first time. Whether you are running a business, or driving your personal race entry, HPD wants to power your race car.
From 2006-2011, Honda served as the single engine supplier to the IZOD IndyCar Series. Powering Indy cars to victory over this period has provided a valuable opportunity for Honda to showcase its trademark reliability.
The Indianapolis 500 remains the largest single-day sporting event in the world, and provides Honda with a high-visibility platform for exposure of its products and engineering capabilities. The Indy 500 has not seen an engine failure since Honda began its sole-supply relationship in 2006. That's six straight 500's without a failure ... for the only six times in Indy 500 history.
This year, Honda will be joined by Chevrolet- and Lotus-branded engines in the battle for the INDYCAR Manufacturers' Championship. For its first year of multi-manufacturer IndyCar competition since 2005, HPD will bring its 2012 Honda HI12RT IndyCar engine, a turbocharged, aluminum alloy V6 with 2.2 liters of displacement, featuring electronic combined direct and indirect fuel injection.
HPD will campaign the 2012 HI12RT with a lineup of elite Honda IndyCar teams, including Chip Ganassi Racing, AJ Foyt Racing, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, Dale Coyne Racing, Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, and Sam Schmidt Motorsports. Leading the Honda family of drivers are IndyCar champions and Indy 500 winners Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon.
HPD is pleased to be supporting the new Atlantic Championship Series in 2012. Sanctioned by SCCA Pro Racing, the series' inaugural season will be comprised of six rounds at three events. Formula Atlantic has a rich history stemming from the Sports Car Club of America's launch of the Formula B class in 1965. Honda hopes to create a small niche for itself in the class's rich history and plans to showcase the HPD K20 engine as a cost-effective Atlantic power plant.
The HPD L15A7 engine continues to be the engine of choice for FF competitors in North America. Since its introduction in 2010, the engine has powered numerous competitors to victory in SCCA Formula F club racing, the F1600 Formula F Championship Series, and the Pacific Formula F Super Series. In 2012, HPD will continue expanding its support for this class, which is experiencing a resurgence of interest. With its success in the U.S., HPD plans to introduce its L15A7 FF engine into Canadian racing in 2012. The 1.5-liter Honda Fit-based power plant has been approved for competition in both the Quebec-based Formula Tour 1600 series and the Ontario Formula Ford Championship.
In 2011, AHM and HPD made Honda CR125 engine parts and rebuild kits available to kart racers throughout the United States via the Honda Racing Line. The Honda two-stroke engine is used in the popular Spec Honda and Stock Moto classes by a variety of karting sanctioning bodies. The Honda Racing Line now offers racers a new source for CR125 parts, engine-rebuild kits and technical support.
Last year, HPD again offered support programs for competitors using the Honda CR125 engine package during the 2011 SKUSA ProTour and WKA Dunlop Tire Road Race series seasons, as well as the SKUSA SuperNats.
Looking at market demand, HPD has created an installation kit, allowing the fuel-injected, four-stroke CRF250 to be installed into shifter-kart chassis. In 2012, HPD will look for opportunities to showcase this environmentally friendly power plant in karting applications.
In 2011, HPD continued to provide a variety of engines and parts utilized by quarter-midget competitors, including complete "crate" GX120 and GX160 engines; individual engine parts such as cylinder heads and pistons; and technical support via e-mail and phone. Last year, HPD also released details of a new support program for Honda Racing Line competitors during the 2011 USAC and QMA race seasons. HPD offered "HPD Bucks" to 1st- through 3rd-place finishers in designated classes and races.
Honda is pleased to continue its quarter-midget participation in 2012. The Quarter Midget Association (QMA) recently voted to continue GX engine sanction going forward. USAC has also committed to continue sanction of the GX power plant. Looking ahead, Honda Power Equipment and HPD will continue exploration initiated last summer toward development of an engine specifically for quarter-midget racing, at a price point which compares favorably in the marketplace.
Oval racing remains a cornerstone of the American motorsports scene. Honda is looking forward to broadening its participation in this format.
American Le Mans Series / World Endurance Championship
In 2011, HPD expanded its sports-prototype racing program by supporting four teams, campaigning in three separate championships around the globe. The new HPD ARX-01e made a stunning LMP1 debut in Sebring, capturing second place in its first outing and besting the factory Audi and Peugeot entries. Level 5 Motorsports unveiled Honda-powered Lola LMP2 prototypes in both the ALMS and ILMC championships and then surprised competitors by switching to the new ARX-01g cost-capped LMP2 chassis, ultimately winning the ALMS LMP2 championship. Two more HPD-powered LMP2 teams, Strakka Racing and RML Racing, campaigned the HPD ARX-01d chassis in the full European-based Le Mans Series and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Last season, in its first attempt at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Level 5 Motorsports completed a trouble-free run to third in the LMP2 category, leading the Honda Performance Development effort at the 2011 endurance-racing classic.
In 2012, HPD will support seven customer-lease programs in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) and the new FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC). This represents the high-water mark of Honda's involvement in the pinnacle of sports-car racing competition, and the opportunity to showcase the HPD brand before a worldwide audience. In the WEC, Strakka Racing and JRM Racing will campaign the new-for-2012 HPD ARX-03a in the LMP1 class and Starworks Motorsport will enter the LMP2 class with its new-for-2012 HPD ARX-03b chassis. In the ALMS, Muscle Milk Pickett Racing will compete in LMP1 with its HPD ARX-03a chassis and will be joined by the returning Level 5 Motorsports with its pair of HPD ARX-03b prototypes, and by Black Swan Racing with its HPD-powered Lola coupe. The ARX-03a will utilize HPD's 3.4L normally aspirated LM-V8 engine and the ARX-03b chassis will feature HPD's HR28TT twin turbo 2.8L V6 production-based power plant. Strakka Racing, JRM Racing, Level 5 Motorsports and Starworks Motorsport have all accepted invitations to compete in this year's 24 Hours of Le Mans, June 16-17.
HPD's road-racing program for production-based automobiles continues to grow as the 2012 season begins, with customer Honda and Acura teams racing in a variety of sprint and endurance series in both the United States and Canada.
Developed from the popular "Showroom Stock" club racing formula of the 1970s, today's professional series take that level of performance one step further, allowing limited engine and suspension modifications. The SCCA Pro Racing Pirelli World Challenge, Grand-Am Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge and Canadian Touring Car Championship (CTCC) all feature large fields, with fierce competition throughout.
Peter Cunningham's Wisconsin-based RealTime Racing has waved the "Caliper A" banner in World Challenge competition since 1996, winning a record-nine manufacturers' championships with an assortment of race-tuned Acura products. In 2012, RTR will campaign a pair of V6-powered Acura TSXs in the GTS category, after eight successful seasons with the four-cylinder version of this model.
In Grand-Am, Honda Civic Si is the weapon of choice in the Street Tuner (ST) division, led by Toronto-based Compass360 Racing, a multiple-champion in the category for Honda, and the Honda of America Racing Team (HART), made up of associates from Honda of America Manufacturing in Ohio.
The HART contingent returns to the Grand-Am ST class in its 2012 Civic Si in HPD livery, driven by former SCCA national champion Chad Gilsinger and Canadian Michael Valiante. A second Civic is expected on track later in the season.
Spec Showroom Stock Racing
In 2010, Honda Performance Development announced its intention to work with other manufacturers to create a new segment of race cars called "B-Spec", which would target the sub-compact market. B-Spec refers to all cars meeting a common set of rules, which can be adopted by any race circuit or sanctioning organization. Several sanctioning bodies have adopted B-Spec rules for classes from club to pro racing.
Designed to be an entry-level category, B-Spec cars feature showroom stock racing cars utilizing stock engines and chassis, fitted with competition roll cages, racing seats and other safety equipment; and manufacturer-approved suspension components, tires and wheels. In February 2012, HPD began offering B-Spec kits for the Honda Fit, which include a coil-over kit, front and rear race springs, camber bolts, cat-back exhaust system, brake line set (braided stainless), front brake-pad set, air filter and air-conditioning delete belt. The cost of the kit is $2,800.
After making its Pikes Peak International Hill Climb debut in 2010 with the Honda Ridgeline, HPD returned in 2011 and introduced the HPD Desert Pilot Trophy Truck. Developed by HPD and California Race & Rally, the Desert Pilot finished the "Race to the Clouds" with a solid eighth-place position in class. After this first outing, the Pilot entered its true realm in SCORE and BITD off-road desert races. Driven by Gavin Skilton, the Desert Pilot completed the Baja 1000 in its inaugural attempt. The 2012 season will see continued development of the Desert Pilot for this challenging endurance-racing format.
The Ohio-based Team Honda Research (THR) Rally team also competed in the 2011 Pikes Peak Hill Climb to showcase the rally version of HPD's entry-level B-Spec Fit racecar. Utilizing the same low-cost concept as the road-racing B-Spec format, the small displacement Fit was a fan favorite. THR-Rally then took the same B-Spec Fit to compete in stage rally and rallycross events. This has helped the concept of B-Spec rallying take hold; as a result, sanctioning body Rally America has adopted the format for the 2012 season. THR-Rally will compete in the 2012 Rally America championship as one of the first B-Spec competitors in the series.
Racing is in the DNA of Honda associates no matter where they are throughout North America. The 2012 season will see Honda associates spending their off-work hours and weekends feeding this passion.
The Honda R&D (HRA)-based teams of Team Honda Research (THR) in Ohio and Team Honda Research-West (THR-W) in California will compete on road courses in SCCA National and Regional Club Racing and the NASA HPD Honda Challenge series. Additionally, these teams once again expect to field their annual combined effort in the NASA 25 Hours of Thunderhill.
The Velocity Motorsports Club (VMC) from Honda of Canada Manufacturing (HCM) is busy preparing its 2012 Civic Si entry for the Canadian Touring Car Series. VMC will be utilizing much of the know-how from HPD's 2012 Civic Si touring-car development program.
The Honda of Alabama factory also boasts its own racing spirit by utilizing the Alabama-built Honda Odyssey and Honda Pilot models for its associate race team. The Odyssey is a unique and highly competitive entry in the One Lap of America event, while the Pilot is used for SCCA Rallycross competition.
The HART Drag Racing Team will compete with two vehicles in the NHRA - North Central Division. The twin-turbocharged NSX engine-powered Accord, which has completed the quarter mile in 7.07 seconds at 193.77 mph, will compete in the Competition Eliminator CC/AT class. A Civic with a supercharged NSX engine will compete in the Super Street Class (10.90 Index).
The HART Autocross Team will compete with four vehicles in 2012 at local, regional, and national Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) Solo 2 autocross events. Competing in the Prepared class will be a heavily modified Civic Si and RSX. A pair of S2000s will also compete, one in Stock class and the other in the Street Touring class.
Street Performance Concepts
Honda's unwavering dedication to engineering a street car for which every detail is tuned to perfection is at the root of every Honda brand impression. The heart of the HPD brand is the expression of the passion and innovation that is Honda performance. The 2010 SEMA Show in Las Vegas marked the first time that HPD performance products appeared in Honda concepts for the street. HPD also partnered with American Honda in its 2011 SEMA display. As HPD's performance pedigree deepens on the race track, customer interest in the street-performance future of Honda OEM products increases. In 2012, HPD will expand activities related to street performance, while continuing its direct-to-the-dealer dialogue about the HPD performance brand.
Starting in 2009, HPD began a new commercial program offering officially licensed HPD and Honda Racing products for sale in the United States. In 2011, the Honda Racing Store expanded its reach to consumers, including the creation of a new wholesale program for Honda dealers throughout the country.
In 2012, HondaRacingStore.com, the official source of licensed Honda Racing products and apparel, will expand its reach with a new website offering products which celebrate Honda's racing heritage and the success it continues to enjoy on the racetrack.
Whether our customers love to race their own Hondas in sanctioned motorsports events, or cheer their favorite cars and drivers to victory, American Honda's motorsports initiatives seek to bring the excitement of Honda Racing closer to consumers. As programs such as the Honda Racing Line grow in popularity, our customers will have enhanced access to dependable Honda Racing performance products. Through application of HPD's advanced technologies, Honda and Acura engines will continue to power racers and teams into Winner's Circles and the hearts of Honda Racing fans.
For Honda, racing offers much more than an opportunity to highlight the quality of our products or our on-track accomplishments. We hope that in 2012, the sport of racing will be more fun for our customers because of Honda products.