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Honda Performance Development

 

Now entering its third decade, Honda Performance Development (HPD) is the technical operations center for Honda’s high-performance racing engines, including the new Honda HI14TT twin-turbocharged Indy V6 engine utilized in IndyCar Series competition; chassis and engines that produced a pair of championships in the 2013 American Le Mans Series; and a wide range of products for amateur, club and entry-level professional racing.

From entry-level competition, such as karting and quarter midgets, to the pinnacle levels of motorsports found in IndyCar Series and international sports car racing, HPD has expanded its strategy over the years, offering a complete ladder of products to meet the needs of competitors at all levels of the sport.

Founded in 1993, when Honda announced plans to enter American open-wheel racing, HPD began Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) competition in 1994, winning its first manufacturers’ and drivers’ championships in 1996. Three more manufacturers’ titles (in 1998, ’99 and 2001), five drivers’ crowns (1997-2001) and 65 race wins followed.

HPD entered the IndyCar Series in 2003, and from 2003-05, Honda teams and drivers scored 28 victories in 49 races, including the 2004 and ’05 Indianapolis 500s, Manufacturers’ Championships, and drivers titles for Tony Kanaan (2004) and Dan Wheldon (2005). From 2006-2011, Honda became the single engine supplier to the IndyCar Series. Through six years as the single engine supplier, 98 different drivers completed 1,188,376 miles of practice, qualifying and racing with only six race-day engine failures. No race-day failures were reported for the entire 2008, 2010 and 2011 race seasons.

For the same period, Honda powered the entire 33-car starting field at the Indianapolis 500. And for six years in a row – and the only six times in Indy 500 history – there was not a single engine-related retirement in the event. In 2012, manufacturer competition returned to IndyCar, with Chevrolet and Lotus joining Honda in preparing new-era 2.2-liter V6 turbocharged engines. Dario Franchitti joined the exclusive ranks of thee-time Indy winners and gave Honda its ninth consecutive ‘500’ triumph.

A major milestone was reached in 2013, when Honda recorded its 200th Indy car race victory with a 1-2-3 sweep at Pocono Raceway, led by Scott Dixon and teammates Charlie Kimball and Franchitti. Dixon went on to win the 2103 IndyCar Series championship, the ninth Indy car championship for a Honda-powered driver in 14 years of multi-manufacturer Indy car competition.

HPD undertook a new challenge in 2007 under the Acura brand: endurance sports-car racing in the American Le Mans Series. A new racing engine, the 3.4-liter AR6 LM-V8, was designed and produced entirely in-house at HPD’s Santa Clarita headquarters.

HPD also combined with technical partner Wirth Research to produce its first sportsprototype chassis, the ARX-01a, to race in the ALMS LMP2 class. The program debuted in spectacular fashion in March 2007, with the ARX-01a winning LMP2 – and finishing second overall – at the 12 Hours of Sebring. In 2009, HPD moved up to LMP1 with the pioneering wide-front-tire Acura ARX-02a chassis and 4.0-liter AR7 LM-V8 engine. HPD swept both categories in the American Le Mans Series, winning both the LMP1 and LMP2 Manufacturers’ Championships.

The HPD sports-car racing program expanded to Europe in 2010 and became worldwide in scope with its introduction to the World Endurance Championship in 2012. Again, success followed quickly, with Strakka Racing’s HPD ARX-01c winning LMP2 and finishing fifth overall at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Success continued with championshipwinning efforts in both the 2010-11 European Le Mans Series and American Le Mans Series.

The new ARX-03 chassis debuted in 2012, and, paired with HPD’s latest normally aspirated Honda LM-V8 engine in LMP1 and the production-based Honda HR28TT twinturbocharged V6 engine in LMP2, continued HPD’s winning ways around the world. HPD and its teams swept the ALMS engine, chassis, team and drivers’ championships as well as the Michelin GreenX Challenge for the LMP category; won LMP2 at the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the second time in three attempts, and claimed the LMP2 title in the inaugural FIA World Endurance Championship.

The winning ways for HPD and its teams continued in 2013, and they again swept both prototype categories in the final year of American Le Mans Series competition, prior to merging with GRAND-AM to create the 2014 Tudor United SportsCar Championship. In LMP1, the Muscle Milk Pickett Racing HPD ARX-03c scored a series-record eight consecutive overall victories. That streak ensured a second-consecutive American Le Mans Series constructors’ championship for HPD, engine championship for Honda, team championship for Muscle Milk Pickett Racing and drivers’ championship for drivers Klaus Graf and Lucas Luhr. HPD teams likewise dominated in LMP2, completing another sweep of the engine, chassis, team and drivers’ championships. HPD again dominated the Michelin GreenX Challenge, and finished 2013 as the award’s most successful prototype manufacturer.

HPD continued to grow throughout the decade, expanding and improving long-term touring car programs. In 2009, HPD announced a new Grassroots Motorsports initiative, introducing a new engine for the popular Formula F category; expanding Honda support for karting, quarter midget, NASA and SCCA Club Racing; developing the Honda Fit for the popular new B-Spec category; and entering off-road and rally competition. HPD continues to explore additional ways to assist amateur and entry-level professional racers in achieving their motorsports goals.

Today, HPD operates out of a multi-level, 123,000-square-foot Research & Development facility in the northern Los Angeles suburb of Santa Clarita, California. HPD’s headquarters includes engine design facilities; comprehensive engine R&D operations; prototype and production parts manufacturing; race-engine preparation and rebuilding areas; a material analysis laboratory; quality-control inspection areas; five engine dynamometer test cells; a machine shop; an electronics lab; a parts center; administrative offices and multiple meeting/conference rooms.

After joining the company as its first associate and General Manager in 1993, Robert Clarke served as president of Honda Performance Development from 2005-2007. Previously, HPD was headed by Thomas Elliott (1993-2002) and Yasuhiro Wada (2003- 2004). From 2008-2012, Erik Berkman, one of Honda R&D Americas’ most experienced project leaders, served as HPD president, and later added the duties of Vice President of Corporate Planning and Logistics for parent company American Honda Motor Co., Inc.

In 2012, Art St. Cyr, chief engineer for automobile development at Honda R&D, took over the dual reins of HPD President and Vice President of Corporate Planning and Logistics for American Honda. He continues to serve in that capacity, with the senior management team at HPD including Steve Eriksen, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer; Marc Sours, Senior Manager, Chief Engineer of the Production and Commercial Divisions; and Tom Reichenbach, Senior Manager, Chief Engineer of the Technical Division.

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