Monday was a day for celebration at American Honda in Torrance, California, and at Honda Performance Development in nearby Santa Clarita.
The manufacturer invited all its drivers who competed in three series during the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach weekend to its two Southern California headquarters. There was joy in both locations after Honda came away from the weekend with the biggest prize.
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver James Hinchcliffe won the Verizon IndyCar Series race in the No. 5 Arrow Honda. Following Sebastien Bourdais’ win in the season opener at St. Petersburg, Florida, it gave Honda back-to-back victories for the first time since a three-race streak (Iowa, Mid-Ohio, Pocono) near the end of the 2015 season and its first consecutive street-course triumphs since it swept the Houston doubleheader in the middle of 2014. Bourdais, who finished second to Hinchcliffe on Sunday, is shown above dousing his fellow Honda driver with champagne in post-race ceremonies.
“It’s been a pretty good start to the season,” said Art St. Cyr, president of HPD. “Winning the first two races of the season – and especially this one, at one of our ‘home’ tracks here in Long Beach – makes for a pretty satisfying start. However, we recognize there still are improvements to be made.”
Honda had 17 entries across three competing series over the weekend. Thirteen were entered in the Verizon IndyCar Series main event using Honda engines and aero kits. There were also two Acura NSX GT3s running in each the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the Pirelli World Challenge events.
Andy Lally and former Verizon IndyCar Series driver Katherine Legge finished seventh in IMSA’s GTD class Saturday, while Peter Kox ran 10th in Sunday’s PWC race. For St. Cyr, such a busy weekend as business as usual.
“It’s a pretty unique experience because this is the only time this year that all three series are on the same track at the same time,” he said. “It’s not that unusual because a lot of times we’re running on the same weekend; we are just in different locations.
“There are not really any more hours (put in by HPD staff),” St. Cyr added, “because they are all running at the same time and the groups are all separate. They are all really involved in preparing their own car. Just the fact that we are all doing it (together at Long Beach) makes it challenging for us in our technical trailers trying to seat everybody.”
In addition to its pro racing efforts, HPD produces a diverse number of engines and cars for a variety of grassroots racing disciplines. St. Cyr said HPD has a unique mission: to elevate its product to a large audience and keep fans interested.
“Part of what Honda’s about is we want to make fun-to-drive vehicles,” he said. “When you make fun-to-drive vehicles, it’s important to reach customers where you can touch them one-on-one. Running the grassroots program is important for us to reach those customers, even as young as 8 years old that are running quarter midgets.”
And, as has been the case with manufacturers since the beginning of racing competition more than a century ago, what Honda learns from racing contributes to its passenger vehicle development.
“We want to be known as a performance company,” St. Cyr said. “We want to show performance in our passenger cars, performance in our race cars, but the two are intertwined so that you can’t really separate the two.”
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!