Acura Factory Team To Join American Lemans Series In 2007
Outside a Porsche party, just prior to the New York International Auto Show in April, executives from the German company stood in the warm spring night and buzzed about some of the guests who had stopped by.
"The American Le Mans guys were just here," said one of them. "They've got some exciting news tomorrow."
Less than 12 hours later, Acura announced it was entering an LMP2 racecar into the American Le Mans Series. A year earlier, Porsche launched its own LMP2 car, which is run by Team Penske this season. But the Acura news was more shocking. As the spotlights in the Acura display speared the LMP2 prototype on a swivel stand against a backdrop of black curtains, oxygen left the hall in one collective breath of surprise. Acura will enter the ALMS in 2007.
"We're looking forward with great anticipation to entering the American Le Mans Series," said Robert Clarke, president of Honda Performance Development, which will develop and build the engines. "In addition to returning Acura to the international racing stage against other innovative automotive manufacturers, it allows us to continue to grow HPD into a world-class performance category."
Testing of the Acura-powered LMP2 cars, powered by 3.4-liter V-8's and riding on chassis' built by England's Lola Cars and France's Courage, begins this summer. Even though Acura will face tough competition in the LMP2 class against Porsche and Mazda, long-term plans call for the development an Acura LMP1 chassis and engine package to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and dethrone Audi's ass-kicking machine. When that happens, you can expect HPD to twin-turbocharge the 3.4-liter V-8. Good times.
"This news is the culmination of many years of hard work by all involved," said Scott Atherton, president and CEO of the ALMS. "While there still are some details to be worked out, Acura's entry into the American Le Mans Series will have nothing but positive repercussions in the seasons to come.
"Acura has made a commitment to us, and we are committed to seeing that Acura receives the same return on its investment as our other teams and manufacturers. This is the start of a wonderful relationship that is only going to grow stronger."
Hear Me Roar
Acura's new 3.4-liter aluminum V-8 will be built by Honda Performance Development in Santa Clarita, Calif., 30 minutes north of downtown Los Angeles, by the same hands that craft IndyCar engines. This makes the expected jump from LMP2 to LMP1, which will come sooner than later, as easy as adding a pair of turbochargers. Audi, we're coming for you.
New Element Goes For The Young And Hip. AgainYou don't have to stare long at the new Element SC to recognize what's going on here. The Scion-ification of Honda's boxcar is pretty obvious, from the dark glossy paint, sleek body kit and lowered stance. It also features a sport suspension, larger wheels and tires, carpeted interior and free passes to a taping of TRL in Times Square.
Honda isn't disguising its effort to reach a younger crowd, one that was the intention of the original Element. Kids, it seems, don't hang out much outdoors after all. They also don't care much about spill-proof floors, plastic cladding or transporting their mountain bikes to the beach. In fact, the Element SC assumes most aren't venturing out to the beach at all. Honda calls it an "urban remix," minus the Neptunes treatment.
"The Element SC prototype is the city-dwelling, style-conscious brother of the original Element," said Dick Colliver, executive VP of American Honda, which is Honda corporate speak for "You can't fake the funk on the nasty dunk."
The prototype features a 2.4-liter DOHC iVTEC, with a high-flow intake, exhaust and high-lift cams bumping engine output up 10hp from the '06 Element for a total of 166hp.
It also comes with drive-by-wire throttle and choice of a 5-speed manual or automatic transmission, the latter an upgrade over the original Element's four-speed auto. But the SC isn't focused on performance or utility. It's all about style, man.
"Instead of features that accommodate outdoor sports and similar activities," Colliver added, "the Element SC injects a new dimension of sophistication into the lineup that can best be characterized as 'night performer.'" Word!
"Our goal was to create the image of a sports sedan while maintaining generous interior volume and utility of an SUV," says Ricky Hsu, chief designer on the MD-X Concept.
Mission accomplished, we say. The MD-X Concept looks more powerful than the first generation SUV. It's wider and longer and more chiseled, like the post-nose-job Patrick Dempsey we see every week on "Grey's Anatomy." The concept sits on 20-inch, five-spoke wheels that lie under exaggerated arches with visible stamp lines in the sheet metal.
The silhouette looks more "crossover" than true SUV. The five-angle grille and front fascia creates a sharp appearance that vectors neatly into the hood. The windshield glass is flush-mounted. The windows have been designed close together, without massive B-pillars. The D-pillar is sharply raked forward. The rear hatch has been integrated into the backside of the SUV and sits flush against the bumper.
"The smooth lines and sleek shape of the MD-X Concept challenge the conventions of SUV design," Hsu explains.
That also includes performance. For the first time, the MD-X V-6 will be mated to Honda's Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system. And like most Honda vehicles, it's been tested on the Nurburgring. But as the MD-X Concept shows, the next gen SUV will push the market through cutting edge design.
"We want drivers to do a double-take when the vehicle passes them on the road," Hsu says. The production model goes on sale this fall.
Honda Greenlights Retail Sales Of Civic GX Natural Gas Vehicle In New Yawk.
Hidden by the overzealous hype surrounding its Si and Hybrid brethren, the Civic GX is starting to make waves of its own. Powered by compressed natural gas, which produces near zero emissions, the GX is the only dedicated natural gas-powered passenger vehicle available to retail customers in U.S. And starting this fall, New Yorkers will be able to buy the GX from selected dealers.
Primarily produced domestically, natural gas is cheaper than petroleum fuels, roughly 25 percent less expensive than gasoline when purchased at a refueling station, and around 50 percent cheaper when supplied by a home refueling appliance, something Honda is offering as well. More on that later.
Based on the all-new Civic, the GX achieves a city/highway EPA-rated fuel economy of 28/39 miles per gasoline-gallon equivalent and meets federal Tier 2-Bin 2 and ILEV zero evaporative emission certification standards. It also offers LX-style features and safety. It's equipped standard with a 5-speed automatic transmission and its 1.8-liter, 4-cylinder engine delivers 115 horsepower and 109 lb-ft of torque, both an increase of more than 10 percent over the previous model.
Also going on sale is a natural gas home refueling appliance manufactured by FuelMaker Corporation. "The Phill" mounts to a garage wall either indoors or outdoors and connects to an existing natural gas supply line. There will also be natural gas refueling stations located across New York state. The GX is already marketed to fleet operators with their own fueling stations. It's also offered with the Phill at select dealers in California.
Monday Morning Quarterbacking Aside, The IRL Driver's Death Looked Avoidable.The IRL lost rookie Paul Dana when his Rahal Letterman Indy car smashed into Vision Racing's Ed Carpenter during practice for the season opener at Miami-Homestead Raceway. It happened at the exit of turn two, when Carpenter spun his car and it slowly drifted down the middle of the track. Dana, a former journalist, hit Carpenter's left rear wheel and transmission at near full speed. Both drivers were airlifted to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, where the 30-year-old Dana was pronounced dead. Following the accident, Rahal Letterman withdrew the cars of Dana's teammates, Buddy Rice and Danica Patrick, from the race, which was won by Target Ganassi's Dan Wheldon. How Dana was not alerted to or able to avoid the slowly developing situation is a mystery. Anyone who has seen the horrific video will be left scratching his head.
Splash & Dash
The Indy Racing League announced that the Accord Hybrid would serve as the Official Pace Car for the Indy Car Series, marking the first time a car utilizing hybrid technology has been used to pace a major auto racing series. The Delphi IRL Safety Team also will use Honda vehicles this season, operating a fleet of Ridgelines as well as a Pilot, which will be equipped for the various safety and medical needs of the team.
On March 27th, the 20th anniversary of the creation of the Acura brand, Honda broke ground on a new $15 million Acura Design Center, the latest expansion of Honda's product design and development capabilities in North America. The facility will be located adjacent to Honda R&D America's existing Los Angeles Center, which will continue to research and design future Honda products. The Acura Design Center is scheduled to open in summer 2007. The company is also opening a new advanced design studio in Pasadena that will work to advance new future design concepts, giving Honda four R&D facilities in California.
The '06 Honda Civic Hybrid was named the "2006 World Green Car" at the World Car of the Year Award for the greenest car of the year. The Civic Hybrid, which achieves an EPA estimated city/highway fuel economy of 49/51 miles per gallon, was selected by a jury of 46 international automotive journalists. It also came in second in the overall World Car of the Year balloting, just behind the BMW 3-series.
VP Racing, makers of Street Blaze 100-, 101- and 103-octance racing fuel blends, now offers a contingency program for NHRA Sport Compact competitors. The program, called "Street Blaze Fuel Bounty," rewards racers in the Street Stock and ET classes with $200 product certificates for winners and $100 for the runner-up. You need to run the fuel to be eligible, so if you're wondering where or how to get it, call VP's Lisa Bender at 954/565-7670.
Honda F1 Is Among The Top Four Teams In F1, Yet They're Miles Behind - And Seconds Off The Pace - Of Last Year's Champions, Renault.
They looked impressive in pre-season testing, but Honda F1 has yet to put together a solid race weekend. Jenson Button can't qualify much better than he did in Bahrain, Malaysia and Australia, where he started from P3, P2 and pole respectively, and he's been quick to blame his car's lack of grip for his poor results. Despite three strong grid positions, he's still looking for his first win.
Rubens Barrichello, meanwhile, has had even worse luck and is just looking for some sort of pace-any kind of pace. He's yet to qualify in the top five and has struggled to even keep up with backmarkers. Apparently, Rubes is having trouble with Honda brakes, saying after a seventh-place finish in Melbourne that he "struggled the whole race with the brakes and it was impossible for me to overtake, although I was able to get past [Scott] Speed and gain position." Speed, a rookie with the low-budge Scuderia Toro Rosso, isn't really considered a contender in the championship.
Hot Start For Hayden
Repsol Honda's Number One Continues His Podiumstreak.
Two early podiums in 2006, and a total of six straight podiums going back to the end of last season, have given Repsol Honda's Nicky Hayden some good momentum to start the season. He trails Ducati's Loris Capirossi by just five points, but he still doesn't look entirely comfortable on his Honda RC211V.
"The six podiums in a row are OK," Hayden said after the Qatar GP, "but we need to take another step up. We've got two weeks to put some hard work in to find the extra second a lap we need."
Three's the Charm
Realtime Racing starts racking up points.RealTime Racing's Pierre Kleinubing finished third in the World Challenge Touring Car season opener at Sebring, then followed that up with another third-place finish a week later at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Teammate Peter Cunningham also has two Top 5 finishes with a fifth and a second. After two races, Acura sits five points behind Mazda in the manufacturers' championship.
But Kleinubing, who sits nine points out of the lead for the drivers' championship behind Mazda's Randy Pobst, didn't sound overly optimistic about wins after Sebring.
"Hopefully with the weight where it is now, we'll be able to fight for second, third and fourth," he said. Cunningham reiterated those thoughts after his strong performance at St. Petersburg. "We have some work to do if we want to help Acura retain the Manufacturers' Championship."
Stephanie Eggum Wins The First Round Of The NHRA Xplod Sport Compact Series Stephanie Eggum became the second woman to win in the NHRA Sport Compact Series Hot Rod class when she beat Kenny Tran in the series opener at Moroso Motorsport Park in Florida. Eggum consistently ran mid-8s all weekend and finished with an 8.541 @ 177.69 in the finals for her first career win.
"The first race is always more nerve racking," Eggum said, "especially having not driven the car since last October, so the weekend was a bit surreal. It's still sinking in."
In Saturday's qualifying rounds, Eggum posted passes of 8.72 @ 173 and 8.60 @ 175. The latter was good enough for the top spot going into Sunday's elimination rounds. In a relatively thin field of four Hot Rod qualifiers, Eggum needed only to beat Stephane Beauregard to reach the finals. It wasn't easy. Despite holeshotting Beauregard's Dodge Shelby Charger, she only managed to squeak out a win, running an 8.50 @ 175. This led to a match with Tran in the finals. Mechanical problems left Tran sitting on the line.
With the win, Eggum became the first woman to win in the Hot Rod class since 2001, when Lisa Kubo won three events for Honda. Eggum has come close in the past, but never won. Competing in only five NHRA events last season, she finished fifth in the Hot Rod class championship. In six NDRA events last season, she scored two second place finishes and came in second in the points. Her best finish in the NHRA was runner-up at the 2005 World Finals, where she also qualified second.
During the winter, the team made improvements to the car, including a new front end from MSP Motorsports, an AR Fabrication midplate, and a Liberty transmission. Car development took up so much time that there wasn't any left for testing. It doesn't seem to have affected the team. And all the work seems to have paid off for the Chicago native.
"Definitely an amazing start to the season and we plan on being a top contender the rest of the year," she said.
In related team news, Eggum's crew chief, Jeromie Hicks, won the first WD-40 Sport Compact Crew Chief of the Race after Eggum's Moroso success. Hicks gets a plaque and 250 greenbacks for his efforts, noting that he uses WD-40 for everything from removing old stickers to removing oil and grease from the car's MSD plug wires.
Hot Start For Salceda
Holding It Down For All-Motor, Saul Salceda Nets Wins Out Of The Box In NHRA And NDRA.
Saul Salceda started the season with a bang, with opening round wins in the NHRA and the NDRA. At the NHRA opener in Moroso, Salceda defeated Mopar's Scott Mohler in the finals of the All-Motor class, running a 9.953 @ 136.81 in his Integra. He also set a track record for top speed when he hit 137.67 in his semifinal against Jeremy Lookofsky.
In the Sport FWD class, Matt Keller of Team Clutch Masters won when John Ferguson redlighted his Honda in the finals. Keller, who was also top qualifier in the class, made a formality run down the track, officially recording a 14.620 @ 107.57.
In NDRA action in Phoenix, Salceda began the weekend with a record MPH run in the second round of qualifying, posting a 9.869 @ 138.17 on his way to claiming top qualifier honors. Then he defeated his Clutch Masters teammate, Norris Prayoonto, in the finals with a run of 9.848 @ 137.33. In Pro 4-Cylinder, Bryan Bridges ran a solo pass at 10.999 @ 84.71 to claim the win. The second finalist, Steven Tan, was unable to stage his Honda after damaging it in the semifinals.
| HOT ROD |
|Winner ||Stephanie ||8.542 ||Honda |
| ||Eggum ||@ 177.69 || |
|Runner-up ||Kenny Tran ||broke ||Honda |
| ALL MOTOR |
|Winner ||Saul ||9.953 ||Acura |
| ||Salceda ||@ 136.81 || |
|Runner-up ||Scott ||10.248 ||Mopar |
| ||Mohler ||@ 135.21 || |
| SPORT FWD |
|Winner ||Matt ||14.620 ||Acura |
| ||Keller ||@ 107.57 || |
|Runner-up ||John ||foul ||Honda |
| ||Ferguson || || |
| NDRA PRO 4-CYLINDER ] |
|Winner ||Bryan ||10.999 ||Honda |
| ||Bridges ||@ 84.71 || |
|Runner-up ||Steven Tan ||d/q ||Honda |
| PRO STOCK |
|Winner ||Saul ||9.848 ||Acura |
| ||Salceda ||@ 137.33 || |
|Runner-up ||Norris ||broke ||Honda |
| ||Prayoonto || || |
NWP4 Life.Com Meet
An Internet Forum That Doesn't Suck, And A Meet To Go With It. Prose: Dr Barriospics: Rodrez.
If you look hard enough, you can find an Internet forum for anything. We've found them for 3g Civics (redpepper racing.com), old Accords (3geez.com) and we've even found them for Acura Legends and RL's (acura-legend.com). With so many sites to choose from, it is hard to find a forum where you can feel at home. Most people default to the big ones, thinking, "If it is good enough for everybody else, it must be good enough for me." Some enthusiasts have grown weary of the bureaucratic, mod-centric, e-thug politics found in a certain monolithic site we're going to go ahead and leave nameless. If you don't know what site we're talking about, you probably post there.
HT feature alumn Erik Dickerson, and Honda scene icon Andy Freeman created NWP4LIFE.com for this exact reason. Not only does the site have a laid-back forum based on camaraderie instead of sponsor dollars, they include a feature car every month, a shop spotlight and hilarious "phone taps" ripping on fellow members and big scene names. HT shutter monkey Rodrez. and cover car owner Aries Dionisio moderate the forum too, which is a factor in maintaining the forum's trademark chill atmosphere.
NWP stands for Northwood Pizza. Why name a website after a pizza joint, you ask? Erik and Andy had friends who worked there during high school. It eventually became the meet up spot for their immediate circle of friends. Over time, informal car meets started happening in the parking lot. The FF-Squad guys had a few meets there, and naturally these meets progressed into what are now known as NWP meets. The meet on March 12 turned out over 100 cars from all over Southern California. NWP meets are not a regular occurrence, but do happen intermittently over the year. Our inside guy (Rodrez) tells us that there will probably be another meet this summer. Keep your eyes peeled in the events and meets forum(s) for details.