Honda Racing Thunderhill 25H final report

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Honda CR-Z Hybrid Finishes Second at Thunderhill A valiant, come-from-behind effort from Honda Performance Development (HPD) came up just short at the 25 Hours of Thunderhill, as HPD's hybrid Honda CR-Z racer recovered from a near 10-lap...

Honda CR-Z Hybrid Finishes Second at Thunderhill

A valiant, come-from-behind effort from Honda Performance Development (HPD) came up just short at the 25 Hours of Thunderhill, as HPD's hybrid Honda CR-Z racer recovered from a near 10-lap deficit to finish second in the Endurance 3 class in the 2010 edition of the National Auto Sport Association's (NASA) season-ending event.

Driving the #19 CR-Z for the final three hours, Lawson Aschenbach moved onto the lead lap during the final hour, and closed to within 1 minute, 10 seconds of the winning Mazdacage.net Mazda Miata at the checkers, the closest finish among the half-dozen classes competing in this year's 25 Hours. The two E3 competitors finished 8th and 9th overall in the 72-car field, ahead of many faster-category entries.

It was a weekend of firsts for Honda Racing and HPD, marking the first time the racing arm of American Honda has fielded its own race team; the first appearance of racing cars completely developed and adapted in-house at HPD; and the first appearance of North American racing cars developed from existing production-model gas-electric hybrids: the Honda CR-Z.

After starting from the E3 pole in the hands of Peter Cunningham, refueling problems with the #19 Honda cost it a pair of five-minute "stop-and-hold" penalties early in the race. Later, additional repairs were needed to meet track noise statutes, costing the team additional time as night - and steady rain - fell on the northern California road course, dropping the CR-Z nearly 10 laps off the lead.

A second HPD Honda, the #93 CR-Z, took over the early-race E3 class lead when its teammate was delayed, with driver Simon Pagenaud setting the fast race lap for the class at 2:03.180 in the opening hours. But the CR-Z sustained substantial body and suspension damage in an Hour 4 crash, when Sage Marie lost control and rolled exiting Turn 2.

After three hours of repairs by the HPD crew, the Honda returned to action in 21st position and moved up to 16th in the night hours, but was retired just before 8 a.m. Sunday with transmission failure.

The dramas involving the #93 Honda helped set the stage for the come-from-behind effort by the #19 team, which began a long, steady climb through the field as Aschenbach, Cunningham and Chad Gilsinger each drove multiple tints, lapping an average of 2.5-seconds quicker than the competition in their effort. Aschenbach turned into the "iron man" of the event, driving more than seven-and-a-half hours in all.

The Honda Team Research-West Honda Fit, prepared by associates from Honda R&D, finished fourth in class, 15th overall, and was the best-placed of three E3 cars built to new "B-Spec" rules.

Featuring only limited performance modifications to an essential stock Fit, the THR-W team had a steady, uneventful 25 Hours, gradually edging out an advantage over the pair of Mazda2s that were also prepared to B-Spec rules, and breaking into the top five in E3 by Sunday morning to finish 15th overall.

Michael Kinstle (HPD CR-Z Race Team Large Project Leader): "I'd be lying if I didn't admit that we're just a bit disappointed at not being able to pull off a come-from-behind victory. But I'm completely proud of what we've accomplished in our first event as a race team, the first race for the Honda CR-Z, and the first race for a hybrid production-based car. The Honda CR-Z gave us an excellent package as a starting point - we just enhanced it. We also were fortunate to have a truly amazing driver lineup and incredible tires from BFGoodrich. We ran one set of rain tires for more than 330 laps; more than 1,000 miles. So, a big 'thank you' to BFG."

Lawson Aschenbach (driver, #19 HPD Honda CRZ) finished 2nd in the Endurance 3 class and 9th overall: "The Honda CR-Z was fantastic. It handles so great, and ran flawlessly for the whole 25 hours. My hat's off to the entire HPD team, all our sponsors and of course BFG for the excellent tires. It's a shame we came up just a bit short at the end, but this team can take a lot of pride in what we achieved this weekend."

-source: honda racing

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