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Honda has been criticized plenty for having lost its passion, building cars that lack the “fun to drive” experience of their predecessors. After the 2012 Civic Si was generally panned it seemed as though Honda got the message, announcing it would revamp the car ahead of schedule.
Another positive sign came when Honda unveiled a new Civic Si race car at last year’s SEMA Show, more recently committing to the SCCA World Challenge series as part of an increased motorsports presence.
This past weekend Honda flexed its motorsports muscle at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah, with involvement from not just dedicated racers, but even from the folks behind the desks. In the inaugural running of the new B-Spec series for sub-compact cars, topping the podium in the third of three races was none other than Sage Marie. Unlikely to be a household name even amongst the most dedicated motorsports enthusiasts, Marie just so happens to be the recently appointed head of Honda public relations in America.
“It’s remarkable that the cars from so many manufacturers were so close right out of the box, and it’s fantastic that the folks at World Challenge
put this class together,” said Marie to AutoGuide.com. “HPD put a great package together for the Fit, and clearly the Honda was the best car today!”
Extolling the virtues of the series, Marie commented that, “It’s a great way to get into pro racing in a competitive, low cost and low maintenance format, and World Challenge puts on a great show.”
Marie was far from the only Honda driver on the podium this weekend with Todd Lamb in the No. 71 HPD Honda Civic Si placing first, third and then second in the three races, while his Compass360 Racing teammate Ryan Winchester in the No. 72 HPD Honda Civic Si placed second, second and third in the three races.
As a result of the strong weekend finish, Honda now sits first int he manufacturer points race in the Touring Car series with 39, followed closely by Mazda with 34. Driver’s Lamb and Winchester sit second and third respectively in the Drivers’ Points.
During the offseason, the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) announced its new B-Spec class to give automakers and racers a relatively affordable platform to go racing. The season has finally kicked off with Carbotech’s Fiat 500 claiming the first victory.
The ‘showroom stock’ racing series includes race cars like the Honda Fit and Mazda 2, while Ford represents for the domestics with its Fiesta. From Europe are the MINI and Fiat contenders with the Italian automaker holding off the contenders in its inaugural race.
While it’s definitely noteworthy that Fiat claimed the first win in a new racing series, the more important question to ask is when was the last time Fiat won a race in America?
Driving the number-00 Fiat USA/SRT/Carbotech 500 was Jonathan Start who swept the doubleheader of two 30 minute races separated by a brief 10 minute break. Craig Capaldi in the number-86 Ford Fiesta lead for the opening seven laps, before Shaun Bailey overtook with the number-0 Road & Track Mazda2.
Capaldi then led three laps in the middle stage of the race before Start took the lead in the Fiat 500, holding on to a 2.171 second win. His pass for the lead also net him the Invisible Glass Clean Pass of the Race award.
“Race one was exactly what B-Spec should be,” Start said. “Close, tight, and very similar cars. I had the race of my life in the fun category. We were able to flip and flop, and we raced each other clean. This is what World Challenge is.”
In the second race, Start took the green flag from start to finish with a 1.392 second victory to sweep the doubleheader.
Fiat currently is ahead in the Manufacturers’ Championship with 19 points and it will be interesting to see if the 500 remains a contender through the rest of the season in the highly competitive B-Spec class.
Honda is increasing its commitment to racing in 2012 by officially sponsoring teams entering the Pirelli World Challenge thanks to growing interest in both the U.S. and Canada.
Honda Performance Development (HPD) provides components and support to teams ranging from amateur to professional levels. In the past the company supported teams in the Grand-Am Continental Tire Challenge Series, but will move into the Sports Car Club of America’s World Challenge and B-Spec categories as well.
“With the development of the 2012 Honda Civic Si for Touring Car racing and the introduction of B-Spec for both professional and club racing, it’s been a very busy off-season for HPD,” said Lee Niffenegger, HPD senior engineer responsible for production-based racing.
“There has been a definite upsurge in interest from both the U.S. and Canada for this year, and we’re looking forward to exciting seasons in Grand-Am, World Challenge and Canadian Touring Cars,” he said.
According to Honda, the Civic Si is the car of choice this year with at least five teams taking part in the 14-race schedule in the World Challenge Touring Car class. Cars that run these races range from being almost factory stock to heavily modified based on the series. World Challenge Touring Car entrants run on the less modified end of that spectrum.
In the B-Spec segment, Honda will race their Fit cars, which represents and inexpensive, entry-level option for racers to get into the sport.
Compass360, a Toronto-based racing team has long used Hondas to compete in the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) and Gand Am series and claimed first place in the 2010 Canadian Touring Car Championship for Honda.
This year Compass360 will also enter the World Challenge for Honda with a multi-car effort in the SCCA Pirelli World Challenge and Grand-Am Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge.
GALLERY: Compass360 Civic Si
The Sports Car Club of America’s B-Spec class is growing in popularity as enthusiasts enjoy a relatively inexpensive entry into amateur racing while automakers are discovering B-Spec to be a great platform for grassroots motorsport marketing. Honda, one of the early adopters to B-Spec racing, is committed to the series and hopes to gain even more fans.
Honda Performance Development, HPD General Manager Marc Sours said, “A cornerstone of our grassroots motorsports marketing initiative has been to establish a connection between Honda’s passenger cars and the racing cars that evolve from these models. The B-Spec category provides a relatively low-cost means for the prospective racer to enter the sport, and the Honda FIt offers a natural point of entry. These are inexpensive, great-handling cars that should provide both excellent competition and help grow the sport at the entry level.”
Continuing its support, Honda has announced a new line of “manufacturer-approved suspension components” for the Honda Fit that will be available via HPD on February 1, 2012. The suspension components kit includes coil-over shocks, front and rear race springs, cat-back exhaust, performance front brake pads, camber bolts, braided stainless brake lines, an air filter, and an A/C delete belt.
Despite the thorough list of performance parts in the kit, Honda fit owners and racers will still need to be responsible for a competition roll cage, racing seats, harness and other safety equipment.
[Source: Inside Line]
MINI has announced that they will be entering the B-Spec racing class in 2012, with MINI of Charleston, a franchise owned by Hendrick Automotive Group.
The B-Spec car will be a base Mini Cooper Hardtop with a 1.6L 121-horsepower engine. The car will weigh 2,535 lbs and KW Variant 1 coilovers, upgraded brake pads and lines and a full roll cage system. The MINI will go up against the Honda Fit, Mazda2, Fiat 500 and other subcompact cars when racing begins next year.
While reviewing the SCCA B-Spec rules, we came across a list of entries for the upcoming class and stumbled upon a few interesting candidates – namely the Volkswagen Polo, which the rule sheet claims may be imported for 2012.
Other entries, like the Hyundai Accent, Scion iQ and xD and Fiat 500 are interesting in their own right (especially since the Accent will face off against the Kia Rio, while the Scions will go against the Toyota Yaris B-Spec), but the Polo has long been rumored for a U.S. debut, and VW is said to be debuting a couple new products at November’s Los Angeles Auto Show. Could this be the introduction for a Volkswagen subcompact in America. Check back November 16th when coverage of the L.A. Auto Show begins.
[Source: Daytona Prototype]
The Sports Car Club of America’s B-Spec class is meant to give automakers and racers alike a relatively affordable platform to go racing with machines similar to those available from the factory. While safety and chassis modifications are allowed, engine power is restricted to keep the playing field even.
Honda and Mazda were among the earlier adopters, fielding Fit and Mazda2 B-Spec prototypes respectively. Now, Fiat and Ford are looking into the series, and the automakers tested Fiat 500 and Fiesta B-Spec cars at Michigan’s Grattan Raceway last week. Kuno Wittmer and Andy Vrenko piloted the 500 and Fiesta, while Peter Cunningham and Charles Espenlaub represented Honda and Mazda. All cars were equipped with engine restrictors and 100 pounds of ballast, while engineers were on hand to compare lap times between the four cars.
If the formula gains traction among racers, 2012 could be a banner year for American sports car racing, as an entry-level series has long been needed to reinvigorate interest among potential participants.