Developed and prepared by Team Honda Research- West, a competition version of the new 2013 Acura ILX will be unveiled this week at the 2012 Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show in Las Vegas, prior to making its competition debut at next month's 25 Hours of Thunderhill endurance race.
A pair of E1 class Acura ILX sedans, prepared to NASA U.S. Touring Car specs, will be entered for the traditional 25-hour endurance race that annually concludes the National Auto Sport Association (NASA) season at the challenging three-mile Thunderhill road course north of Sacramento, California.
Team Honda Research-West (THR-W) is primarily made up of Torrance, California-based associates from Honda R&D Americas, Inc., who work after-hours to showcase Honda and Acura products on the track. The team received a pair of new Acura ILX "body in white" bare chassis earlier this year from Honda Manufacturing of Indiana, LLC, the exclusive global production source for the model. Additionally, a pair of "donor" cars from American Honda Motor Co., Inc. was used to provide suspension, powertrain, interior and electronic components.
Once the chassis and donor cars were delivered to the THR-W workshop, an extensive build program commenced that included the use of as many OEM components as possible, to retain serviceability and test outright durability of Acura's newest sedan. In preparing the cars for the grueling Thunderhill event, THR-W members focused their efforts less on performance modifications and more on reducing vehicle weight, to achieve the performance targets set by the team.
Safety equipment required by NASA included a full roll cage (designed by THR-W and built by Solo Motorsports); Bride Gardis III race seat; OMP competition steering wheel; Schroth safety harness; Brockway Engineering D Gauge digital OBD2 gauge; and Braille lightweight battery. Changes to the exterior included a Baja Designs LED lighting system for long winter night-running, a THR-W-designed front splitter and an APR GTC-200 rear spoiler.
Red Line oil lubricates the K24Z7 engine and 6-speed transmission. Cold air enters the engine through an AEM intake, while DEI heat rejection products help keep the heat under control from exhaust gases flowing through the custom-built AEM/120 Racing exhaust. H&R suspension and Enkei RPF1 wheels fitted with BF Goodrich R1 race tires complete the Acura ILX competition package.
Honda Performance Development (HPD), responsible for Honda racing programs ranging from entry-level categories to the IZOD IndyCar Series and World Endurance Championship, also contributed several racing-specific components to the ILX project. These included an HPD-lightened flywheel and racing clutch package, limited-slip differential, motor mounts, anti-roll bars and rear upper suspension control arms. All of these parts are available to racers through the HPD Honda Racing Line program.
The THR-W build team for the ILX includes a number of engineers and researchers from Honda R&D Americas (HRA). The team is headed by Project Leader Calvin Liu, a Design Engineer in the Surface Development Department. John Whiteman, Manager of the Advanced Product Planning Department, is responsible for race strategy and sponsorship. David Kirsch, Senior Engineer in the Information Technical Research Department, serves as Crew Chief and is responsible for the electrical system. Roy Richards, a coordinator in the Energy and Environmental Research Group, is responsible for budget and procurement of components for the team.
Once the initial build was complete, a testing program that included a pair of shakedown runs at Buttonwillow Raceway in southern California, followed by a more extensive run at Willow Springs International Raceway, was implemented to complete final preparations for Thunderhill.
The driving team for Thunderhill is headed by Matt Staal, Senior Planner, Advanced Product Planning, for HRA. Other members of the driver lineup include Project Leader Calvin Liu; Derek Ferretti, a Senior Modeler in the Styling Division at HRA; Sage Marie, Senior Manager of Public Relations at American Honda; Lee Niffenegger, a former SCCA National Champion and Senior Engineer in Business Development at HPD; Lawrence Hwang, Senior Stylist at HRA; Scott Nichol from Honda of Canada Manufacturing; Chad Gilsinger, a former SCCA National Champion and Senior Engineer at HRA in Ohio: and Brian Shanfeld, a former NASA National Champion, also from HRA in Ohio.
Founded in 1996, THR-W has a long record of success racing Honda products in both Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) and NASA competition, with more than 50 race victories in a variety of classes. THR-W first raced at the 25 Hours of Thunderhill in 2004 with an Acura Integra, and just a year later joined its sister THR team from Ohio in taking a pair of 2006 Honda Civic Si's to the E1 class 1-2 sweep, including a fourth-place finish overall. In 2006, THR-W took another podium finish in a Honda Civic Si and in 2010 debuted a Honda Fit in the new B-Spec category with a fantastic fourth-place E3 class finish.
For more information on the THR-W Thunderhill ILX project, go to http://blog.hpd.honda.com/.
*Acura vehicles are produced using domestic and globally sourced parts.