Longtime Honda executive Erik Berkman has taken over the helm of Honda Performance Development.
In January, Berkman took over as president of HPD for the retiring Robert Clarke. Clarke's 15-year tenure at HPD, which began in 1993, saw the tiny racing shop grow into one of the world's most dynamic and prolific motorsports entities.
Under Clarke's leadership, HPD guided Honda racing products to major auto racing championships, including the IndyCar Series and Championship Auto Racing Teams titles, as well as victories at the world's largest auto race, the Indianapolis 500. In addition, the HPDled Acura American Le Mans Series sports-car program captured the prestigious 12 Hours of Sebring in Acura's debut in the tough road-racing series.
Berkman, a 25-year veteran of Honda and one of Research and Development's most experienced newmodel project leaders, brings a wealth of Honda knowledge and experience to HPD in 2008.
"Erik brings to HPD strong project-management skills - something that HPD needs at this point in its development, when the company is starting to take on multiple projects at the same time: IndyCar engine, American Le Mans Series engine and ALMS chassis," said Clarke. "Erik also is an engineer, whereas I'm an industrial designer and architect, and he brings a strong technical skill set to better manage HPD's technical division."
With a mechanical engineering degree from Purdue University, Berkman started his Honda career at the Honda of America Mfg., Inc., Marysville Auto Plant in 1982, managing a variety of quality-control and productengineering departments. He moved to the Anna Engine Plant, Anna, Ohio, and continued his work in quality control and product engineering.
In 1991, Berkman was transferred to Honda R&D Americas, Inc. to work on the Accord wagon, Honda R&D's first U.S.-designed and developed vehicle. In 1996, he became Chief Engineer, having led pre-development of the 1999 Odyssey, and served as the Large Project Leader (LPL) of the 1998 Accord coupe. In 1999, Berkman was promoted to Executive Engineer, serving as the LPL for a variety of U.S.-developed vehicles, including the Acura CL and Acura's very successful and best selling TL.
"Erik was identified back in '98 as a strong candidate for my replacement by Tom Elliott, Mr. [Michihiro] Asaka and myself," said Clarke. "Erik has the Honda experience, skills and personal traits we felt are necessary in a person to excel as my replacement. LPLs [large project leaders] serve a very important role. In [the] Honda world, the LPL has tremendous power, and in the Honda R&D system in North America, I would say Erik is the most experienced LPL we have."
Over the years, HPD's operations have expanded from a small engine-rebuild and trackside-support operation, dependent upon Honda R&D Japan for technical support, to a self-sufficient motorsports R&D company of more than 125 associates. Currently, HPD's activities include complete engine design and development, prototype- and production-engine manu-facturing, chassis R&D, material analysis, and race-team support, among numerous other functions.
More recently, HPD expanded its racing activities with Acura entering the American Le Mans Series (ALMS). The Acura ALMS program features the Acura LM V- 8, HPD's first-ever and Honda's first racing engine produced outside of Honda R&D Japan. The three Acura-powered teams made a spectacular debut last year by taking the first, second and fourth positions in the LMP2 class at the 12 Hours of Sebring.