Two Acura ILX sedans were entered by THR-W for the traditional 25-hour endurance race that annually concludes the NASA season at the challenging three-mile Thunderhill road course north of Sacramento, California. 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 blue-and-silver Acura ILXs immediately demonstrated their speed, as drivers Scott Nicol and Edward Sandstrom qualified first and second in E1, with Nicol's final qualifying lap claiming the class pole in a time of 2:00.851 in the #25 Acura ILX.
"Qualifying went well. Better than I expected. We had a good set of tires and I made my way through traffic, putting in a good time right at the end of the session," said Nicol, an associate with Honda of Canada Manufacturing. Sandstrom, a guest driver with the team from the multi-media auto enthusiast "Speedhunters" group and a regular in FIA GT3 competition, led qualifying for much of the session in the #27 ILX before slipping to second behind his teammate.
A series of issues delayed both cars during the course of the 25-hour run, but the #27 ILX still set fastest race lap, a sub-two minute time of 1:59.926 set by Sandstrom in the early morning hours of the race.
The first delay for the Acura effort took place at the three-hour mark, when the #25 ILX slipped off course and became stuck in soft ground and mud, resulting in a 20-minute delay. An exhaust problem delayed the #27 car early, but the team fought back from that issue to claim fast-lap honors and regain the class lead at the 10-hour mark.
Later, a transmission problem delayed the #27 a second time, resulting in a fourth-place finish in E1, 24th overall in the 70-car starting field. The team's #25 car lost more time with a broken exhaust and finished ninth in the E1 class, and 46th overall.
"As expected, the K24 powerplant in the Acura ILX proved to be a great endurance engine. It had excellent torque off the corners and ran without a hiccup," said Lee Niffenegger, senior engineer for Honda Performance Development (HPD).
"At different times in the race, both cars suffered a similar exhaust issue, but we learned how to deal with it for the future," Niffenegger added. "Unfortunately, the lead car was sidelined by a transmission problem that we need to investigate, but the gearbox in the second car was flawless. That's really the point of these events for us: to push the new models before our customers do, so we can make them even better race vehicles and more reliable passenger cars."
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 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.
Honda Performance Development (HPD), responsible for Honda racing programs ranging from entry-level categories to the IZOD IndyCar Series and World Endurance Championship, 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.
For a photo of the #27 THR-W Acura ILX at the 25 Hours of Thunderhill, go to: