We Talk Cars with Honda Racer Tom O’Gorman

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At Thunderhill, you were under the team name Honda Research West. Is that related to HPD?

This race at Thunderhill was with Team Honda Research West, though I’ve done more with HPD as a separate group. There’s also Honda race teams in Ohio, Alabama, and Canada, but HPD is a bit different from those groups. HPD is the customer-facing group that actually sells the race cars and supports the racing efforts. The other teams are actually Honda employees, who are allowed to use the resources and volunteer time to support the racing.

Why did Honda choose to have the cars as close to stock as possible when racing?

Team Honda Research West built the two race cars that you saw at Thunderhill, and they wanted to show how capable the car was as a production vehicle. They wanted to show exactly what the car could do in close to production form, while making it safe and legal to race.

Changed items were: roll-cage, seat, belts, and a fuel cell. What was added to the car was performance brake pads and brake fluid, and removed was the air conditioning condenser. Other than changing down one size to 18 inch rims and running semi-slick tires, that was all that was changed.

The results looked fairly good overall. Did your car or the other team car encounter any issues during the race?

I was pretty shocked that we didn’t at all. We couldn’t even say that we learned much about the cars either because nothing failed or went wrong. We knew ahead of time that there are instances of overheating with the completely stock cars, but we think the removal of the air conditioning condenser allowed us to run cooler. We also ran very tightly to a particular pace because our primary objective was to finish. If we did well, that’s even better.

So the way the National Auto Sport Association endurance structure works means you don’t have the normal standard NASA classes, but catch-all classes for endurance races. So instead of 30 classes for NASA’s regular weekends, you only have 6. You get put into a base class for your car, and then that gets pooled with other cars for the enduro races. We were in “E0” which is similar to NASA’s Super Touring production-based cars.

Since we didn’t do much else to the car, and the classing is based on power to weight, we weren’t competitive on that level, but we literally had no problems arise that would have kept us off the track for the entire duration of the race. If we built the car to the extent of the rules, we wouldn’t have been able to see the performance and durability of the standard car.

We had two scheduled stops for brake pad changes, and would plan our stops around changing one tire at a time. Because of that rule, we would stop once an hour to change the oldest tire, and fill the car back up. We did about 8 hours on each set of brake pads, too. All of those scheduled changes were very well thought out by the team. I lucked out by getting in the car during the stops with fresh brake pads.

Patrick Morgan is an instructor at Chicago's Autobahn Country Club and contributes to a number of Auto sites for Internet Brands, including MB World and 6SpeedOnline.

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