DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Once upon a time, it was somewhat common for a group of guys to get together, build a race car and head to the Rolex 24 At Daytona with a team made up of volunteer crew members.
For the most part, those days are now in the past. But now and then, there’s a team like the Ohio-based HART program, which reminds us of how it used to be.
HART – an acronym for Honda of America Racing Team – consists of a group of Honda engineers who volunteer their time to field race cars.
“We all have day jobs,” said Chad Gilsinger, a Honda engineer who will co-drive the No. 69 Acura NSX GT3 in the GT Daytona (GTD) class in the Rolex 24 with Ryan Eversley, Sean Rayhall and John Falb. “None of us get paid to do this. Every single bit of time on the car is done after hours on our own time. We do a lot of work in the evenings and on weekends, and even at the races. We’re just here because we love the sport, we love our product and we want to compete.”
While this year marks the team’s first foray into the Rolex 24, the team is familiar to IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge fans. The team owns 16 race victories in Continental Tire Challenge competition, good for a tie for fifth on the series’ all-time win list, and the team’s history goes back even further than that.
“Back in 1989, a group of Honda engineers went to a little club 24-hour race at Nelson Ledges (in Ohio), and they saw that most of the cars were basically like little performance street cars racing around the track,” Gilsinger said. “A group of guys put together a proposal to Honda corporate to try and see if they could get a couple cars that were old test cars and a little bit of budget to try and do their own club racing.
“It just snowballed from there. I think it was in the mid-‘90s, we got into Super Touring cars when that was in the States for a couple years. We ran the Firehawk Series and we moved into Grand-Am, and then it turned into IMSA. We’ve always run mostly Civics, Preludes, Accords, stuff like that.”
The team was absent from the Continental Tire Challenge in 2017, as the manufacturer launched the new Acura NSX GT3 race car with a pair of entries in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship fielded by Michael Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian. They also ran a pair of cars in Pirelli World Challenge with Real Time Racing.
Shanks’s program embedded the HART program engineers so they could gain extra knowledge.
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