The 2001 MD-X Prototype

Many of the details are still confidential but we do know a few important facts. First and foremost, this will be an in-house design. Our collaboration with Isuzu is finished. Secondly, the 3.5 liter 210 hp VTEC engine from the Honda Odyssey will be the basis for the new sport utility motor, but the Acura version will likely put out more power, probably in the 225-230 hp range. We’ll also get a “magic” folding third seat just like the Odyssey.

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The 2000 Acura 3.5 RL

Fresh off the successful facelift for the 1999 model year, the 3.5 RL now features VSA or Vehicle Stability Assist. This important safety advancement uses on-board sensors to detect an impending skid. The computer will then modulate the throttle or apply the brake to the individual wheel or wheels that will restore directional stability. Combine this with the smart airbag system, seatbelt pre-tensioners, ABS, traction control and the extremely rigid body shell, and you have one of the safest luxury cars on the road today.

New seat mounted front airbags have a smart Occupant Position Detection System to disable the passenger airbag if the RL determines that the occupant is in the deployment path to help avoid additional injury.

The 3.5 liter RL engine uses block forged connecting rods for the ultimate in smooth power delivery.


Crossing the Pond: Racing in America

Thursday, March 25. 1999
Crossing the Pond: Racing in America
In my last newsletter I chronicled Honda’s original foray into F-1 and their subsequent domination at the pinnacle of international motorsports. After Honda’s retirement from F-1, they embarked on a gradual increase of their motorsports involvement here in America. During the 1991, 1992, and 1993 seasons nobody could beat Parker Johnstone in his Acura powered Spice/Comptech Camel Lights GTP car. Running a modified V-6 from our NSX sports car, this Acura won an unprecedented 3 straight drivers and manufacturers championships.

In 1994 Honda entered the CART PPG World Series as an engine supplier for the same reasons Mr. Honda emphasized long ago: “Use racing to train up-and-coming engineers.” For example, the chief engineer of the 3.0 CL engine was the chief engineer of the Formula One engine program. The CART engine program continues to pay dividends today. Honda powered cars have won three consecutive CART drivers titles. In 1996 the title went to the Target-Ganassi Racing Team and driver Jimmy Vasser. The 1997 and 1998 titles went to his teammate Alex Zanardi. But 1998 didn’t start off that good, in fact the first race was won by Michael Andretti with Ford power. The second race would be at Honda’s home track: Motegi.

The Motegi motorsports complex is owned and operated by Honda, has been in the planning stages for ten years, and could be viewed as the culmination of Mr. Honda's vision. On the morning of the first race, Nobuhiko Kawamoto the president of Honda (now retired) anonymously stopped by the paddock to visit his teams. The following is quoted from Autoweek: "...the former Honda Formula One engineer asked Chip Ganassi, "how is everything here?" Ganassi looked Kawamoto straight in the eye and said, "I can answer that in two words: more power." And he wasn't talking about electrical outlets in the garage."

Honda did not win that race, Ford did, the highest placing Honda was Gil de Ferran in third. Because of this failure - at their home track - that Kawamoto promised changes immediately. "Mr. Honda once hit one of his engineers on the head with a hammer," Kawamoto is alleged to have said, "and I will do the same if I have to. There are too many middle men between the drivers and the engine builders. The key to performance is communication. I want the drivers talking directly to the engine men. There will be more power."

Those words were prophetic, for in the 17 races remaining in the ’98 season, Honda won 13 of them! Alex Zanardi finished his CART career with his second consecutive title and Honda drivers finished in the top three places in points - again! In five short years of competition Honda has developed into the powerhouse of CART racing.

The dedication to winning and the desire to Finish First is leading a whole new crew of engineers to stretch their imaginations to find new answers to old questions. These young engineers are getting pretty used to winning, and when they return to passenger car duty they will bring that passion to the consumer products we offer for you. Ultimately this is why we race. To provide a better product for you.


A Recipe to Stir the Soul

Friday, November 20. 1998
A Recipe to Stir the Soul
There are a lot of companies that claim that racing is an integral part of the company philosophy. Honda has taken the expression "racing improves the breed" to heart, enjoying success in Motorcycle racing, Formula One Grand Prix racing, Champ Cars (CART),and IMSA competition. Our first win in Formula One came in 1965 at the Mexican Grand Prix when Ritchie Ginther took a Honda across the finish line to take the checkered flag. Honda finished sixth in the manufacturers championship that year and from those humble beginnings a motorsport legend was born.

Soichiro Honda was a fledgling automobile racer in his youth until an accident ended his driving career. That only seemed to intensify his desire to introduce innovative technologies to solve seemingly impossible engineering hurdles. Honda Motor Company was formed 50 years ago, and the first product was a prototype scooter whose engine was from a 50-cc war surplus generator. From the start there was racing. He regarded racing as the fastest way to learn, try new things, and find ways of providing a better product to his customers. Many of our most innovative products such as our revolutionary VTEC valve train, variable induction systems, direct ignition and advanced double wishbone suspensions all came from our involvement in motorsports.
Until his death in 1991, Mr. Honda was unique among the world’s automakers, an engineer who actually ran the company that bore his name. Tales of his hands on involvement abound, once during the 1965 racing season, a young engineer designed a piston that failed during a race, when he was questioned about that design, he defended his position by saying that was the way it was taught at Tokyo University. Mr. Honda was furious, he said, I did not hire you to copy Tokyo University. He made that engineer go up and down the garage and apologize to every mechanic and both drivers for drawing such a poor design!

Honda re-entered Formula one in 1983, this was the Turbo Era in Formula One and the rules called for a 1.5 liter motor with turbocharging. The motor they developed produced over 1000 horsepower, and took Honda to its first manufacturers championship in 1987. In 1988 Honda won 15 of 16 races, cruised to the manufacturers title and gave Ayrton Senna his first driving championship and Honda consecutive manufacturers titles. When Turbos were banned for the 1989 F-1 season, many experts expected a changing of the guard, after all Ferrari, TAG Porsche, Renault, and Ford-Cosworth were all capable of producing very good 3.5 liter normally aspirated ( non-turbo) engines. However this was not the case, Honda, led by a talented engineering team including future president, Nobohiko Kawamoto produced a new V-10 that kept the momentum going. Honda won the drivers and manufacturers titles in 1989, and in 1990. A switch to a V-12 for 1991 led to a fifth consecutive manufacturers title for Honda and it’s drivers.

Because Formula One has never had as much exposure in America as it has in Europe and the rest of the world, Honda left F-1 after 1991 and started concentrating its efforts on Motorsports in the US its largest market. This is summed up in one historic place - Indianapolis Motor Speedway
See my next issue -
“Crossing the Pond”

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