Honda Racing–Extreme Speed Motorsports Earns Pair of Top-Seven Finishes At Belle Isle

• Last-lap fireworks lead to top-five run for Ryan Dalziel, Scott Sharp
• Lengthy caution period widens fuel window, ruins fuel strategy plan

The Extreme Speed Motorsports squad carried its pair of Honda-powered HPD ARX-03bs to top-seven finishes after a challenging 57-lap sprint racein Saturday afternoon’s Sports Car Classic at Belle IslePark, Round 5 of the 2014 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.

The #1 Honda-powered ESM entry of Scott Sharp and Ryan Dalziel started on the outside of the front row and ran in the lead group all day before coming home in the fifth spot. The #2 of Ed Brown and Johannes van Overbeek fell victim to an ill-timed caution flag that put them a lap down by the race’s halfway point, but soldiered on to collect a seventh-place result.

While struggling with tires that came up to temperature a couple of laps after those of their competitors, the ESM team found itself behind the ‘eight ball’ on starts and restarts Saturday. Once the tires reached optimal temperatures, Sharp maintained contact with the lead group through the opening stint, threatening the fourth-place Nissan Morgan of Gustavo Yacaman all the way to the first pit stop.

Starting driver Brown ran a clean opening stint and was battling with the Mazda Prototype of Sylvain Tremblay as the day’s first caution flag waved for water on the course. The caution sent most of the leaders in for fuel and driver changes and the #1 ESM Honda joined that group, as Dalziel took the fifth-place car from Sharp and returned to the fray.

The strategy on the #2 was a bit different, however. Brown stayed out until the last lap of the caution period before coming in to hand the car over to van Overbeek. The strategy was designed to give van Overbeek a chance to run the remainder of the event on one tank of fuel, while everyone else would have had make another time-consuming stop before the end of the race.

The timing of the stop put van Overbeek back on track directly ahead of the leaders, where he dropped a lap toleader Ricky Taylor just before the caution flag flew again, this time for contact involving the GB Autosport Porsche of Damien Faulkner.

The contact required a lengthy cleanup and repair of the barriers, and the seven-lap caution period eliminated any fuel advantage that the ESM Honda might have gained by fuel strategy, dooming the teamto finish a lap down to the leaders.

The #1 HPD ARX-03b Hondabenefitted from some last-lap fireworks to earn an extra position in the final order, moving up a spot to fifth after Joao Barbosa cut a tire and spun after making a pass for the lead.

Steve Eriksen (Vice President and COO, Honda Performance Development) on today’s race “With LMP2 cars having to run tires developed expressly for Daytona Prototypes, they have a distinct disadvantage on street circuits, as we saw today in Detroit and earlier this year at Long Beach.  Nevertheless, Extreme Speed Motorsports worked hard to maximize the strengths of our HPD ARX-03b Hondas, and gained valuable points for the season-long championship.  After their victory earlier this month on the natural terrain Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca road course, we’re confident about our chances as the series returns to road racing at Watkins Glen next month.

Scott Sharp (#1 Extreme Speed Motorsports HPD ARX-02b Honda) started second, finished fifth: “The car was quick all weekend long, but we didn’t think that we would be as handicapped on the restarts as we would be because of the tires.The tires took so long to get up to pressure and that held us back on the restarts, but we stuck with it and were able to salvage a good finish. The strength for us is in the consistency and reliability of the Honda engine package and we really leaned on the traction control Honda provides today, it’s just too bad that they don’t do the tires!”