Honda Performance Development to Become HRC US as Part of Unification

HRC was established in 1982, primarily dealing with two-wheeled Honda racing - courtesy HRC
David Salters and Koji Watanabe confirm HRC’s global ascension – courtesy HRC

Honda Performance Development (HPD), initiated in 1993 to produce engines for Honda’s entry into the CART Indy Car series, will change its name and direction at the start of the 2024 calendar year. In a joint announcement prior to the start of this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix for the Formula One series, Honda Racing Corporation (HRC) announced that HPD will become an integral part of Honda’s global motorsports thrust, contributing to the company’s F1 program in addition to its work on behalf of NTT INDYCAR SERIES, IMSA’s WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, the Pikes Peak International Hillclimb, SCCA,  SCORE’s off-road Baja competition, Touring Cars, Global Rallycross and Formula Regional America.

In the United States, HPD has secured 280 wins for Honda from 510 races in INDYCAR competition, including 180 victories from 410 events with multi-manufacturer competitions. At the Indianapolis 500, Honda has 15 victories in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, nine with multi-manufacturer competition. HPD has also led the Acura brand to three consecutive wins at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, and has secured three IMSA Manufacturers, Drivers and Teams championships since 2018. HPD and Acura opened the new prototype era (LMDh/GTP) in IMSA competition by winning this year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, using the new ARX-06 GTP campaigned by Meyer Shank Racing.

Assuming the corporate name of HRC US, the entity will remain in Santa Clarita, California as it prepares engines and chassis for its many motorsports activities. The opportunity to collaborate as a single global entity was the overwhelming rationale to complete this change and will allow the two independent racing arms of Honda worldwide to combine their unique expertise and resources, thereby strengthening Honda’s overall motorsports capabilities.

HRC was established in 1982, primarily dealing with two-wheeled Honda racing – courtesy HRC

HRC was established in Japan 11 years before HPD began business. It was, initially in 1982 involved as Honda’s motorcycle racing operation, and HRC is recognized for its more than 40 years of championship racing heritage in global racing categories. These include World Grand Prix, MotoGP, the variety of Superbike and Motocross entities, World Trial and the Paris Dakar Rally. Just last year, HRC added auto racing to its portfolio, including Honda’s F1 program; its Sakura Center is dedicated for auto racing and the Osaka Center is now focused on motorcycle racing.

HRC’s Japan-based auto racing development center currently supports Red Bull Powertrains for F1 power units, and it contributes to the team’s world championship victories. To date, Red Bull Powertrains have been responsible for all but one victory in the Formula One season that continues this weekend at Suzuka. Beginning in 2026, HRC partners with the Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant F1 team as their official engine supplier. With three F1 races in the United States – at Miami, Austin and Las Vegas – the new HRC US will be involved in Formula One power unit development and race support starting with the 2026 campaign.

Acura’s AR-06 was immediately successful in IMSA’a Role 24 at Daytona – courtesy HRC

“Our goal is to increase the HRC brand and sustain the success of our racing activities. We believe that uniting Honda motorsports globally as one racing organization will help us achieve that goal,” Koji Watanabe, the president of HRC Japan explained. His background is primarily in two-wheeled motorsports and has been focused on securing MotoGP victories. “Our race engineers in the U.S. and Japan will be stronger together and I am so happy to welcome our U.S. associates to the HRC team.”

David Salters, currently president of HPD who will become president of HRC US in the new year, has a multi-cultural background in motorsports that will help this enterprise succeed. Prior to joining HPD, Salters worked at Cosworth Racing Ltd as development/design engineer for CART activities (1995-1999), then went to Mercedes-Benz High Performance Engines, formerly known as Ilmor Engineering, where he was head of F1 engine development from 2003-2006 after working in F1 performance development, and in the CART racing program at Mercedes-Benz from 1999-2001.

He served as head of engine development for the Ferrari Formula 1 program from 2006-2015, including the Prancing Horse’s V8, V8 KERS (Kinetic Engine Recovery System) and V6 power units. Salters joined Honda in 2015 as a chief engineer and engine technical leader at HPD. He became HPD’s technical director in 2019 and its president in late 2020. “Honda’s racing heritage is unparalleled,” Salters said, “and over the last 30 years the talented men and women of HPD have contributed to that success in the U.S. We are thrilled and very proud to join forces with our friends and colleagues in HRC Japan, and to represent Honda Racing as a global racing organization. We will continue to challenge ourselves in U.S. motorsports activities, even as we develop our people and technology to compete on a rapidly changing global motorsports stage.”

IMSA’s 2024 Rolex 24 at Daytona, its 62nd iteration, is scheduled to take place at Daytona International Speedway January 27-28, and marks the inaugural race for the new HRC US, with the defending champion Acura ARX-06 GTP prototypes sporting new HRC logos on their racing liveries.

About Anne Proffit 1184 Articles
Anne Proffit traces her love of racing - in particular drag racing - to her childhood days in Philadelphia, where Atco Dragway, Englishtown and Maple Grove Raceway were destinations just made for her. As a diversion, she was the first editor of IMSA’s Arrow newsletter, and now writes about and photographs sports cars, Indy cars, Formula 1, MotoGP, NASCAR, Formula Drift, Red Bull Global Rallycross - in addition to her first love of NHRA drag racing. A specialty is a particular admiration for the people that build and tune drag racing engines.

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