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Rocking Long Beach in Honda’s Rolling Hybrid Lab

The car, a one-off build that looks like a reimagining of the Group B rally car, was conceived by Engineering Brainbox at Honda Performance Development in Santa Clarita, California.

Built at Honda’s automotive development center in Ohio by the Honda of America Racing Team, ‘The Beast’ was released into the wild at select IndyCar events this year, taking on every street in America. The turn came at Long Beach, the most legendary of the circuits. .

The front end in front of the cabin has Acura NSX GT3 suspension and brakes, so there’s plenty of front-end grip to balance the compact SUV. On top of the central tubeframe chassis is a standard Gen 6 CR-V steel body straight from the production line, complete with a sunroof.

The rear is pretty much an IndyCar rear end in terms of engine, suspension and gearbox, with a hybrid supercapacitor (located on top) and motor generator unit bolted to the rear.

Impressed by the engineering, Autosport climbed in in their racing suits, helmets and HANS devices. Climbing through the butterfly doors into the passenger bucket racing seat and securing it to the safety his harness is pretty easy. Hinchliffe boarded the ship, shook hands and said hello before we departed.

Like the IMSA Sportscar Championship hybrid GTP cars that also race at Long Beach, it will start running solely on electric power acting as a starter for a 600+ horsepower twin-turbo V6. Flicking a switch activated the ICE and Hinchcliffe nailed his right foot to the bulkhead while nailing the back of my helmet to the headrest.

To please the race organizers, he hasn’t maxed out this insane machine, but Hinch is up to fourth gear and cruising along the Shoreline Drive and back straight. But it’s a good time to play with the hybrid system and add some punch out of the corners!

Learn more about the Honda CR-V Hybrid Racer

Photo credit: Charles Bradley

Running on Firestone rubber with tires, the car skips and hops over curbs as Hinchcliffe deftly steers. Big braking zone in Turn 1. The wall rattles past me to within inches of my shoulder. My driver, IndyCar, has won his six races in his series and will be returning to the TV Booth after finishing his career here in 2021.

They’ve been racing these streets since 1975, and Long Beach became a staple of Indy Car racing after hosting the Formula 1 Grand Prix from 1976 to 1983. It’s amazing to see this view of the track at high speed. You can even find your hotel room window on your right turn on Pine Avenue.

On race day morning, after two laps of plenty of wheelspins, slides and bangs to entertain the early risers, we headed back to the pitlane and pumped our fists before climbing. “It’s fun,” Hinch smiles. Yes, it certainly is. Before Hinchcliffe leaves to call NBC’s Grand Prix, here’s a quick talk about where IndyCar is headed in 2024’s hybrid future, which is based on a similar supercapacitor line.

Earlier, the Canadian confirmed the weight of The Beast with HPD’s Steve Goff and was told, “It’s 3000 pounds, but it has more horsepower.” Hinch adds:

Autosport ran into HPD President David Salters in the IndyCar paddock shortly after running in what he likes to call “a beast in sheep’s clothing.”

“Good,” he grins. “Going from electric to ICE is like Tron turning into the voice of God!”

Producing nearly 800 horsepower is a 2.2-liter twin-turbo V6 motor paired with Skeleton Technologies supercapacitors and a giant box of Empel MGUs. [which protrudes from the rear of the powertrain] Add power or play at speed as needed. The ICE is also certified for sustainability as it also runs on his 100% renewable racing fuel from Shell.

It’s all a lot of fun… Go to select IndyCar street and road course events and see for yourself.

Honda CR-V Hybrid Racer

Honda CR-V Hybrid Racer

Photo credit: Philip Abbott / motorsport images Rocking Long Beach in Honda’s Rolling Hybrid Lab

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