Honda’s racing firm consolidation opens doors for a Le Mans entry
Honda just announced that starting in 2024, its two racing firms, Honda Performance Development and Honda Racing Corporation, will join to create one super-organization that will oversee Big H’s racing efforts worldwide. The consolidation could be the tipping point that sees the brand return to La Sarthe, France for the coveted 24 Hour of Le Mans race in the future.
Effective as of the start of the 2024 motorsports season, Honda Performance Development (HPD), the brand’s North American racing arm, will be renamed Honda Racing Corporation USA (HRC US). The renaming helps place it in line with Honda’s Japanese racing entity, Honda Racing Corporation (HRC). The newly-named HRC US “will play an integral role in Honda’s global motorsports activities, which includes contributing to the company’s Formula 1 (F1) program,” Honda said in the announcement.
Founded in 1993 by American Honda Motor Co., Inc., HPD’s main mandate was to bring Honda motorsports to the North American continent in an effective and impactful manner. HPD focused first on IndyCar, which it still remains a part of today as one of two engine manufacturers powering the cars that do battle at great North American circuits such as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where HPD has won 15 Indianapolis 500s.
Today HPD’s oversight stretches far beyond open-wheel racing to other big-name series, such as the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, where the Acura ARX-06 GTP prototype cars do battle with the likes of Porsche, Cadillac, and BMW. (These GTP cars are important for something we’ll cover in a moment.) HPD also has a hand in Baja off-road racing, touring car championships, and various open-wheel feeder series.
Meanwhile, HRC, based in Sakura, Japan, is responsible for any Honda racing taking place anywhere else on the globe. Founded in 1982, the firm originally focused on motorcycle racing but has since expanded its responsibilities to include the Honda F1 power unit program. HRC currently supports the power units propelling this year’s runaway powerhouse, Red Bull Racing, and beginning in 2026, the HRC will partner with the Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant F1 team as their official engine supplier.
Beginning with that team switch in 2026, the renamed HRC US will play a role in the F1 power unit development and support, something that it had not previously done. “Our goal is to increase the HRC brand and sustain the success of our racing activities and we believe that uniting Honda motorsports globally as one racing organization will help achieve that,” said Koji Watanabe, president of HRC Japan.
Back to those prototype cars: When IMSA and the World Endurance Championship (WEC) announced the return of the GTP class for the 2023 season, part of the big appeal was that one chassis would be eligible to compete in both series. A single car could, at long last, take the checkered flag at the 24 Hours of Daytona, which is an IMSA-sanctioned race, and also the 24 Hours of Le Mans, a race that is governed by the WEC. Cadillac and Porsche, two of the manufacturers with factory efforts in IMSA, made the leap across the pond this year to do battle at the grueling French circuit. Acura, however, did not. After all, there is no Acura in Europe.
As David Salters, president of HPD explained to The Drive in an interview in spring, the reason behind the decision not to contest the 24 Hours of Le Mans came down to who had jurisdiction where. HRC technically oversees racing efforts in Europe, so it was not up to HPD—the folks responsible for the Acura GTP program—to decide one way or the other about Le Mans.
With the new restructuring, there’s a glimmer of hope for Honda’s return to Le Mans, a place it has not had a formal presence at since 2013. Let’s cross our fingers; the more manufacturers competing at famous racetracks around the world, the better. Honda’s plenty familiar with what it takes to win at many levels of motorsport, so seeing them back at La Sarthe should make the competition all the more fierce.