Honda Performance Development Unveils CR-V Hybrid Racer: “An INDYCAR Wolf in CR-V Clothing”

Demonstration vehicle combines HPD INDYCAR drivetrain, racing suspension, Firestone high-performance tires and Honda CR-V Hybrid bodywork

By: Honda | Photos Courtesy of: Honda

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While hybrid power units officially debut in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES in 2024, race fans and car enthusiasts alike will be treated to a “sneak preview” of the incoming technology with the debut of the Honda CR-V Hybrid Racer at next month’s season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

“This project vehicle is an INDYCAR ‘beast’ in Honda CR-V ‘sheep’s clothing’,” said David Salters, president and technical director for Honda Performance Development, the North American racing arm of American Honda and Acura. “The CR-V Hybrid Racer is our ‘rolling electrified laboratory’, to investigate where the talented men and women of HPD and Honda could go with electrification, hybrid technology and 100% renewable fuels.  It epitomizes Honda’s fun-to-drive ethos, showcases electrification and it just rocks our car culture roots and racing heritage!  We present the CR-V Hybrid Racer – aka ‘The HPD Beast’!”

Conceived and designed by the engineers at Honda Performance Development (HPD) in California and designers from the North America Auto Design Division (NAAD) of American Honda; then built at Honda Automotive Development Center (ADC) in Ohio by the Honda of America Racing Team (HART); the CR-V Hybrid Racer places a 2.2-liter twin-turbocharged, electrified Honda V6 INDYCAR power unit and transmission under 2023 Honda CR-V Hybrid bodywork to create the “rolling laboratory” for the continued development of electrified technology by Honda and HPD.

HPD Honda CR-V Hybrid Racer
CR-V Hybrid Racer to debut at Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

The CR-V Hybrid Racer runs on Shell’s 100% renewable race fuel; and features world-leading Skeleton Supercapacitors and Empel MGU hybrid motor technology.

The Chromoly steel tube chassis of the Honda CR-V Hybrid Racer is clothed in suitably “hybrid” bodywork designed by NAAD.  From the beltline up, the Hybrid Racer utilized a standard production sixth-generation CR-V steel body, including the glass windshield, windows and even the sunroof.  The lower half is of carbon-composite construction, incorporating a massive front splitter and louvered, flared fenders.  An equally large rear wing and butterfly half-cut doors on either side for the driver and passenger complete the bodywork.

“When the Design Studio learned about this project, we had already established a great relationship with HPD through other projects, including the ACURA ARX-06,” said Dave Marek, executive creative director.  “So this was – pardon the pun – ‘Right in our wheelhouse’.  It became a ‘what if?’ of keep the CRV as is, but add some serious attitude with parts indicative of an Indy car. Then it was back to my childhood of never building model cars right out of the box, by manipulating areas with DTM or Japanese Super GT cars in mind. I basically mocked up the idea in 3D then our amazing Digital Modelers made it work.”

HPD Honda CR-V Hybrid Racer
Features 2024 Honda INDYCAR hybrid power unit technology

The finished Honda CR-V Hybrid Racer is clothed in a one-of-a-kind wrap, designed by Lili Melikian, senior exterior designer.  The eye-catching design contains a variety of “easter eggs” including ghosted images of the powertrain and INDYCAR SERIES circuits.

“The graphics were inspired by the hybrid powertrain, radiating from Honda Hybrid Blue to Honda Racing Red to symbolize the duality of the drivetrain,” Melikian explained. “While the ‘speed squirkles’ add a dynamic fun layer and showcase the playful side of Power of Dreams.  Throughout the wrap, we have also sprinkled easter eggs like ghosted outlines of Honda-sponsored tracks and an overhead view of the engine that powers the Honda CR-V Hybrid Racer.”

While under development, the project carried the appropriate code name “The Beast”, with looks reminiscent of the silhouette GT racing and Group B rally cars of the 1980s and ‘90s. But the technology under the skin is strictly 21st century.

HPD Honda CR-V Hybrid Racer
Honda Performance Development Unveils CR-V Hybrid Racer

The Honda CR-V Hybrid Racer strengthens the connections between HPD, the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and Honda passenger vehicles; creates additional awareness around the new INDYCAR hybrid powertrain coming in 2024; showcases the fun and power available from Honda electrified powertrains; and spotlights the innovation, creativity and capabilities of both HPD and Honda Automotive Development Center.

Honda CR-V Hybrid Racer Public Appearances
The Honda CR-V Hybrid Racer will make its public debut March 3-5 at the NTT INDYCAR SERIES season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Florida.  The unique vehicle will be on display and making on-track demonstrations at multiple INDYCAR events, including the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach (April 14-16); the Children’s of Alabama Indy Grand Prix (April 28-30); the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio (June 30- July 2); the Honda Indy Toronto (July 14-16); the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix in Nashville (August 4-6); the Grand Prix of Portland (September 1-3); and the season-concluding Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey (September 8-10).

In addition to INDYCAR race weekends, the CR-V Hybrid Racer will make additional appearances at select events throughout 2023.

Honda CR-V Hybrid Racer Specifications

Powertrain

  • Honda HI23TT 2.2-liter, twin-turbocharged V6 engine
  • Borg Warner EFR7163 turbochargers
  • McLaren Applied Technologies Tag 400i Engine Control Unit
  • Drive-by-wire controlled port throttle
  • Shell 100% renewable race fuel
  • Driver-activated Empel electric motor generator unit
  • Skeleton super capacitor energy storage system
  • XTRAC six-speed transmission; Mega-Line Assisted paddle-shift

Chassis and Bodywork

  • Chromoly tube frame chassis
  • New, 6th generation Honda CR-V Hybrid bodywork from beltline up
  • Standard Honda CR-V Hybrid windshield and greenhouse
  • Custom carbon fiber lower bodywork incorporating flared fenders
  • Butterfly half-cut doors provide access for driver and passenger
  • Radiator adapted by HPD from the Dallara IR-18 Indy car
  • Clamshell rear bodywork to display power unit and drivetrain
  • Custom downforce-producing front splitter and rear wing

Suspension

  • Front suspension from HPD-developed Acura NSX GT-3 Evo22
  • Rear suspension adapted from Dallara IR-18 Indy car
  • Brembo 380mm front brakes from Acura NSX GT-3 Evo22
  • Brembo 355mm custom rear brakes adapted to Dallara IR-18 suspension
  • Firestone Firehawk Indy 500 Ultra-High Performance Summer Tires
  • Front tires 285/35-20; Rear tires a massive 305/35-20
  • 2Elle Engineering 20×10.5 Front and 20×11 Rear two-piece alloy wheels

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