A team of Honda engineers is taking the rugged new Honda Passport rally racing. Honda unveiled its 2022 Passport stage rally truck specially built for competition by the Honda Performance Development (HPD) Maxxis Rally racing team, highlighting the rugged capability and durability long engineered into Honda light trucks.
Showcasing the 2022 Passport’s rugged new design, the rally truck made its racing debut at the Lake Superior Performance Rally (LSPR) in Michigan on Oct. 15 and 16. It will compete in the American Rally Association (ARA) series of closed-course rally events through the 2022 season in the Limited 4WD class.
A key example of the Honda “Racing Spirit,” the HPD Maxxis Rally racing team is made up of Honda associates based at the company’s Ohio-based Auto Development Center. The team is a subsidiary of the larger Honda of America Racing Team (HART), which consists of associates from development and manufacturing facilities across North America.
With modified street vehicles reaching speeds of well over 100 mph on natural-terrain closed courses that include gravel, dirt, mud and snow over routes covering hundreds of miles, the ARA National and Regional Championship series are intensely competitive. At the LSPR race, the Honda Passport rally truck was driven by Honda engineer Chris Sladek, a suspension test engineer based at the company’s Ohio-based North American Auto Development Center, and co-driven by Gabriel Nieves, a chassis design engineer based at the same facility.
For maximum traction and performance, the Passport rally truck is fitted with BRAID Winrace T rally wheels (7.5″x17″) wrapped in either Maxxis’ stage rally-proven RAZR M/T or RAZR A/T tires (265/70-R17), depending on event conditions. Custom-fabricated 1/8″-inch thick aluminum oil pan and rear differential skid plates protect the underbody, as well as high-density polyethylene panels covering the fuel tank and other components. Carbotech XP12 brake pads and high-temperature racing brake fluid provide consistent braking performance in demanding rally environments.
Incredibly, the Passport’s production 3.5-liter i-VTEC® V6, 9-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters, intelligent Variable Torque Management (i-VTM4™) all-wheel drive system, and all suspension components are left unmodified for competition; the only addition is an automatic transmission fluid cooler from the Passport’s available tow package. The driver uses the transmission’s Sequential mode and paddle shifters for enhanced control, and the Passport’s Intelligent Traction Management system’s Sand Mode is utilized for optimal torque distribution and performance on loose surfaces.
“The fact that we didn’t have to make any modifications to the 2022 Honda Passport’s drivetrain or suspension for such punishing terrain and competition speaks volumes to the capability and performance that comes standard in the Passport,” said Honda engineer and rally racer Chris Sladek.
For additional safety, the interior of the Passport rally truck includes OMP racing seats with six-point competition harnesses, a safety roll cage, fire suppression system, rally computer and in-car communication system. To reduce weight, the rear seats, carpeting, sound insulation, and other interior trim pieces were removed, and the SUV’s side and rear window glass replaced with Lexan polycarbonate. A hydraulic handbrake handle enhances maneuverability through tight corners, while a modified exhaust produces a signature rally-inspired sound. Designed by HPD, the Passport’s exterior wrap graphics highlight the rugged and adventurous capability of the Honda Passport.
“We’re ready to go racing with the rugged 2022 Honda Passport,” said Honda engineer and co-driver Gabriel Nieves. “It’s going to be a great season.”
At the 2021 Lake Superior Performance Rally on Oct. 15 and 16, the team competed in the ARA East Regional series. The first day of the competition consisted of fast stages with flowing curves and ran late into the night, where the Passport’s auxiliary light bar was crucial in maintaining competitive speeds through the forest. The team consistently ran times among the top 10 out of 42 regional competitors, but a tire de-bead on stage 3 held the team back, causing them to finish more than 9 minutes later than expected for the stage.
More technical, rough, and wet stages were in store for the second day, with the Passport performing well on its Maxxis RAZR M/T tires. The team consistently posted times among the top 15 regional competitors.
The team finished 22nd out of 42 regional competitors, placing 4th out of 6 competitors in the Limited 4WD class.
2021 LSPR is the third stage rally event in which the team has competed in a Honda Passport. During its first event—the 2019 Southern Ohio Forest Rally (SOFR), as part of the ARA East Regional series—the team placed 2nd in the Limited 4WD class and 12th overall out of 75 competitors.