HPD celebrates 20 years with Indy, ALMS drivers

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Honda’s IndyCar drivers for the 2013 season made an appearance in Honda Performance Development’s headquarters in Santa Clarita, Calif., earlier this week, to celebrate HPD’s 20th year since its 1993 founding. Tweets rolled in from the IndyCar drivers and American Le Mans Series drivers (Lucas Luhr, who won the ALMS Long Beach race in a Muscle Milk HPD prototype) throughout the day.

Takuma Sato’s win must have featured some celebration because fellow Honda driver Ana Beatriz posted an Instagram photo of the Long Beach winner passed out in a car en route to HPD. Simon Pagenaud, Justin Wilson and Josef Newgarden were also amused onlookers.

At St. Petersburg, Honda premiered a “big head” campaign (pictured) – where they took the Honda drivers’ headshots and blew them up onto giant cardboard cutouts that were on display first in the pit lane, and later in the grandstands. The tradition has been popular at college basketball games in years past.

Honda joined IndyCar in 1994, won its first race with Andre Ribeiro at Loudon, N.H. in 1995, and its first championship with KV Racing Technology co-owner Jimmy Vasser, then driving for Target Chip Ganassi Racing, in 1996.

Vasser’s title set of a streak of six consecutive Honda titles in CART, won by Alex Zanardi (1997-98), Juan Montoya (1999) and Gil de Ferran, a new HPD ambassador (2000-01) before they moved to the IRL ranks in 2003.

Honda won its first Indianapolis 500 with Buddy Rice in 2004, also the same year it took its first IRL title with Tony Kanaan. From 2006 through 2011, Honda served as the sole supplier of engines for IndyCar – which dropped the beleaguered IRL moniker ahead of open wheel unification in 2008.

Audi bids farewell to Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich upon retirement

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Audi bid farewell to its iconic head of motorsport, Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, at its end-of-season ‘Race Night’ event in Germany on Friday upon his retirement.

Ullrich took over the reins as Audi’s head of motorsport in 1993 and stayed in the role for 23 years, overseeing its arrival in the prototype class of sports car racing and domination of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Ullrich stepped down from the position at the end of 2016, handing the reins over to ex-Audi DTM chief Dieter Gass, and attended his final racing event with the German marque at its first works Formula E outing in Hong Kong earlier this month.

Ullrich was honored at the Race Night event on Friday and thanked for his efforts in developing Audi into a force within global motorsport.

“In 566 factory-backed commitments during this period he celebrated 209 victories, 13 of them in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, eleven in the 12-hour race at Sebring and nine in the ‘Petit Le Mans’ at Road Atlanta,” a piece on Ullrich’s tenure for Audi’s website reads.

“31 driver titles in super touring car racing, in the DTM and in the sports prototype category are credited to him. 57 campaigners were Audi factory drivers during Wolfgang Ullrich’s era and he was responsible for 18 new developments of racing cars – an impressive tally.”