Fort Mill, SC
Ever feel like there’s not enough time in a day? Try telling that to the HART Racing team – where all of the team’s crew members work full time jobs at Honda and work on their racecar after work hours. The team that has won many races in Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge competition, impressed in its IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship debut as the team fought and raced to the finish in the fastest-ever Rolex 24 At Daytona.
Drivers John Falb, Sean Rayhall, Chad Gilsinger, and Ryan Eversley combined for 719 laps and took a 16th place class result, despite a trip to the garage to replace a shock some 500 laps into the race.
That’s pretty impressive – considering HART, who only works on their car during evenings and weekends, is competing against teams that spend every moment of the week working on their race cars.
You may ask the question – but why? – It’s a dream come true for every member of the group.
“Really it is a lot of passion and of course a lot of hard work and a lot of late nights,” said Gilsinger, who serves both as manager and driver for HART Racing. “We had at least five to 10 nights working past midnight and many other nights working until about midnight in preparation for the start of the season for the Rolex 24. After we got the car, we found out there was some issues with the frame due to a prior incident, so we had to start with a different frame which put us behind even more. But everyone on the team has wanted to do this for so long and nothing was going to stop us. We have a bunch of good guys that all want to do it and that’s basically what it takes.”
As you can imagine, there isn’t much free time for an organization as dedicated as this one. And it sometimes requires some finesse of the team’s schedule.
“We try to focus on working on the weekends because we can get a lot more done during the weekend,” added Gilsinger. “During the day, it’s nice because one side of the guys – the factory guys – go in a little bit earlier and then they can leave a little earlier. For us on the R&D side we typically go in a little bit later due to our meeting schedules and everything so we’ll get over there an hour or two later but then we’ll stay an hour or two later. Pretty much people are over there from 4pm until 10pm or 11pm on a work day. On weekends we get in between 8 and 9 am and work until around midnight.
“We have our race shop at what’s called the Transportation Research Center (near the Honda facility in Marysville, Ohio). We have a shop there where we do all of our work. We’re fortunate enough that we have some test facilities as far as tracks and stuff.”
One of the key elements to HART’s preparation for 2018 was the opportunity to work with the Michael Shank Racing team and their Acura NSX GTD effort last year.
“I don’t think we could have done it if we hadn’t had the experience with Michael Shank Racing last year,” said Gilsinger. “With the timeframe we were given, if we didn’t have any experience at all, I think it would have been really difficult. Fortunately our key mechanics also worked with the Shank guys – Tyler Chambers took the lead and busted his butt. We brought in a new guy from the PMC facility which is where they built the street car (NSX) so he has a lot of knowledge of the street car and the frame in general and he actually worked on a lot of the repairs for Shank and RealTime last year whenever they had frame damage so he is really knowledgeable about that. He jumped in with both feet and has been a big help. It’s hard to get people to dedicate their time like that – so to find the guys we have on this team helps.”
When asked about his team’s biggest challenge, Gilsinger is quick to respond.
“One word – budget,” said Gilsinger. “We get a nice budget from the manufacturing side but it’s nowhere near what any of these other teams have. We have to be very frugal with things and we have to be creative. We can’t just throw money at it to make things happen, we have to be creative and figure out ways to do it with what we have. I think that’s one thing that really has made our team stand out – by doing it with next to nothing – and what I mean by that is our budget, manpower, resources, time, everything.”
Though it may seem like a lot of work, it’s what the team is willing to do in order to fulfill a dream.
“I have to thank everybody – I obviously have put in a lot of sweat, tears and time away from my family," offered Gilsinger. "But Tyler (Chambers), Andrew (Salzano) and Kurt (Baker) in particular worked just as hard as I did to convince everybody that we should do this. But everybody else – I can’t name everybody but Eric, Mo, Jose, everybody has put in a lot of time. I almost feel bad – the guys probably get sick of hearing it from me because I thank them all the time. Because I feel like I’m getting the biggest benefit out of it (as a driver) but I’m realizing that they want it just as bad as I do. I’m happy that I can live my dream but I feel like everybody is living their dream as well.”
HART Racing will be back in IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competition this week for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring – and you can bet they’ll be giving it everything they’ve got.