It’s easy to think that the glory days of truly crazy concept cars are behind us. We recall wistfully creations like the Ford Supervan and the Renault Espace F1, the plainest vehicles on the road radically overhauled to accept the most exciting engines on the planet. What times they were - and they aren’t done yet, thank goodness. Welcome to the Honda CR-V Hybrid Racer, the SUV powered by an Indycar engine.
That’s not some watered-down version to lend a bit of motorsport kudos, either, but actually a preview of what’s coming for North America’s premier open-wheel series. This CR-V is powered by a Honda Performance Development 2.2-litre V6, the electrified unit that will feature in Indycar for 2024. It’s a twin-turbo V6 which, with the help of the Borg Warner blowers and hybrid assistance, makes 800hp. It’s managed by a McLaren Applied Technologies Tag 400i ECU, and power reaches the ‘Firestone Firehawk Indy 500 Ultra High Performance Summer Tires’ via a six-speed Xtrac sequential.
There is still some CR-V in the Hybrid Racer, too: Honda says it’s standard sixth-generation CR-V from the beltline up, including the glass. But it’s racecar really, from the Chromoly chassis to bespoke carbon lower body for those outrageous wheelarches. The Hybrid Racer also gets front suspension and brakes from the latest NSX GT3 Evo, rear suspension adapted from the Indycar and custom aero bits to keep it somewhere near steady at whatever wild speed it can reach. The best kind of bitsa, basically. The end result is spectacular, a kind of Suzuki Escudo Pikes Peak for the 2020s. Honda itself says ‘The Beast’ - as it’s become affectionately known - has a look ‘reminiscent of the silhouette GT racing and Group B rally cars of the 1980s and 90s.’
There is kind of a point to this CR-V, too, beyond just being awesome. Most obviously it’s a preview of sorts for the upcoming hybrid Indycars (there are Skeleton Supercapacitors and Empel MGU tech in there), but Honda has also designed the Hybrid Racer as a rolling lab for its development of electrified engines. It runs on Shell’s renewable race fuel, too.
“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 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 per cent renewable fuels. It epitomizes Honda’s fun-to-drive ethos, showcases electrification and it just rocks our car culture roots and racing heritage!” You sense HPD are pretty enthusiastic about what they’ve created here, with good reason - there’s nothing quite so good as sublime and ridiculous in one car.
Best of all, the CR-V Hybrid Racer is going to run. Its debut will be at the NTT Indycar Series opening rounds this weekend, the Firestone Grand Prix in St Petersburg (the Florida one). Honda says it’s also going to be on display and doing additional track demos throughout the 2023 Indycar season, from Monterey to Mid-Ohio, as well as ‘additional appearances at select events’. There are going to be plenty of opportunities then, in the US at least, to see this Hybrid Racer over the coming months; never has this been said about a CR-V, but we’d urge you to go take a look. And send us lots of photos, please.
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