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Honda's American Odyssey

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author photo by Colin Ryan
  • Honda's minivan enters the One Lap of America event
  • Ten states, eight tracks and 3,500 miles to cover in one week
  • Twice the power of a regular Odyssey

The Honda Odyssey minivan is well known and well respected among parents with large families - just as the Honda name in general enjoys high regard in motorsport circles. But the two pursuits of moving several people around in a safe yet comfortable conveyance and shaving tenths of a second from a fast lap time seem worlds away from each other.

Every so often though, worlds collide. The 2012 One Lap of America is an unusual kind of motorsport event, so it shouldn't be too surprising that it would attract an unusual kind of entry. This Odyssey is an example, built and prepped in their free time by a group of workers from Honda's manufacturing plant in Lincoln, Alabama (a.k.a. HMA).

The challenge isn't literally a lap of the United States, but it does start off in South Bend, Indiana on Saturday, May 5 and take competitors through a total of 10 states - the most westerly being Colorado - before the checkered flag is waved one week and 3,500 miles later. On public roads, things are kept in control by adding time penalties if drivers arrive at certain points too early. The winner is the one who ends the race with the lowest number of penalties.

So far, so good for a vehicle like the Odyssey. But a competition that came from the mind of legendary racer Brock Yates - the man who created the coast-to-coast Cannonball Run - was never going to be so, um, pedestrian.

The route visits eight racetracks, where entrants take part in time trials that include running on banked ovals and drag strips. Suddenly, Honda's best-selling minivan needs a little help. The team from HMA decided a turbocharger should be bolted to the 3.5-liter V6. A tune-up resulted in doubling the engine's horsepower from the stock 266 to 532.

And so the process began, because it's never a simple matter of having more muscle. The brakes had to be upgraded with Brembo units (suppliers to Ferrari). Fitted to new 19-inch alloy wheels was a set of performance tires (the One Lap of America rules stipulate that only one set of tires may be used - a tricky situation when on the track), while an aftermarket H&R racing suspension was installed. One last surprise was the inclusion of a six-speed manual transmission instead of the usual automatic.

The men doing the driving, Paul Street and David Manley, both work at HMA. They have a Facebook page that provides regular updates on their progress. Hope they get back in time to take the kids to soccer practice.

What it means to you: It just goes to show that even the humble minivan can be a contender in the right kind of race.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.