Team Honda Research S2000 CR (© Marc Urbano)Click to enlarge picture

The Team Honda Research S2000 CR attacks the track in the 25 Hours of Thunderhill.

In the eyes of most consumers, Honda is a company that builds safe, dependable and economical vehicles. Models such as the Accord, Civic and CR-V are perennial favorites that deliver fuss-free transportation with minimal time spent in the shop. They offer features that help them shine in the showroom, backed by Honda's long-standing reputation for reliability.

This history of reliability, however, didn't happen overnight. Technological innovation has been a driving force at Honda since the company's inception, as has participation in international motorsports. From Grand Prix motorcycles to Formula 1 and Indy Cars, Honda has competed in the highest forms of racing to help produce the most durable, technologically advanced products possible.

S2000 CR — The Ultimate S2000
The latest example of this racetrack-to-real-world transition is the 2008 S2000 CR roadster. Designated "CR" for Club Racer, this most performance-oriented of Hondas is the final step in the 8-year evolution of the S2000 and by far the most potent. As the CR badge suggests, this is a street-legal production car that has been optimized for track use. Whether it's track-day lapping, autocrossing or wheel-to-wheel racing, the S2000 CR is equipped to compete.

View Pictures:  25-Hour Test Drive

Upgrades over the standard 2008 model are selective, yet effective. To improve its already-impressive handling, changes have been made to the chassis, suspension and body work to sharpen its reflexes and improved stability at high speeds.

A new rear body brace contributes to chassis rigidity, while specially tuned shocks, springs and stabilizer bars stiffen the suspension to cope with the demands of the track. A revised front air dam and new rear spoiler reduce aerodynamic lift at triple-digit speeds, further improving the CR's high-speed dexterity over the standard S2000.

To save weight there's neither a radio nor air conditioning, and the soft-top has been replaced by a removable aluminum hardtop. The 2.2-liter 4-cylinder engine, however, remains the same, putting out 237 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque. Power is routed through a close-ratio 6-speed manual transmission with shorter throws than stock. Lighter CR-specific 17-inch wheels and wider 255/40R17 rear tires finish off the upgrades.

Tuned for Competition
On the track, pretenders are quickly separated from contenders. To illustrate this, a team of engineers from the Honda R&D Americas facility in Raymond, Ohio, took two virtually stock S2000 CRs and went racing. Highly skilled at engineering next-gen Accords and Civics, these guys are just as passionate about building winning race cars. All are accomplished racers in their own right in both the national amateur ranks and at the professional level.

The event the Team Honda Research engineers chose for their ultimate torture test is the country's longest sports-car endurance race, the U.S. Air Force 25 Hours of Thunderhill — www.nasa25hour.com.

With nearly 70 cars on track at the same time, this twice-around-the-clock annual event has quickly become a favorite among amateur and professional racers alike. It splits cars into five classes, which include machines from nearly every corner of the automotive landscape. It's not uncommon to see Mustangs battling BMWs, Miatas trading paint with Civics, or even open-cockpit sports racers hounding a Grand-American Daytona Prototype.