(FF), the most competitive form of open-wheel single-seater racing anywhere and spawning ground for many of the world's greatest drivers, has just turned 40 in the U.S. But this weekend's Anniversary Celebration at Road America saw a new iteration of this historic competitor take to the track, courtesy of the gang at Honda
Performance Development. In place of Ford's venerable but long-out-of-production 1.6-liter carbureted "Kent" engine, HPD showed a prototype version of the current Swift DB-1 FF chassis fitted with a dedicated version of Honda's modern, fuel-injected 1.5-liter four-cylinder from the Fit. Developed in consort with renowned powerplant maestro Sandy Shailman of Quicksilver RacEngines, the Honda FF engine can be bolted right in using a conversion kit. It also can be tweaked to deliver the same performance levels as the Ford powerplant using an air restrictor plate and/or modified computer control mapping. Beyond offering a longer life and better availability, HPD -- which is Honda and Acura's official motorsport "company" in North America -- says it will yield lower overall operation costs. HPD has begun soliciting feedback from both FF competitors and the Sports Car Club of America regarding the possibility of using the new engine, which is expected to cost under $12,000, including the conversion kit. Erik Berkman, president of Honda Performance Development, sees the Fit alternative as a simple and effective way to counteract the rising component costs and diminishing availability of the Ford engine that have contributed to a reduction in the size of FF starting grids. "Our goal is not to force competitors to make a change, but to make FF more affordable and more competitive."