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Sage Marie drove to victory in the Touring 3 class in his Honda S2000 and Lee Niffenegger and Matthew Staal finished first and third in Showroom Stock B in their Honda Civic Si Coupes.


FONTANA, California – January 24, 2010 – Team Honda Research Racing drivers Sage Marie, Lee Niffenegger and Matthew Staal opened the 2010 season with strong showings at the Auto Club Speedway in their Team Honda Research-Ohio-prepared vehicles. Piloting the #43 Honda Racing/Honda Performance Development (HPD)/BFGoodrich Tires Honda S2000, Sage Marie led flag-to-flag to a dominant win in the Touring 3 class. Driving the #42 Honda Racing/HPD/BFGoodrich Tires Honda Civic Si Coupe, Lee Niffenegger claimed victory by holding off charges from the other Showroom Stock B (SSB) drivers. Staal finished third in SSB despite sustaining moderate damage to the #53 Honda Racing/HPD/BF Goodrich Tires Honda Civic Si Coupe.


Marie drove a superb race in his #43 Honda S2000 to a drama-free victory and turned a best lap of 1:55.348. Although he was able to dominate his class, he still had to deal with Chris Qualls’ American Sedan class #73 Ford Mustang in the opening stages of the race. Qualls fell off the pace, however, when the hood of his car became undone due to high speed buffeting. Left unchallenged, Marie was able to focus on driving a clean race until he took the checkered flag.


Niffenegger and Staal qualified first and third in their Honda Civic Si Coupes. Sandwiched between the Honda Racing/HPD teammates was Lance Stewart in his #3 Ford Mustang. Because of the rolling start and high speeds afforded by the Auto Club Speedway’s front straightaway, the pole position presented Niffenegger with the challenge of holding off Stewart and his Honda Racing teammate Staal as they headed toward Turn 1’s 14 degrees of banking.


The three cars circulated the track in a close pack during the race’s early stages. Staal and Stewart exchanged positions multiple times with much of the action taking place coming off the oval and onto the infield road course. With the hard racing taking place behind him, Niffenegger extended his lead over the two who were battling for second place. The battle came to an end on lap 7 when Staal’s Civic Si Coupe was hit as a result of a braking error by Richard Roberts in his Touring 2 class #5 Pontiac Solstice GXP.


Staal’s Civic Si was damaged to the point that he could no longer contend for second place. Staal nursed his car to finish in third place, but knew he definitely could have finished higher. Niffenegger’s best lap was a 1:59.657 and Staal’s was a 1:59.932. The close proximity of their times was another testament to the competitive nature and skill of the Honda Racing/HPD team.


The Team Honda Racing-West (THR-W) team of Marie and Staal and THR-Ohio’s Niffenegger will head to Willow Springs International Raceway on February 27-28 to continue their journey to this year’s SCCA National Runoffs. Marie and his S2000 are in a prime position to excel through the fast turns of Big Willow while Staal and Niffenegger will again be class favorites in SSB. The handling capabilities of Marie’s S2000 and Staal and Niffenegger’s Civic Si race cars and their BFGoodrich g-Force R1 tires should pay huge dividends through Turns 8 and 9 and onto the front straight where they will be able to outbrake their competition entering Turn 1.


Team Honda Research-West (THR-W) and Team Honda Research-Ohio (THR) are officially-sanctioned employee efforts fielded by Honda associates. They are expressions of the racing spirit Honda has exhibited in all levels of motorsport since its beginning. As enthusiasts, they operate under the mantra, “We develop what we race, and race what we develop,” with the intention of transferring their findings into the development of the “fun-to-drive” Honda products that consumers can purchase.  More information about THR-W is available at

Through Honda Racing/HPD, the Honda Racing Line program provides support and incentive programs to Honda and Acura competitors participating in SCCA competition and other forms of grassroots motorsports. Additional details on the Honda Racing Line can be found at


Team Honda Research-West is proud to represent, test and use products from the following companies: Honda Research & Development Americas, Inc., American Honda Motors Corporation, Honda Performance Development, BFGoodrich Tires, The Westside Group, H&R Springs, Brembo Sport, Baja Designs, Inc., AEM, Traqmate, Hondata, APR, Exedy, Recaro, Red Line Oil, Tyga-Box Inc., HMS Motorsport and Schroth Racing safety harnesses, Goodridge, ASR, Cobalt Brakes and King Motorsports.


-By Loren Wong, Contributing Editor.


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