Honda will be sole supplier to IRL in ’06

first_imgSANTA CLARITA – The people at Honda Performance Development knew there was a possibility they would have to build all 33 engines for the teams and drivers entered in the Indianapolis 500. They also knew there was a chance another engine manufacturer could enter the series, provide some competition and perhaps lighten the demands of the Indy Racing League teams. But none of this was supposed to happen for at least another year. That all changed Thursday. Barnhart likened having a one-engine series to having only one tire supplier in the IRL. He said the level of competition would not be affected by the departure of two engine manufacturers. “Since 2000, we have offered some of the most competitive racing in the world under an exclusive tire arrangement with Firestone,” Barnhart said. “Taking our engine program to a similar format, we believe will take IndyCar Series racing to an entirely new level of competition beginning in 2006.” Team Penske was in the process of making the switch from Toyota power to Honda power before Toyota decided to leave the IRL a year early. Now a handful of other teams will be forced to make the change. “Honda’s long-term commitment to the IndyCar Series was an absolute factor in our decision,” said Roger Penske, owner of the two-car Team Penske. “As it became clear that Toyota was re-allocating its resources, we had to look beyond 2006 and make the best decision for our future. This was a tough decision, but we make tough decisions in our other businesses every day.” Panther Racing, which won two IRL championships with Sam Hornish Jr. as its driver, previously was powered by Chevrolet. Target Chip Ganassi Racing won the 2003 IRL championship with driver Scott Dixon, powered by Toyota. Eddie Cheever’s Red Bull Racing, Hemelgarn Racing and Tony George’s Vision Racing used Toyota engines last year as well. “Anybody who’s changing or switching over right now obviously is a little behind,” said Team Penske team manager Clive Howell. “But we’re not testing anywhere until the end of January anyway. Quite frankly, the switch, if we had done it midseason, we could have made the switch in our cars inside of two weeks probably anyway if we wanted to.” Honda provided engines primarily for Andretti Green Racing, Rahal Letterman Racing, Delphi Fernandez Racing and Super Aguri Fernandez Racing in 2005. “We truly appreciate Toyota’s participation and service in the IndyCar Series,” Barnhart said. “They have been great partners to the series both on and off the race track.” Now it’s up to Honda to provide every team with quality and reliable engines and back-ups, as many as 20 for the regular drivers on the IRL, and 33 for the Indianapolis 500. Honda Performance Development recently tripled the size of its facility in the Valencia Industrial Center. Next it will have to triple its production. “We appreciate the enthusiasm shown and work done by Honda to ensure it has the ability to supply the entire IndyCar Series field,” Barnhart said. “Robert Clarke and everyone at HPD have been true partners during this process.” Tim Haddock, (818) 713-3715 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORERose Parade grand marshal Rita Moreno talks New Year’s Day outfit and ‘West Side Story’ remake Honda became the sole engine supplier to the IRL when series president and chief operating officer Brian Barnhart announced Toyota was leaving the league a year earlier than expected. Toyota and Honda were supposed to supply engines to IRL teams in 2006. Last year, Honda, Toyota and Chevrolet supplied engines for IRL teams. Honda has been on top in IRL competition in recent years, winning the past two series championships, the past two Indianapolis 500s and powering the past three rookies of the year. Competition no longer is a motivating factor for Honda Performance Development, which is based in Santa Clarita. But Robert Clarke, the president of HPD, said now is the time to work on developing technology and creating the most efficient race engines for the IRL. “Providing engines for the entire IndyCar Series field is a dramatically different role for Honda from that as one competitor in a multi-manufacturer championship,” Clarke said. “It is an opportunity that provides numerous new challenges, not only for HPD, but for several departments at American Honda as well.” last_img read more