Honda and its racing department at Honda Performance Development are willing to go to extraordinary lengths to help the NTT IndyCar Series secure a new engine supplier. With IndyCar’s planned shift to a 2.4-liter twin-turbo hybrid V6 engine in 2022, HPD has been extraordinarily vocal in its desire to have another manufacturer commit to the series and share the responsibilities of powering the field.
At present, two automotive heavyweights look after 33 cars or more at the Indy 500, and while there’s hope Chevy and Honda will sign new supply contracts to maintain their positions in the series, HPD president Ted Klaus says landing a third manufacturer would go a long way to making a long-term commitment financially feasible.
“This isn’t the first time we’ve said that we want strong manufacturer competition, and I think we need at least three manufacturers in the series in order for IndyCar to really be sustainable and viable for all parties,” he told RACER. “And the last big point is, we need much more clear development and detailed implementation plans from the series, and the manufacturer agreements that support those plans, in order to move forward.”
In 2019, Honda and HPD celebrated its 25th anniversary of sustained support for IndyCar across CART, the Indy Racing League, and the current IndyCar Series. With a vested interest in its future, Klaus says Honda’s Southern California-based racing division has been searching for new ways to assist IndyCar in its preparations for the upcoming engine formula change and its outreach to various manufacturers as 2022 approaches.
“We are having much more detailed internal discussions of how HPD can support IndyCar,” he continued. “How we can help them with the detailed planning and implementation of various steps in planning for the future? By reaching out through IndyCar to the various suppliers, who have also affected by COVID, we can set up a master plan for the future, setting up a group of technical people who meet regularly and get on with the work that has to be done. Even offering our services to test certain components, to make sure that they are functioning properly so that we can avoid a downstream risk and a waste of time and money with the new engine program.
“The question we keep posing to ourselves at HPD is, ‘How do we support and help IndyCar?’ We’ve gone on record repeatedly about this, but I really want it to be clear that it’s not just mythical support. We actually will sit down with the new manufacturer, and we can help them.”
In a sport where manufacturers stop just short of hiring armed guards to protect their engines and intellectual property from rivals, the degree of openness on offer by Honda and HPD in the hunt for a new adversary is highly uncommon.
“We understand what it takes to be successful with a different ethanol-based fuel, with the different loads experienced, and the performance envelope of an Indy car,” Klaus explained. “These things are different from F1 or other forms of racing, so we can essentially share — up to a point, with IP — our design approach and ‘de-risk’ their approach to creating a new Indy car engine. It’s a big commitment to be in IndyCar, with a unique formula, and as we’ve seen in the past, some manufacturers have made that commitment and not been successful; it didn’t work out for them. We would share our IP up to a point, so that a competent engine manufacturer could show up and be competitive from race number one, day number one. I don’t know that HPD can offer anything more there.
“And we’re happy to sit down with new manufacturers to explain the business side. American Honda executives would be happy to sit down with them about our marketing partnership with IndyCar. We’re willing to share on all those planes, why we think IndyCar is a good investment. I’ve even offered to give them a tour of our facility in Santa Clarita, because we are a wide-ranging motorsports operation and supporting many North American racing series now, not only IndyCar.
“Now, I don’t know if a company, a respected engine manufacturer, might need our help. But there are some unique things about IndyCar where I think they’d be smart to take advantage of our experience in the sport.”