Former Honda Performance Development vice president Steve Eriksen has been hired as Cadillac Chip Ganassi Racing’s new team manager. The company veteran was one of many, including ex-HPD president Ted Klaus, to accept an early retirement offer, and with his tenure finished at the brand’s American racing division, CCGR wasted no time in securing his services to oversee its factory IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi program.
“We’ve hired Steve Eriksen, who comes to us with 30 years of experience with American Honda, and something like 28 of them for the racing company,” CGR managing director Mike Hull told RACER. “Whenever talent like that comes available, we try to include that opportunity with what we’re doing. And with the expansion of our program in IndyCar, we needed more senior management, so the timing was perfect for us.”
At HPD, Eriksen was deeply immersed in the brand’s IndyCar and sports car projects, including the latest program with the Acura-badged ARX-05 prototype, which won the 2019 and 2019 DPi championships and earned its first overall victory in the Rolex 24 At Daytona last weekend. By coincidence, the team that posed the greatest threat to Acura at the event was Eriksen’s new employer and its Cadillac DPi-V.R under the management of Ganassi’s Mike O’Gara. As Hull explains, O’Gara will soon hand control over CCGR to Eriksen and focus on increased responsibilities elsewhere in the team.
“Steve’s going to go to work right away working on the IMSA program for us as the team manager; that role was not our original intention with Mike O’Gara,” he said. “So, he’ll work with Steve for quite a while in that transitionary phase, make sure it’s a smooth transition for our people in the building, the people on the IMSA team, the people at Cadillac, General Motors, and Dallara.
“I know that he’s well-respected by all of those people I’ve just mentioned. So that certainly helps. And the industry knowledge that he has is part of it, but frankly, that just builds what we can do internally with him. So it’s a big, big help for us.”
Although Eriksen will encounter many new things at CCGR, he’s far from unfamiliar to the team’s senior leadership.
“We first met him in 1996!” Hull exclaimed. “I think it might’ve been the Portland CART race. Steve was assigned by HPD to be the engine tech for Jimmy Vasser from June onward in ’96. Steve was part of why we won the ’96 CART IndyCar championship, so we have been part of viewing his growth within that company as time went on.
“I think the first time Steve and Chip met was when Chip accidentally sat on his laptop! Certainly not on purpose, but Steve had set it down and Chip sat down. And Steve said, ‘Well, hi, how you doing? I’m Steve.’ So we’ve had a great relationship starting then with Steve, and certainly been a big admirer of his for a long, long time with what he’s done.”
Having HPD’s former second in command on the payroll might sounds like a perfect opportunity to learn all of the secrets associated with the Acura ARX-05. Hull says it was never a factor in courting Eriksen.
“Well, we are partnered with Honda and HPD in our NTT IndyCar Series program, in which we run four cars,” he added. “And we have a lot of respect for their technical prowess and how hard they work and the culture that drives their company. We happen to be rivals in sports car racing presently, but it doesn’t stop the engagement that we have with Honda in terms of the technical wherewithal that they have that helps us go IndyCar racing. So we’ll have Steve place full attention on the different partners we have in IMSA. We couldn’t have done what we did at Daytona without an enormous amount of help from Cadillac and an enormous amount of help from Dallara. That’s a good foundation.
“Steve’s coming in at a very opportune time because we’re back in the building, working on making our product better for the 12-hour race that’s coming up next at Sebring. We’re quite proud of how our team performed at Daytona and we led a lot of laps. We just led the wrong one.
“Our team proved to themselves how close we are to winning races going forward. And the next thing is we proved without a shadow of a doubt was the choice of hiring Renger van der Zande was the right choice. Kevin Magnussen certainly proved that professional, talented, single-seat drivers can drive a DPi car as flawlessly as anybody that he competed against on the weekend. And certainly Scott Dixon held up his end. Now we’ve added Steve Eriksen to the team, which makes us better.”