Honda Racing / IZOD IndyCar Series / RacingLine
The human story behind Honda's Indy engine
Honda Performance Development (HPD) and technical partner Ilmor Engineering, working through a unique, yet very coordinated effort, have designed and produced Honda's first normally aspirated IndyCar engine.
The results have been impressive. Honda engines are now in perfect position to win the 87th Indianapolis 500. When the race begins May 25, four Honda-powered cars will start in the first two rows, among the six fastest cars in the field.
"There's only one result in racing that's acceptable, and that's winning," said Robert Clarke, Vice President and General Manager of HPD. "Obviously, we've put Honda in a great position to win this race."
Both companies worked closely to build the brand-new 3.5-liter V-8 engine - the HI3R Series Indy V-8 - to meet Indy Racing League specifications for the 2003 season, Honda's first in the IRL.
"We all worked together as a team to put this engine on the track," Clarke said. "Between the two companies, it's probably 150 people. We're all looking for the winning edge."
The highlight of the IRL season, of course, is the world's most famous motor race. Four Honda drivers - Tony Kanaan, Robby Gordon and Dan Wheldon, all of Andretti Green Racing, and Kenny Brack of Rahal- Letterman Racing - put themselves in the first two rows with strong qualifying efforts May 11.
Behind those four drivers and their speed are 60 people in HPD's California headquarters, led by Clarke.
Thousands of hours of testing the HI3R went into developing the engine to reach its current success. Both HPD and Ilmor tested the engine relentlessly on the dynamometer and the track.
"Its not just the performance, but the reliability issue," Clarke said. "We've done hours and hours of endurance testing with this engine. We knew the first thing it had to do was last the race distance - you have to finish the race before you can win it."
Excelling at motorsports is nothing new to Honda. In 1928, at the age of 22, Soichiro Honda adapted a V-8 engine to a Ford chassis and set a Japanese speed record - 75 mph. That ingenuity remains the foundation of Honda's modern efforts.
"It's amazing to me how fast this program got up and running," Clarke said. "That's a credit to those involved in the program and their commitment."
Prior to joining the IRL IndyCar Series, Honda competed with Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART), where Honda won four manufacturers' championships and six drivers' titles from 1994 to 2002.
Other drivers using the Honda engine in the Indy 500 are Michael Andretti of Andretti Green Racing, Roger Yasukawa of Super Aguri Fernandez Racing, Greg Ray of Access Motorsports, Shinji Nakano of Beck Motorsports and Jimmy Vasser of Rahal- Letterman Racing.