How bad was the Long Beach Indycar weekend for Honda?
- Chevy swept the first seven places. Marco Andretti and Carlos Munoz were the best-in-class Hondas in 8th and 9th. But wait, it gets worse…
- The top Honda finished 34 seconds behind the leader. That’s after 71 Green-flag laps which means the top Honda was half a second per lap slower than the winning Chevy.
- Takuma Sato had the fastest race lap by a Honda. He finished 13th on the fastest race lap chart. That means EVERY Chevy had a least one lap that was faster than the FASTEST Honda.
That’s Humiliation. With a capital H.
Art St. Cyr, the President of HPD , said as much after the race. “Obviously, this was a very disappointing day for all of us at Honda Performance Development. We need to perform better. We do believe we have identified the areas where we need to improve, and will spare nothing in our efforts to return Honda to victory circle in the Verizon IndyCar Series.”
That’s all well and good, but the questions only get harder from here. Given the trouncing at St. Pete and Long Beach, HPD has to be looking for help from above for Barber this weekend. Unfortunately, it looks like Saturday afternoon (qualifying) and Sunday (race) will be dry, so it will be challenging for Honda to get a car in the top 10, let alone the top 5. Winning seems out of the question.
And there won’t be any time to try to work out the kinks in the aerokit through testing anytime soon. After Barber, the next big event is not a race, but the Indy Oval Open Test May 3. This is where we find out how big a disaster the Honda Aerokit really is. If Honda is as fast or faster than Chevy,
will live with that. Hell, they’ll probably cheer.
But if the Chevy is faster at IMS , all bets are off. Anything and anyone will be on the chopping block. The Indy 500 has always been the goal for Honda. And they spent more time, money and effort on the Indy Aerokit than for the Road-Street package. Honda ran the entire superspeedway aerokit at actual superspeedways during the development process. They never ran the entire road course kit, only pieces.
One internet racing site Autoracing1.com is reporting Tuesday that one head is about to roll: that of Nick Wirth, whose firm designed the Indycar Aerokit as well as the ARX-04b LMP2 car that has been the race car equivalent of stillborn. This is a long-time partnership dating back to 2003. So if Nick Wirth goes, nothing and no one is safe in the Honda Racing/ HPD camp. The real question is who would replace him? It’s not the kind of work HPD could do itself.
So while we can hold out hope for the Indy 500 and the Honda Superspeedway Aerokit, the only hope for Honda at Barber, the Grand Prix of Indy (road course), The Detroit Double Header and the Honda Indy Toronto is inclement weather during either qualifying, the race, or both. Because the schedule won’t allow any Road-Street course testing until the First Week in July, even if Honda does know what the problem is, there is no way to test a fix before then.
Interspersed in June are two big ovals: Fontana and Texas. If Honda does OK at Indy, they will be OK at these tracks. Otherwise, as a long-time Indycar fan I don’t even want to think about it. We could be questioning whether its worth Honda Marketing’s money to pay for HPD to be involved anymore.