The last two IndyCar seasons have been tough for Honda. Now the Japanese brand has the upper hand for 2017 and importantly, the upper hand for 2018 as well.
Better engine and better aero from Honda
Honda made significant progress during the past off season. Chevrolet had them beaten in terms of engine performance, driveability and aero performance since 2014. Fast forward to 2017 and Honda have gained performance whilst maintaining their almost trademark fuel efficiency. The freeze on aero development this season forced Honda to focus on engine performance to overcome bodywork “inefficiencies”. Two wins from two races also suggested they have sorted some of the pitch sensitivity issues with their aero kit that plagued most teams.
Honda are no longer just fast at Indy
Honda remains the package to have at Indianapolis. After two wins on street courses – exactly the type of track they struggled at in 2015 and 2016 – they might have the complete package. Make no mistake, every Honda team should be in contention for wins at pretty much all tracks the Verizon IndyCar series visits this year. Which represents a significant shift in the balance of power between IndyCar’s two car brands.
Team Penske along with Ed Carpenter Racing (and AJ Foyt if they can get their act together) will keep Chevy honour up this season. But Penske and ECR will find themselves in unfamiliar territory; playing catch up.
Honda teams powering up for Indianapolis
In an interview with David Malsher, Will Power’s engineer Dave Faustino recently confirmed the suspicion that Honda have made significant engine progress over the winter. Speaking after recent tests at Indianapolis, Faustino commented:
“We felt like we were at a bit of a deficit last year, and it seems like Honda has improved since then. So we’re a bit worried, and hoping Chevy can respond. We’ve got to hope that the step they make is big enough.”
Honda the engine to beat in IndyCar 2018?
The real clincher is of course that this season is the swan song for IndyCar’s much-maligned aero kits. After 3 consecutive seasons of Chevy dominance – albeit not at Indianapolis – we return to a standard aero kit for all teams in 2018. Suddenly Honda’s engine performance gains take on a new significance.
IndyCar from 2018 onwards will be an engine formula as far as Chevrolet and Honda are concerned. Undoubtedly both will ‘support’ their teams in maximising the performance of the new, standard aero kit. But engine performance will be the battleground for IndyCar’s two official engine manufacturers going forward. And Honda have put themselves in pole position for 2018
Back in October of last year, many were scratching their heads at the decision by Chip Ganassi Racing to switch to Honda for 2017. Suddenly it looks like the smartest IndyCar off season move in quite some time.