Honda engines popping like firecrackers
While Lotus took their time on the drawing board and only recently getting valuable track time for their new IndyCar engine, rivals Honda and Chevy had their engines ready months before and are now blowing them up on a regular basis. Did they take enough time designing their engines, or were they rushed out and onto the race track?
However, we don't know if Lotus is pushing their engine hard yet.
Rumor has it that the Lotus engine (designed by some ex-Ferrari F1 engine designers and John Judd) is both lighter and stiffer than its two rivals, owing to perhaps a better design. Given the new IndyCar is too heavy in the rear owing to Dallara's inferior design, the lighter Lotus engines may prove to make for better handling race cars.
Speedtv.com reports that after years of enjoying a near-perfect reliability record during Honda’s run as IndyCar’s sole engine supplier, teams got a taste of reality during three days of testing earlier this week when Honda experienced multiple engine failures in a somewhat public fashion.
Honda wasn’t alone though as its rivals at Chevrolet, which declined to comment, also suffered similar problems, albeit in a less demonstrative manner. With just one engine in play, Lotus escaped major dramas at Sebring, but the accelerated development pace the three marques are facing has meant that playing it safe isn’t always an option.
INDYCAR has given the “Indy 3” a finite amount of time—30 days before the first race on March 25th at St. Petersburg—to develop its engines before each must submit its final homologation specification, leading to some of what was encountered at Sebring.
With the homologation deadline drawing closer, the Indy 3 have routinely deployed engines with slightly different internal configurations to its teams to evaluate various components, and the outcome hasn’t always been positive. In some cases, even the proven components can be problematic. In other words they are guessing, trying a lot of things, in the hope of finding a design that works.
“The bottom line is that we did have some engine failures,” Honda Performance Development Technical Director Roger Griffiths explained to SPEED.com. “They were completely unexpected. Of course, you never go to the track expecting an engine failure…and it was of a hardware specification we’d run many times before. So we’re a little perplexed as to why things went wrong like they did.”
With its anchor team Ganassi Racing and partner teams A.J. Foyt Racing and Dale Coyne Racing present for the test, Honda had to heavily curtail the activities of most of its cars once the failures began.
Ganassi’s Graham Rahal and Charlie Kimball, Foyt’s Mike Conway and Coyne’s Justin Wilson turned very few laps before their cars were parked for good. Only Ganassi’s Dario Franchitti continued uninterrupted, while his teammate, Scott Dixon, was only scheduled to test on Tuesday.
“We had to make the decision to stop running immediately before we did further damage,” Griffiths continued. “It’s unfortunate for all our teams who lost track time, but the knock-on effect down the road is that had we kept running, we’d likely of had more failures which would impact your ability to recover from it. In that situation, it was the only choice to make.”