IndyCar: Honda a month from contract expiration, confident of renewal

Honda Performance Development (HPD) President Art St. Cyr seen at a press conference in Oct. 2013 at Auto Club Speedway.

Michael L. Levitt

In exactly one month Honda’s contract with INDYCAR will expire, but officials of Honda Performance Development are confident that a renewal to remain an engine and technical partner of the Verizon IndyCar Series is getting closer.

“We really have a lot of momentum right now,” said HPD President Art St. Cyr. “There are still some technical issues that make sure our image and INDYCAR’s image is aligned so we can work forward as a team moving forward. We still have a few remaining issues to work though. They are hurdles but we both recognize them and are looking for a solution to them. We would like to have that solved before our current contract expires on September 13 but I wouldn’t call that a drop-dead date.

“It’s the aero kit that is holding things up right now. All we want to be is competitive.”

St. Cyr met with outgoing INDYCAR President Derrick Walker on Monday. Walker told FOXSports.com on Tuesday that Honda is considering asking for Rule 9.3 to be implemented and that would allow Honda to identify a deficiency to the design of its aero kit and request a change to help it be more competitive with Chevrolet’s.

“We talked with Derrick about what the next step is,” St. Cyr said. “Right now there is a discussion going about what Rule 9.3 means and what we are allowed to do to catch up with that rule. I think it’s fair to say we are just down to that viewpoint. Some people will say the two kits are equal now but I don’t think that is a common understanding to most viewers of the Verizon IndyCar Series.

“Chevrolet has had the advantage the whole year. The aero kit project looks like it will go on for a couple more years so it was never the intention of that to give one car the advantage forever. Look at Formula One – it’s not that exciting when Mercedes is going to win every week.  That rule – 9.3 – is not meant to allow Honda to jump ahead it’s to allow us to fix some flaws in the kit so we are at least what we consider even. Then we can start development from there.”

St. Cyr and Honda Performance Development had a superspeedway aero kit at this year’s Indianapolis 500 that was actually up to speed with the Chevrolet kit. However, they then had to dramatically change their qualification aerodynamic package in the hours before qualifications were set to begin as a response to three Chevrolet cars flipping during practice for the race.

None of the incidents involved Honda cars but the company begrudgingly agreed to the qualification change even though it put Honda at a deficit.

Derrick Walker resigns as IndyCar president

“We have said all along that we want INDYCAR to survive and we want to be with INDYCAR,” St. Cyr said. “Sometimes we have to make some concessions to make that happen. We are just asking for the same consideration moving forward.

“You can probably imagine there is some concern if Honda is given any preferential treatment there will be lots of battles. We just want everybody onboard with what we are doing and that all the ‘I’s’ are dotted and ‘T’s’ are crossed.”

Walker leaves his position as INDYCAR President of Competition on Aug. 31. Former HPD head Robert Clarke has been mentioned as a possible replacement for that position.

“INDYCAR needs to have somebody who is strong and makes sure we continue growing the series,” St. Cyr said. “We have a little bit of momentum moving forward. I want to make sure that any decision we do makes sure anybody can win races at any times. The Verizon IndyCar Series championship always comes down to the last race and we want to keep it that way. Anybody in that position needs to have the support and backing of INDYCAR and the teams and suppliers involved. We need all the partners, teams and executives to be aligned and understand where we are going.”

Honda teams and drivers have won three of the past four races. Graham Rahal has won two of those races – the June 27 MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California and the Aug. 2 Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio. Another Honda driver, 2012 IndyCar champion and 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay, won the Iowa Corn 300 at Iowa Speedway on July 18.

There are two races left this season – the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono International Raceway on Aug. 23 and the Go Pro Grand Prix of Sonoma at Sonoma Raceway on Aug. 30.

**

Be sure to catch Bruce Martin’s Honda IndyCar Report on RACEDAY on FOX Sports Radio every Sunday from 6-8 a.m. ET.