Bryan Herta Autosport chooses Honda as new engine

Bryan Herta will try to win this year’s Indianapolis 500 with

the same engine that took him to Victory Lane last year.

Two weeks after it was released from its contract with Lotus,

Bryan Herta Autosport announced Thursday that it will use Honda

engines for the rest of this season. The move comes two days before

practice opens for the 500 and a little more than two weeks before

the May 27 race.

”My time as a Honda driver in both the IndyCar Series, as well

as the time spent driving factory Acura LMP2 in the American Le

Mans Series, were among my most rewarding and memorable years in

racing,” Herta said. ”So it is with great personal pleasure that

we are returning to the Honda family.”

The move revved up hope among team members that they can defend

the 500 title after a slow start in 2012.

Problems had been mounting for Herta and Lotus.

Driver Alex Tagliani failed to complete a lap at Alabama because

of a bad throttle, then dropped out after completing only 46 of 85

laps at Long Beach because the engine overheated. The team skipped

Sao Paulo as it shopped for a new engine-manufacturer. Tagliani’s

best finish this season was 15th in the season-opener at St.

Petersburg.

While the Honda engines have been more competitive than those

from Lotus, Chevrolet has dominated the early results. Roger

Penske’s team has driven Chevy to wins in each of the first four

races this season.

But Honda will now have 15 cars trying to make the 33-car Indy

field, including Tagliani’s No. 98 car. The late Dan Wheldon drove

that number into Victory Lane for Herta last season after passing

JR Hildebrand, who had crashed, in the front straightaway.

”We’re pleased to be able to renew our relationship with Bryan

Herta and his team,” said Steve Eriksen, vice president of Honda

Performance Development. ”His team’s victory in the 2011

Indianapolis 500 was the stuff of legend, and all of us at HPD and

American Honda are delighted to have a hand in helping him defend

that championship.”

It’s also another setback for Lotus, which got off to a late

start and whose engines haven’t produced.

Lotus released Herta’s team and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing

from their contracts April 24, and now it’s facing a $4.6 million

lawsuit from Dragon Racing, which is owned by Penske’s son, Jay.

The suit claims Lotus has damaged the reputation of the two-car

team that features drivers Sebastien Bourdais of France and

Katherine Legge of England. Penske is searching for new

engines.

Legge was the only rookie not to make it onto the track Thursday

and one of only two who did not complete their rookie test. Former

Freedom 100 winner Wade Cunningham completed the first two phases

of his rookie test, but didn’t have enough time to complete the

third phase.

The only other driver who didn’t get track time was Bourdais,

who was granted time for a refresher course at the speedway.

The departure of all three teams leaves Lotus with only two

drivers using its engines to qualify for the 500 – Switzerland’s

Simona De Silvestro, who works for the one-car team of HVM Racing,

and Jean Alesi, who was just added to the new Fan Force United team

this week.

A Lotus spokeswoman did not immediately respond to an email from

The Associated Press seeking comment.