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 –

Honda.

A little more than two weeks after Herta’s team was released

from its contract with engine-manufacturer Lotus, Bryan Herta

Autosport announced it would 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 for the remainder of the 2012

season.”

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 then

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-season 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

race leader JR Hildebrand in the front straightaway. Hildebrand

crashed on the final turn of the last lap. Wheldon was killed in

October in a crash at Las Vegas.

”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 a Lotus team that has struggled

mightily all season.

After getting a later start than its two competitors and

producing sub-par results, teams that had been complaining started

leaving.

Lotus released Herta’s team and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing

from their contracts April 24, and now it’s facing a lawsuit from

Dragon Racing, which is owned by Penske’s son, Jay. The filing

seeks $4.6 million, claiming Lotus has damaged the reputation of

the two-car team that features drivers Sebastien Bourdais of France

and Katherine Legge of England.

As Jay Penske looks for new engines, Legge, a rookie, was not

expected to attempt passing her rookie test Thursday like the other

seven first-time Indy drivers.

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 run with the new Fan Force

United team this week.

A Lotus spokeswoman did not immediately respond to an email from

The Associated Press seeking comment.