Honda Unveils Stout Lineup to Defend IRL Titles

1/19/2005 10:20:00 PM

Ten drivers and four teams - the largest effort yet fielded by Honda in premier open-wheel competition - will take to the track in the 2005 Indy Racing League IndyCar Series as the manufacturer seeks to defend its "Triple Crown" of IRL titles won last year.

In just its second season of Indy Racing League competition, Honda drivers and teams swept the competition in the 2004 IndyCar Series, winning 14 of 16 races and claiming three major IRL titles: the Manufacturers' Championship, Drivers' Championship and Rookie of the Year Award.

It was an incredible season for Honda and its Honda Performance Development subsidiary, but the company is determined to defend all three titles with an expanded lineup, a continuation of the successful technical partnership with Ilmor Engineering, Inc., of Plymouth, Michigan, and the opening of HPD's new, state-of-the-art headquarters in Santa Clarita, California.

The results speak for themselves: Honda won 14 consecutive races in 2004, including the final two events run under the "old" 3.5-liter engine formula (at Phoenix and Honda-owned Twin Ring Motegi, Japan); the Indianapolis 500 (first race run with the new 3.0-liter engines) and the next 11 IndyCar Series races, continuing through the California Indy 400 in October.

IndyCar Series Champion Tony Kanaan, a three-race winner last year, will lead an unchanged four-car lineup from Andretti Green Racing. He again will be partnered with 2004-championship runner-up Dan Wheldon, another three-race victor, highlighted by an important win for Honda at the company's "home" circuit, Twin Ring Motegi in Japan. Dario Franchitti, twice a winner in 2004, and veteran Bryan Herta complete the team. All will continue to drive Honda-powered Dallara chassis.

Rahal Letterman Racing has expanded to field a trio of entries, led by defending Indianapolis 500 Champion Buddy Rice. Vitor Meira returns for his first full season with the Columbus, Ohio-based team, in search of his first IndyCar victory, after coming close on several occasions last year. They will be joined by Formula Atlantic graduate Danica Patrick, who will seek rookie honors in her first year of IndyCar racing. Rahal Letterman will again utilize chassis supplied by Georgia-based Panoz [formerly known as G-Force].

Fernandez Racing will campaign a pair of one-car Panoz-Honda teams this year from its home in Indianapolis. Kosuke Matsuura, who gathered both IndyCar Series and Indianapolis 500 rookie honors, returns with Super Aguri Fernandez Racing. IndyCar veteran Scott Sharp, owner of eight career victories in nine seasons of IRL competition, will lead the companion Delphi Fernandez Racing effort.

Dreyer & Reinbold Racing completes the 2005 Honda IndyCar line-up, running a single full-time Dallara entry for Roger Yasukawa. Yasukawa finished second [to fellow Honda driver Wheldon] in the chase for the 2003 IndyCar Rookie of the Year Award, and finished 10th at Indianapolis last year, one of only two starts for the popular Californian.

"Last season was a fantastic result for Honda," said Robert Clarke, vice president and general manager of HPD. "But we know our competitors will redouble their efforts in 2005, and we need to be ready to meet that challenge through hard work and dedication. With our expanded lineup of four teams and 10 full-time efforts, 2005 is shaping up to be an exciting year for Honda and the IRL."

HPD, Honda's wholly-owned racing subsidiary, is the technical operations center for Honda's IndyCar engine program, and coordinates American Honda's participation in the Indy Racing League. HPD and its technical partner, Ilmor Engineering Inc. of Plymouth, Michigan, work together to design, develop and produce engines for the 2005 season.

HPD and Ilmor also provide trackside support and engine rebuilding services to all teams using the Honda HI5R engine, an evolution of the 3.0-liter HI4R-A Indy V-8 engine introduced at last year's Indianapolis 500

In addition, HPD has now opened its new 123,000-square-foot headquarters building in Santa Clarita, California. The two-story structure houses comprehensive engine Research & Development operations including design, development engineering, prototype and production parts manufacturing, engine preparation, rebuilding, material analysis, quality control inspection, dyno/test cells, machining and administrative offices. Honda Performance Development now employs 120, the largest workforce in its 12-year history.

Honda 2005 IndyCar Series Lineup:

Driver/Number/Sponsor/Engine or Chassis

Andretti Green Racing

Bryan Herta- # 7 XM Radio Dallara Honda
Tony Kanaan- #11 7-Eleven Dallara Honda
Dan Wheldon- #26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara Honda
Dario Franchitti- #27 Arca/Ex Dallara Honda

Rahal Letterman Racing

Buddy Rice- #15 Pioneer/Argent Panoz Honda
Vitor Meira- #16 Menards Panoz Honda
Danica Patrick- #17 Argent/Pioneer Panoz Honda

Delphi Fernandez Racing

Scott Sharp- # 8 Delphi/AT&T Panoz Honda

Super Aguri Fernandez Racing

Kosuke Matsuura- #55 Panasonic/Autobacs/ARTA Panoz Honda

Dreyer & Reinbold Racing

Roger Yasukawa- #24 Aventis/Racing for Kids Dallara Honda