Honda claims 200th IndyCar victory at Pocono

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Honda Performance Development celebrated its 20th anniversary in April. A little less than three months later, it’s time for HPD to throw another party after claiming its 200th win in North American open-wheel racing with Scott Dixon’s triumph at the Pocono IndyCar 400.

“It does mean a lot,” said Dixon, who has raced with Honda powerplants since the 2006 season. “It’s special. I haven’t been a Honda [driver] all my career but the time I’ve had with them has been fantastic. We’ve gone through ups and downs and won a lot of things together, and my biggest races have been won with Honda.

“Obviously, I love working with them and they’re a great group of people, and to be at that milestone with them is fantastic for me. So you know, let’s move on to 300, I guess.”

Honda first made its way into IndyCar in 1994, with Andre Ribeiro taking its first win one year later at New Hampshire International Speedway (now New Hampshire Motor Speedway). That day, Ribeiro won by over 14 seconds for Honda victory No. 1, whereas Dixon defeated Charlie Kimball today by less than half a second in Honda victory No. 200.

“It’s just such an incredible day for Honda and everyone at Honda Performance Development,” said HPD technical director Roger Griffiths in a statement. “I’m so pleased for every one of our associates who have been involved in our 200 race wins, for the Target Chip Ganassi organization on scoring their 100th and Scott [Dixon’s] 30th wins – just a great day all-around.”

Chevrolet appeared to have the edge on power after sweeping the top six spots on the grid in yesterday’s qualifying, but superior fuel mileage from updated engines enabled the Honda squads to neutralize the Bowtie’s advantage.

The first stops of the afternoon were very telling as the Chevy-powered pole sitter, Marco Andretti, pitted from the lead on Lap 30 – two laps before Dixon ducked in for his own service. Later on, the third round of stops saw Andretti go in on Lap 95 – a full five laps before Dixon and his Chip Ganassi Racing teammates, Kimball and Dario Franchitti, went in together at Lap 100.

Andretti would eventually fade to 10th at the finish while trying to make fuel on his final run (he would barely reach the finish and run dry on his cool-down lap), while Dixon, Kimball and Franchitti went on to lock out the Pocono podium.

“The fuel mileage of the Honda engine was exceptional,” said Franchitti. “We are still a little shy on the horsepower but in race conditions there, it was really the thing to have.”

The three-time Indianapolis 500 champion also noted that the updated Honda motors are expected to make his team more competitive versus the Chevy camp in the road/street races ahead.

“The engine we have in the car now should suit the tracks we are going to, whether it be Toronto, Mid‑Ohio, Sonoma, Baltimore, all those places coming up,” he said. “Probably, [Pocono] wasn’t going to be its strongest track, so we are pretty excited moving forward.”

Street race in Vietnam could lead Formula One’s Asia expansion

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TOKYO (AP) — Formula One is expected to add more races in Asia, including a street circuit in the capital of Vietnam, a country with little auto racing history that is on the verge of getting a marquee event.

“We think Hanoi could come on in the next couple of years, and we’re working with the Hanoi government to that end,” Sean Bratches, Formula One’s managing director of commercial operations, told the Associated Press.

There is even speculation it could be on the schedule next season, which Bratches rebuffed.

Vietnam would join countries like Azerbaijan, Russia and Bahrain, which have Grand Prix races, little history in the sport, and authoritarian governments with deep pockets that serve F1 as it tries to expand into new markets.

“This (Hanoi) is a street race where we can go downtown, where we can activate a large fan base,” Bratches said. “And you have extraordinary iconography from a television standpoint.”

A second race in China is also likely and would join Shanghai on the F1 calendar. Bratches said deciding where to stage the GP will “be left to local Chinese partners” – Beijing is a strong candidate.

Bratches runs the commercial side of Formula One, which was acquired last year by U.S.-based Liberty Media from long-time operator Bernie Ecclestone.

Formula One’s long-term goal is to have 24-25 races – up from the present 21 – and arrange them in three geographical segments: Asia, Europe and the Americas. Bratches said the Europe-based races would stay in middle of the calendar, with Asia or the Americas opening or ending the season.

He said their positioning had not been decided, and getting this done will be slowed by current contracts that mandate specific places on the calendar for several races. This means eventually that all the races in Asia would be run together, as would races in Europe and the Americas.

The F1 schedule is now an inefficient jumble, allowing Bratches to take a good-natured poke at how the sport was run under Ecclestone.

“We’ve acquired an undermanaged asset that’s 67-years-old, but effectively a start-up,” Bratches said.

Early-season races in Australia and China this year were conducted either side of a trip to Bahrain in the Middle East. Late in the season Formula One returns to Asia with races in Japan and Singapore.

The Canadian GP this season is run in the middle of the European swing, separated by four months from the other races in the Americas – the United States, Mexico and Brazil. These three are followed by the season-ending race in Abu Dhabi, which means another trip across the globe.

“With the right economics, with the right structure and cadence of events across territories, 24 or 25 is probably where we’d like to be from a longer-term standpoint,” Bratches said.

Big changes are not likely to happen until the 2020 season ends. This is when many current rules and contracts expire as F1’s new owners try to redistribute some income to allow smaller teams to compete.

“There’s more interest than we have capacity in the schedule,” Bratches said, firing off Berlin, Paris or London as potentially attractive venues. “We want to be very selective.”

“Those cites from an economic impact standpoint would find us value, as do others around the world,” Bratches added. “It’s very important for us as we move forward to go to locations that are a credit to the Formula One brand.”

An expanded schedule would have to be approved by the teams, which will be stretched by the travel and the wear-and-tear on their crews. The burden will fall on the smaller teams, which have significantly smaller revenue compared with Ferrari, Mercedes or Red Bull.

Bratches also envisions another race in the U.S., joining the United States Grand Prix held annually in Austin, Texas. A street race in Miami is a strong candidate, as are possible venues like Las Vegas or New York.

“We see the United States and China as countries that could support two races,” he said.

Liberty Media has reported Formula One’s total annual revenue at $1.8 billion, generated by fees paid by promoters, broadcast rights, advertising and sponsorship. Race promotion fees also tend to be higher in Asia, which makes the area attractive – along with a largely untapped fan base.

In a four-year cycle, F1 generates more revenue than FIFA or the International Olympic Committee, which rely almost entirely on one-time showcase events.

Reports suggest Vietnamese promoters may pay between $50-60 million annually as a race fee, with those fees paid by the government. Bratches said 19 of 21 Formula One races are supported by government payments.

“The race promotion fee being derived from the government … is a model that has worked historically,” Bratches said.