Honda confident about new twin-turbo IndyCar engine

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With all IndyCar Series engines now required to have twin turbochargers from this year onward, one would figure that Honda, which had previously ran a single-turbo powerplant over the last two years, is at a disadvantage against Chevrolet, which has been using a twin-turbo since its return to IndyCar in 2012.

But in an interview with IndyCar.com, Honda Performance Development technical director Roger Griffiths says that the time spent with the single-turbo has given Honda a “really good insight” into how to go about developing its new twin-turbo, which has already been tested twice on the road course at Sebring and on the oval at Fontana this off-season.

Furthermore, Griffiths says that the new engine is already stacking up nicely against the 2013-spec single-turbo, which helped take Scott Dixon (pictured) to his third IndyCar championship.

“We had evolved the 2013 spec engine with a single turbo to a very high level of development so we had a very high bar that we had set for ourselves in terms of drivability and response and those kinds of things,” he said.

“We were pleasantly surprised by the rate at which we reached the same sort of level of performance with the 2014 engine given that it was all kind of new.”

Griffiths also gave credit to Simon Pagenaud from Honda-powered Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports. The French driver, who finished third in last year’s standings, took time after Thanksgiving to meet with HPD engineers and provide them with feedback.

“Our guys could come back from a test and say, ‘OK, these are the top five complaints and what needs fixed.’ But it’s our translation of what the driver is saying to the design engineers,” Griffiths explained.

“Sitting down with 10 of our young engineers, they quickly get past the shock of an IndyCar driver sitting down with them in the meeting room and it’s just another person trying to do a job. They’re hearing from the person driving the car what they want. It really helps our relationship with the drivers. Simon gave us some good pointers.”

After losing the last two IndyCar manufacturers’ championships to Chevrolet, it’s clear that Honda is doing all it can to wrest the title away from the Bowtie in 2014.

As for Chevy’s view, their program manager, Chris Berube, told IndyCar.com that while they saw advantages in both the single and twin turbo engines, they went with the latter because “[they] believed there was a better application of that.”

Now, as his company enters its third season after re-entering open-wheel competition, Berube feels that their experience with the twin-turbo will give them an early-season edge.

“I think we have a good understanding of the twin turbo application and that in itself will be an advantage initially,” he said.

Plans for Alonso sports car debut in Rolex 24 gathering speed

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Plans for McLaren Formula 1 driver Fernando Alonso to appear in next year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona are gathering speed as the two-time World Champion angles for a drive at Le Mans in 2018.

Alonso announced on Thursday he had signed a new, multi-year deal to remain with McLaren in F1, but has left the door open to continue his pursuit of the Triple Crown of Motorsport and become just the second driver in history to complete it.

Alonso has won the Monaco Grand Prix twice and made his Indianapolis 500 debut this year, retiring with an engine issue, and has made no secret of his ambition to race at Le Mans one day.

With no date clashes, the possibility exists for Alonso to race at Le Mans in 2018, potentially with Toyota in the LMP1 class following McLaren’s split with Honda.

However, Alonso could make his 24-hour race debut five months earlier, with reports emerging on Thursday that he could be in line to appear in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January.

First reported by Sportscar365, Alonso could be set to race for McLaren executive director Zak Brown’s team, United Autosports, at Daytona in January, with no clashes existing with his F1 commitments.

Alonso remained coy when asked about the chances of him appearing at Daytona, but admitted additional preparation for a possible Le Mans appearance would be of interest.

“For the Indy 500 it was a nice experience, I felt very competitive but it was a big challenge that I took from zero, from no testing, not any similar race before it,” Alonso said, as quoted by Reuters.

“If I want to prepare Le Mans, maybe there are other possibilities to prepare Le Mans a little bit better than I prepared the Indy 500.”

He added more about his other race program in Thursday’s pre-race Paddock Pass episode, speaking to NBCSN. “To be the best driver in the world you have to win in different series at different times. It’s possible I can compete in different races next year,” he said.

Brown said he would be happy to field Alonso at Daytona, and confirmed their pair had already loosely discussed it.

“If Fernando wants to do Daytona and we have a seat available, we would put his name on it happily,” Brown said.

“We’ve started joking around about it, and we saw where jokes got us last time,” he added, referencing the eventual entry to the Indy 500.

United Autosports will field two Ligier JS P217 cars at Daytona in January, and has already confirmed ex-F1 racer Paul di Resta, McLaren junior Lando Norris, American endurance racer Will Owen and British youngster Philip Hanson in seats.

McLaren reserve and 2009 F1 world champion Jenson Button had been linked with a drive for United Autosports at Daytona, but Brown confirmed to Sportscar365 this was no longer an option.

“Jenson won’t be driving for us. I don’t know what he’s going to be doing,” Brown said.

“I thought he was going to be in the Penske car. Not sure what happened there.”