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.