The president of Honda Performance Development issued a statement Saturday following sharp comments from Chip Ganassi, whose Honda-powered team faces an uphill climb in tomorrow’s IZOD IndyCar Series season opener.
“Honda shares Chip’s commitment to winning, as is evidenced by our 196 IndyCar victories, many of which were achieved in partnership with Chip and his team,” said HPD president Art St. Cyr. “We are pleased with Takuma Sato’s front-row start and a strong qualifying performance by rookie Tristan Vautier in his inaugural race. But Honda is always looking to improve, and continues to work tirelessly to give all of our IndyCar Series teams the opportunity to win.”
Ganassi and the rest of the Honda squads have been unable to fully match the speed of the Chevrolet-powered entries so far this weekend. His drivers, Dario Franchitti, Charlie Kimball, and Scott Dixon, qualified 10th, 14th, and 20th respectively on Saturday for the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg — and afterwards, Ganassi criticized his engine supplier.
“They said for years and years and years they want competition,” Ganassi told the Associated Press.”Now they’ve got competition and they are not talking about winning. I feel like they want to sit around and hold hands and sing. I want to win.”
Outside of Sato and Franchitti, rookie Tristan Vautier (sixth) was the only other Honda-powered driver to qualify within the Top 10 starting positions.
To be clear, Honda doesn’t appear to be facing the same hopeless situation that Lotus found itself in last season, and the entire field as a whole is relatively tight. But because of the closeness in competition, any sort of drop-off in performance — even just one or two tenths of a second — becomes magnified, and with Chevy and Honda continuously working to improve on their motors, gaps can be tough to erase.
With that in mind, the overall pace of the Honda teams throughout the 110-lap race (Noon ET, NBC Sports Network) will definitely be a key storyline for Sunday.