A less heralded but still key talking point of the Verizon IndyCar Series season opener, the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, is which engine manufacturer will emerge on top.
Chevrolet has taken the opening two season-openers since returning to the series in 2012. Helio Castroneves took the 2012 victory and James Hinchcliffe passed the Brazilian to emerge victorious one year ago.
For this 2014 edition, Honda opens up with its new twin-turbo specification for the first time, while Chevrolet is into year three of development with its own version after successive IndyCar Manufacturer’s Championships.
Some of the areas where Chevrolet still sought to improve throughout 2013 and into 2014 included fuel injection, cylinder heads, plenum / inlet system, exhaust headers and calibration, to improve upon an already immensely successful engine.
“Team Chevy is primed, prepared and positive about the start of the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season kicking off on the streets of St. Petersburg, said Chris Berube, Chevrolet Racing Program Manager, Verizon IndyCar Series. “Chevrolet has had good results on this circuit the past two seasons since returning to IndyCar competition. With our updated 2.2L twin turbo direct injected V6 Chevrolet IndyCar engines, new formats to the championship points and a race on the road course at IMS to kick off the month of May, there is a plethora of new challenges to look forward to. Top it off with Verizon as the new Series sponsor to engage the fans with leading edge communication technology and this could be the season to remember.”
On the team side, Chevrolet loses Andretti Autosport but gains Chip Ganassi Racing. In total, they’ll have just four teams and 10 cars.
Honda, which has lost technical director Roger Griffiths, has seven teams and 12 cars. The manufacturer’s new engine is designed, manufactured, maintained and developed by HPD.
“We’ve been encouraged by the performance of the new Honda Indy V6 and the improvements we’ve made during the off-season,” said Mark Crawford, HPD Large Project Leader for the IndyCar program. “We believe we have a great lineup of teams and drivers, including a good balance of proven race winners and promising new stars. We’re looking forward to the start of the 2014 season on the streets of St. Petersburg, and taking on the challenge presented by Chevrolet in the battle for the Manufacturers’ Championship.”
Andretti’s group has the highest number of Hondas in the field, with four entries.