INDIANAPOLIS – Once the “world’s worst kept secret of the IndyCar offseason” was made official on Tuesday, that Honda would in fact continue with the Verizon IndyCar Series, they can now talk more openly about goals and projections for the 2016 season ahead.
Testing has been intense since the reopening of the winter testing period in January, with a pair of Sebring tests and new aerodynamic components being tried out by four of Honda’s six teams.
Thus far Andretti Autosport, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and A.J. Foyt Enterprises have tested with the new parts.
“I think they’ve been very pleased with the consistency and predictability of the car,” Vice President and COO of Honda Performance Development Steve Eriksen told MotorSportsTalk at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, prior to the race.
“We’re trying to give them more, that so they can feel more comfortable doing their setups.”
Dale Coyne Racing and Bryan Herta Autosport are yet to test with the new parts but you’d hope they will be out at least once before the Test in the West series open test at Phoenix International Raceway, February 26-27.
Eriksen said the parts situation, which was arguably a bit late and delayed to start last year, should be improved from a timeline standpoint in 2016.
“Having gone through the motions once, you try to reflect on what went well and what didn’t,” he admitted.
“I think we’re in a lot better position now about the flow through of parts than last year. The teams have the ability to get sufficient time before they get on track for the full season.”
Honda has one more manufacturer test day scheduled for Auto Club Speedway in Fontana on February 10. Andretti and SPM will be testing; Andretti will have all three of its drivers while SPM will just have James Hinchcliffe.
In terms of entries, Eriksen isn’t expecting any major surprises for the number of engine leases.
“I think we’ll be at 11 full-season, and we’d expect for the Indy 500, 17,” he said.
A 12th Honda engine will be running at selected events, not necessarily with just one team.
The breakdown of the full-season 11 Honda entries is pretty straightforward:
- Andretti (3): Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti, Carlos Munoz
- Schmidt Peterson (2): James Hinchcliffe, Mikhail Aleshin
- Foyt (2): Takuma Sato, Jack Hawksworth
- Coyne (2): Conor Daly, TBA
- RLL (1): Graham Rahal
- BHA (1): TBA, but highly likely to be Gabby Chaves
Factor in Spencer Pigot for at least three races in the second Rahal Letterman Lanigan car and Bryan Clauson as an extra with Coyne at the Indy 500 and then the final four – or perhaps five if Honda can stretch to 18 engines – would make up the balance.