“So we made the change, the biggest change really was to the induction system, which was a much simpler system than we used in the past,” Griffiths said. “So with the mechanical design changes to the engine, we obviously had to do a lot of durability testing to confirm that the engine would be good for our target mileage of 1,400 miles, and then to ensure that with the new electronics package that we introduced for this coming year, that the calibrations and the strategies were suited to both oval and road course racing.” The IRL tested the new engines last week on the road course at Daytona International Speedway and Mactaggart said it was “boringly routine.” “There were no issues with the cars at all,” Mactaggart said. “I think we had one minor transmission problem with one car. But it wasn’t even worth mentioning. It was just what you would consider to be a normal, routine racing failure. There were no issues with the cars’ origins at all.” The new engines are perhaps too good. Griffiths said they are more powerful than originally planned and could produce speeds 4 percent or 5 percent better than last year. “We were quite pleased with the job we had done. Unfortunately, the Indy Racing League wasn’t so impressed with it,” Griffiths said. “Indianapolis is the one racetrack that I get beaten up regular over about how fast we’re going. So we have made some hardware changes to bring the performance of the engine back to where we were on the 2006 engine.” Griffiths said that he has regular discussions with IRL officials about how to control the speeds of the cars, especially on oval tracks. “I’m sure if we turned up last year’s 2006 engine, gave it to Sam Hornish, he’d probably go 2 miles an hour faster just based on car development alone,” Griffiths said. Drivers have said to Griffiths that the new engines create more torque and thus perform better in the corners of racetracks. “And hence it pulls more cleanly out of the corners, which ultimately leads to a faster speed down the end of the straight,” Griffiths said. “So I think we could be a mile and a half an hour potentially faster at these tracks, but if this becomes an issue then we can work with the Indy Racing League and look at what we can do to control those speeds.” Drivers have also told Griffiths that the cars with the new engines are “raceable.” Griffiths said he wants the cars to be more than raceable. “We could go and race tomorrow if we wanted to,” Griffiths said. “But we set ourselves some extremely high standards, and we’re going to keep working at it and keep improving on things to the point where people don’t go, `Well, it’s just raceable.’ It’s now, `This is a great package.”‘ firstname.lastname@example.org (818) 713-3715 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Griffiths said once HPD was notified the IRL was going to use ethanol as fuel, it ran some tests on the existing 3.0-liter engines. Initial tests showed that the performance of the engines was a little down compared with running a fuel with a 90-10 methanol/ethanol blend. “We were concerned with the general transition to more oval courses that perhaps the cars would be a little bit slow,” Griffiths said. As a result, HPD suggested to the IRL that using a 3.5-liter engine with the ethanol fuel would narrow the gap in performance and remain cost-effective for the teams. “This had other benefits, which we weren’t initially looking at, one of them being that the midrange performance of the engine was significantly increased over where we were for the 3.0-liter engine,” Griffiths said. “That has given us a much more drivable engine on the road course. The initial design of the 3.0-liter engine was very much geared toward ovals as it was conceived back in 2004, when we were predominantly an oval series.” The 3.5-liter engine also has an increased durability. Griffiths said HPD was able to simplify many of the components and produce an engine that could be used over the course of two or three races. Honda Performance Development supplies every Indy Racing League team in the IndyCar series with engines. Ever since Toyota and Chevrolet left the series a year ago, Honda has been the sole provider of power to the IRL. Without competition, Honda has looked to developing technology to make its engines more durable, efficient and high-performing.
One of the changes in the IRL this year is the introduction of 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol for use in races. The use of ethanol led to another change: an increased engine size for all the teams in the IRL. Roger Griffiths, the race team technical leader for Honda Performance Development, which is based in Santa Clarita, and Les Mactaggart, the IRL’s senior technical director, talked about the impending changes and what teams and drivers can expect with the new engines they will be using.