VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES
in the aero war, and you win the
championship. That much was obvious
before the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series
season began. But without the necessary
power to push the new, high-downforce
cars through the air, a proper run at a
championship would have been at risk for
both of IndyCar’s manufacturers.
Yes, 2015 will be remembered for its aero
battles, yet the fight between Chevrolet
upper hand, given how much extra drag its
aero kit produced – and yet, thanks to the
Chevy kit’s low-drag advantage, it’s
possible that the Bowtie had no reason to
go for broke in the engine bay.
One fact, however, is abundantly clear:
Honda’s aero deficiencies led HPD to try
and compensate by dialing up the power
at the expense of reliability.
“Going into the season, we were in a
pretty good place with our durability,”
Miller explains. “When we needed to start
catching up, we looked at how we could
push a little bit harder, and there are cases
where we probably pushed it beyond where
we should have. We found the limit…”
IndyCar allowed a number of big
engine development items to be
introduced in 2014, and has another
major round of R&D freedoms in store
for ’ 16 and the 100th Indianapolis 500.
Coming into a mid-cycle year, where
changes were minimal, 2015 was more
about unlocking smaller improvements in
a quest to optimize the existing packages.
“The opportunity for improvements
gets harder and harder the more times
you go through the re-homologation
process,” O’Connor notes, so engine
tuning and drivability was where the HPD
design team searched for advantages.
“We did make improvements,” he says.
“Not so much on the mechanical side, but on
the control side, since we didn’t have a lot
of options on updating the metal. It was a
lot more software and calibration focused.”
Aero kits might have grabbed the 2015 Verizon IndyCar
Series headlines, but the engine war continued to rage, too.
WORDS Marshall Pruett MAIN IMAGE F. Peirce Williams/LAT
ALLEN MILLER, HPD
“There are cases where we
probably pushed it beyond
where we should have. We
found the limit...”
and Honda’s engine brain trusts actually
produced the most furious technical
assault from St. Petersburg to Sonoma.
“I guess it was inevitable that aero kits
were going to take the majority of the
headlines because they were visible to the
general public and that was new and exciting
to the series,” says Ilmor chief racing
engineer Steve O’Connor, whose firm,
along with Pratt & Miller Engineering on
the aero side, helped Chevy win its fourth
consecutive Manufacturers’ Championship.
“From an engine perspective, certainly
we’ve continued to push really hard to try
and maximize the power output, fuel
economy and reliability of the product,”
O’Connor adds. “Working in conjunction
with Chevy and Pratt & Miller, we wanted to
make the overall package as strong as we
possibly could, because we knew we were
against pretty formidable competition.”
A definitive answer on which engine
had the most power is impossible to
ascertain without Chevy and Honda
handing over their dyno sheets. But
Honda Performance Development race
team leader Allen Miller could be correct
in thinking Honda may have had the slight