Bryan Herta has said he is planning to retain Gabby Chaves for a second season, and will keep BHA as a one-car team – with the possible exception of Indy.
The Bryan Herta Autosport team owner told Motorsport.com: “Barring something crazy happening, I’m sticking with Gabby, and I wish it was finalized already.
“I read [two-time Indy Lights runner-up] Jack Harvey has been saying he’s talking to us, and yes, they called. But I like the continuity of keeping Gabby and I believe he has the potential to get better now he has a year under his belt.”
Chaves finished 15th in his first season in IndyCar, claimed Rookie of the Year honors ahead of KVSH Racing’s ex-GP2 ace Stefano Coletti, and even edged the driver he replaced at BHA, Jack Hawksworth, who moved to AJ Foyt Racing.
Said Herta: “We’re never going to progress as a team if we’re getting a new driver every year, so I need to create some consistency. I also need to get us to two cars, ultimately, but that’s not going to happen this year.
“Therefore one of the highest cards we can play is continuity, and that means giving Gabby another season, and trying to build on last year.
“The big change I’ve made in our lineup is a very exciting hire in the engineering department which I’m not going to reveal just yet. But I am hoping to be able to reveal a strong sponsorship package next week.
“I’ve never asked Gabby for money because I know he doesn’t have any, so the reason I haven’t been able to confirm him just yet is that there are other things to slot into place.”
Two cars for Indy?
Bryan Herta Autosport famously won the Indy 500 in only its second ever IndyCar Series race, with the late Dan Wheldon in 2011. Herta told Motorsport.com he would like to increase his odds of winning it again this year by running two cars but said: “I wouldn’t want to give odds on whether or not I can make a second car happen.
“Purely hypothetically for now, if I had my way, my choice of driver for an extra entry at Indy would be Ryan Briscoe or Oriol Servia. Gabby and ourselves as a team could definitely benefit from their experience, and either of them is capable of pulling off a surprise.
“But I think the limiting factor may ultimately be engine availability. I’m sure that’s what will decide how many cars are going for the 33 spots at Indy.
“I’d hope the Speedway will put pressure on them to have more cars than recently, as this is the 100th running. But there’s still going to be a limit to what Chevrolet and Honda can do.
“However, I don’t know the situation because I haven’t asked for an extra engine lease. I don’t want to get ahead of myself.”
Optimistic for Honda improvements
Although only Andretti Autosport and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing have tested with the new-for-2016 Honda aero kit and updated engine, Herta said he is optimistic that HPD can at least match Chevrolet this season.
“I think Honda will have a better road course package,” he remarked, “on street courses we’ll be similar or maybe slightly better than Chevy – depends a bit on the engine. But I think we’ll struggle again on the speedways.
“My reasoning is this: Under Rule 9.3, Honda were allowed to change more on the road and street package to catch up, but had the same limitations as Chevy for updating the speedway kit, and I think that difference may still be apparent. Chevy did a better job.
“But on road courses, Honda’s problem wasn’t downforce. It was irregularities in the aero map that made the car so hard to drive and even harder to set up. It never did the same thing twice. Well, I think the changes HPD have made will fix that glaring error.”
Herta added: “But you know, it’s not what’s most important to us because we weren’t even the best Honda team last year. It’s not like we were the ones who finished fourth in the championship, beaten only by three Chevy-powered drivers.
“So my priority is to make our team better, and when I feel like we’re operating at the level we should be, then I’ll turn my attention to other issues.”
Herta is hoping BHA will join Andretti Autosport and AJ Foyt Racing at Sebring for a Honda test on February 1.