IRL: Honda takes Schwitzer prize

Against a formidable group of entrants, Honda has won the 38th annual Louis Schwitzer Award, it was announced this morning at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The award was presented to engineers Yasuhide Sakamoto, Steve Eriksen, Steve Miller...

Against a formidable group of entrants, Honda has won the 38th annual Louis Schwitzer Award, it was announced this morning at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The award was presented to engineers Yasuhide Sakamoto, Steve Eriksen, Steve Miller and Steve O'Connor for development of the 3-liter Honda H14R-A engine that dominated MBNA Pole Day by securing eight of the top ten spots for the 88th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race including the top seven qualifiers.

Both Borg-Warner and the Indiana Section of the SAE International are the presenters of this annual honor, which was bestowed this year after serious consideration by a seven-man panel led by Steve Holman, committee chairman.

Because the recipients were not able to be at the ceremony, it was left to Robert Clarke, vice president and general manager of Honda Performance Development to accept on their behalf. "This award is symbolic of Honda's racing programs. It is our intent to develop people and technology and we at Honda have always considered ourselves an engineering, rather than a car company."

Faced with the prospect of running a 3.5-liter engine for the first three Indy Racing League IndyCar Series events of the 16 race campaign, Clarke and HPD, together with technical partner Ilmor Engineering chose to complete parallel development on both the outgoing 3.5-liter mill and the incoming 3-liter engine. "This honor shows how well our engineers have done," Clarke noted.

Honda has been up for the award in the past but "failed to win," Clarke reminded. "We did not prioritize one engine over the other," after learning the week before Christmas that the IRL intended to make the change. "We thought we did our homework, but you never know. The timeline was so tight," he intimated, "that we were unable to bring our best product to the Speedway during the first week.

"Our engine software has been updated throughout the weeks and we thought the competition was holding back. We're proud of our accomplishments [on MBNA Pole Day] but we never expected to be so dominant."

Normally, a new race engine needs a 2-year gestation period but the timeline put forward by the IRL made that impossible. "We had two challenges from the design and production side. The latter was more difficult because we had to generate large quantities of parts. We had to pull out all the stops and use three shifts" to produce the right amount of power mills, Clarke said.

Clarke did point out that "Indy has not been kind to Honda in the past. In 1994 we failed to qualify and, here we are ten years later dominating qualifying," he laughed. "We are thrilled to be here at the most important race in the world. We recognize we're competing with Toyota and Chevrolet at the highest level of world class racing and, should we win this race on May 30th, of course we would be thrilled."

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Series Automotive , IndyCar
Drivers Steve Miller , Robert Clark