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Chilton says Ganassi was wise to return to Honda

Max Chilton believes that Chip Ganassi switching his IndyCar team back to a Honda engine partnership was the correct choice, as he believes HPD units offer “more chances of succeeding”.

Max Chilton, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Max Chilton, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Max Chilton, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Max Chilton, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet and Chip Ganassi
Max Chilton, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Max Chilton, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Max Chilton, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Max Chilton, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Max Chilton, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Dario Franchitti
Max Chilton, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Max Chilton, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet

Despite Honda Performance Development-powered cars beating the Ilmor-built Chevrolets in just two of the 16 races in the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series, Chilton believes the different approaches taken by the manufacturers, as well as Honda’s strengths, rendered Chip’s decision to ditch Chevy after just three years as a good one.

Following his confirmation at Ganassi for his sophomore IndyCar season, Chilton told the media: “It doesn't take a huge amount of looking to know what the differences are with the packages. It's not a huge deal.

“I think it’s more the way the manufacturers approach it. I think Honda very much go out there and do everything for the win regardless of what the circumstances may be, blowing engines, having issues. They're very much the racing side. Chevrolet, they are more the consistent side, but sometimes maybe not giving it everything.

“I think we've got more chances of succeeding as a team with Honda. Obviously the team agreed with that: they're the ones that made the decision.”

However, Chilton said he also thought the HPD units were stronger in crucial areas.

“From what I saw last year being a Chevrolet driver, the drivability of the Honda, especially traction, [was] definitely, definitely better. And oval racing, they seem to have more power.

“There's lots of debate going on whether [Honda] do or don't have more power. But they seem to have the edge on the oval racing, especially Indy. As we all know, Indy is basically like a championship in itself. People want to win that sometimes more than the championship.

“I feel like the team's made a good decision. Hopefully it pays off.”

Targeting improved qualifying, especially on ovals

Chilton said that although he was pleased to qualify eighth and finish seventh in his first oval IndyCar race (Phoenix), he said getting comfortable with his environment sooner in a weekend would be key to making the next step.

“Racecraft plays a huge part in oval racing,” he said. “I felt like I learned a lot, but I've still got plenty more to learn.

“Dario [Franchitti] is my mentor. He said it took him three or four years to master the craft of oval racing. I feel like I'm going to take in more experience.

“Also, maximize getting up to speed quicker so that you're ready in FP3, and treat that like qualifying, so when you go to qualifying you can absolutely nail it, instead of sometimes not getting it quite right and then your weekend is [screwed] by not having a good qualifying. Just having the oval experience of knowing the tracks and knowing how to get up to speed quicker.”

Across all types of track, however, Chilton said he recognizes the need to improve his qualifying so as to better his chances on race day.

“I need to get on the podium,” he explained. “I feel like last year we could have at times, especially in Detroit where I had kind of the pace of Conor [Daly] and [Sebastien] Bourdais. They finished second and first; we had a mechanical fault.

“Other times we had things not go our way. Especially with IndyCar, the way the yellows work, you do need luck on your side. More often than not that went against us.

“I feel like if we get the speed better, we're in the part of the field at the front, then you’re going to have things come your way. I feel like as soon as we get a podium, the rhythm will just keep flowing and hopefully we'll get a win.

“I really, really do want to get a win next year. Just to get a good start and keep the momentum going, that is my goal. I think that definitely is achievable. With a top team, I've now got a year's experience under my belt.” 

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