IRL: Honda 2004 lineup announced

Honda unveils IRL IndyCar '04 lineup. Torrance, CA (January 27, 2004) -- Honda's second year of Indy Racing League IndyCar Series competition will feature an expanded lineup of seven full-time entries, led by 2003 race winner and season-long ...

Honda unveils IRL IndyCar '04 lineup.

Torrance, CA (January 27, 2004) -- Honda's second year of Indy Racing League IndyCar Series competition will feature an expanded lineup of seven full-time entries, led by 2003 race winner and season-long championship contender Tony Kanaan.

"We're looking forward to our second year of IndyCar competition," said Robert Clarke, vice president and general manager of Honda Performance Development (HPD). "We've found the series to be very competitive, and a great challenge for the entire HPD organization." Santa Clarita, California-based HPD operates and manages Honda's IndyCar Series effort.

Kanaan, who won at Phoenix International Raceway and took the fight for the 2003 championship down to the final race of the season, will lead a four-car Andretti Green Racing effort, the largest team entry in the IRL. All will drive Honda-powered Dallara chassis.

Bryan Herta, another Honda-powered winner last year for Andretti Green, returns for his first full year with the team. Herta won at Kansas Speedway in just his third race with Andretti Green after being called upon to replace an injured Dario Franchitti. The Californian also figured in the closest three-way finish in IRL history at Chicago, where less than a tenth of a second covered the first three cars.

Dan Wheldon also will be back with the Andretti Green team, seeking his first race victory after finishing 11th in the championship and earning series Rookie of the Year honors with five top-five finishes, capped by a third-place run in the Texas season finale.

The four-car Andretti Green stable is completed by Franchitti, now fully recovered from the off-track motorcycle injuries that cut his season short after just three races in 2003. Franchitti, who started with the former Team Green organization in 1998, was CART championship runner-up to Juan Pablo Montoya in 1999, the closest finish in series history -- decided by a tie-breaker after the pair tied in series points.

Young American racer Buddy Rice will start the 2004 IndyCar season for Team Rahal, headed by former Indy 500 winner and CART champion Bobby Rahal. Rice will be filling in for former series champion and Indy 500 winner Kenny Brack, driving a Panoz G-Force chassis, while Brack continues to recover from the injuries he sustained in the final race last year at Texas Motor Speedway.

Team Rahal will field an eighth Honda-powered car for Roger Yasukawa for at least two events: at Twin Ring Motegi in Japan and the Indianapolis 500. Driving for Super Aguri Fernandez Racing last year, Yasukawa, a Formula Atlantic graduate, had eight top-10 results and finished 12th in the final standings, and second to Wheldon in the rookie title chase.

Another former IRL champion, and the only active owner/driver in IndyCar racing, Greg Ray, returns for his second season with Honda. Ray and his Access Motorsports team were the first to use the Panoz G Force chassis with a Honda powerplant last year, finishing ninth in the team's debut race at Twin Ring Motegi.

Young Japanese driver Kosuke Matsuura joins SuperAguri Fernandez Racing, where he is expected to contend for IndyCar Rookie of the Year honors. Matsuura comes to the IRL after three years racing in Europe, where the 24-year-old was a race winner and championship contender in the Formula Renault V-6 and European Formula 3 series.

"With all four of our teams returning, an expanded seven-driver line-up, and a year's experience in the IndyCar Series, 2004 is shaping up to be an exciting year for Honda and the IRL," Clarke said. "We're looking forward to the start of the season next month at Homestead-Miami Speedway."

Honda's racing subsidiary, Honda Performance Development, Inc. (HPD) of Santa Clarita, California, is the technical operations center for Honda's IndyCar engine program and coordinates American Honda's participation in the Indy Racing League IndyCar Series, in partnership with Ilmor Engineering Inc., of Plymouth, Michigan. HPD and Ilmor will work together as technical partners to design, develop and produce engines for the 2004 season. HPD and Ilmor will also provide trackside support and engine rebuilding services to teams using the newly developed Honda HI4R Indy V-8 engine.

HPD currently operates out of a 43,500-square-foot building in Santa Clarita, Calif., which houses comprehensive engine preparation, rebuilding and inspection areas, dyno/test cells, a machine shop, parts center, administrative offices and engineering facilities. The company is expected to move into an expanded, 123,000-square-foot facility, also located in Santa Clarita, later this year.

Prior to entering the IRL, Honda took part in the Championship Auto Racing Teams Series from 1994-2002, where the company won four CART Manufacturers' Championships (1996, 1998, 1999 and 2001) and six consecutive drivers' titles (1996-2001).

The 2004 Honda IRL IndyCar Series Lineup:

Andretti Green Racing
* Tony Kanaan
* Bryan Herta
* Dan Wheldon
* Dario Franchitti

Team Rahal
* Buddy Rice/Kenny Brack
* Roger Yasukawa (Twin Ring Motegi & Indianapolis 500)

Access Motorsports
* Greg Ray

Super Aguri Fernandez Racing
* Kosuke Matsuura (Rookie of the Year candidate)

-honda-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya