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Kanaan: “We’re going to raise the bar for Honda”

Tony Kanaan says that Honda will be the major beneficiaries of Chip Ganassi Racing’s switch from Chevrolet next season, but that the move is also good for IndyCar as a whole.

Tony Kanaan, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Tony Kanaan, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Honda Racing HPD engine
Tony Kanaan, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Tony Kanaan, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Tony Kanaan, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Tony Kanaan, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Tony Kanaan, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Tony Kanaan, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Tony Kanaan, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Tony Kanaan, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Honda Racing HPD signage
Tony Kanaan, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Chip Ganassi on his scooter
Tony Kanaan, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet

The Ganassi team is returning to Honda in 2017 after three years with Chevrolet, in which Kanaan’s teammate Scott Dixon won the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. However, despite Chevy beating Honda 14-2 in terms of victories in 2016, Kanaan believes Ganassi can help redress that balance in the season ahead. He also told Motorsport.com that he expects the rivalry with Andretti Autosport to be HPD’s top team will further push engine progress.

“Honda is the one that’s benefiting most out of this whole deal,” said Kanaan. “Having two teams like this, we’re going to raise the bar. Having more good drivers with feedback, Honda can do more for the engines.

“We can’t change the aerokits, they’re frozen. But there are at least a few details in the engine that me and Scott, with our Chevy experience, can [advise them to] tweak so Honda can make it better, and so Andretti benefit.

“For Andretti, I don’t think we’re going to be working together because we’re going to be trying to beat each other… But that’s just going to raise the game for all of us. Rivalries are good.”  

Engine change gives team a shake-up

Kanaan said that the move from Chevrolet to Honda had shaken up the Ganassi team, and that he understood why Ganassi had made the switch.

He commented: “Obviously the goals are the same. Chip always has two goals at the beginning of the year – to win the championship and win the Indy 500. So that’s something we will be fighting for. As a team we definitely have to raise our game a little bit. We got beaten by Penske this year a little bit harder than last year. Chip wasn’t happy about that and we were unhappy about that.

“He’ll mix things up every once in a while when he thinks things are not good. He’s very well known for that. Nobody in the team is allowed to get in a comfort zone! He’s done things in the past that have people calling him crazy, but it worked perfect, so then they say, ‘See? Chip became a genius!’

“So I give him all the credit. He gives us every single tool that we need, and nothing is missing. It was a great run with Chevy, especially for me. I won the 500 with them [at KV Racing in 2013] and I’m always gonna be grateful for that.

“But I see why Chip made the change. And for competition [in IndyCar], I’d say also it’s better that we have the two biggest teams on opposite sides so one manufacturer isn’t dominating as much. For the sport it’s probably a big gain.”  

Honda has advantages over Chevy already, says Kanaan

Kanaan said his recent test at Gateway Motorsports Park had already indicated where the relative strengths and weaknesses lay between Chevrolet and Honda, and that he’d been left impressed by the HPD engine.

He said: “I tested the car a couple of weeks ago and I was impressed how we clicked right away. Some of our setups with the Chevy kit actually worked with the Honda kit. The aerokit is quite different.

“But the engine is pretty similar – they have a different powerband but nothing I’d say that would set us back. We saw last year how much torque Honda had – more than the Chevys – and fuel-mileage was better. There were actually things we were working on with Chevy to make it as good as Honda – now we switch sides, and we tell Honda, ‘You had this and this, but at Chevy we had that. Can you get that?’

“To express the feedback and tell them what needs to be changed is one thing. The capability of doing it sometimes is going to dictate what happens. Sometimes the engine isn’t built to do this or that, so it’s hard.

“But I’m pretty sure the whole Ganassi team is going to be doing a test before the end of the year at Sebring, and Scott will have some things to say, I’ll have some things to say, and we’ll just try to improve what we think needs to be improved. It’s a long winter; almost five months before the first race.”

Kanaan said the Sebring test would not focus on one aspect of the HPD package but would instead be about Ganassi gaining a deeper understanding of their new equipment.

“I think Chip wants us to focus everywhere,” he said. “Although Honda has numbers from the windtunnel, we like to have our own numbers. It’s like a cookbook, I would say – you make your aero numbers, so you know when you come back to a track what this and that does, do you need less wing or more wing, and so on.

“So when we hit St. Pete next year [the season-opener on the streets of St. Petersburg] we’ll be ready to go.”

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