Series press conference on Honda commitment

Officials from the IndyCar Series and Honda Performance Development conducted a press conference this morning at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to announce a five-year extension in the relationship of Honda to supply engines to the IndyCar Series...

Officials from the IndyCar Series and Honda Performance Development conducted a press conference this morning at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to announce a five-year extension in the relationship of Honda to supply engines to the IndyCar Series and to announce an automotive manufacturers round table to discuss new specifications and encourage expanded manufacturer participation.

TONY GEORGE (Founder & CEO, Indy Racing League):

"We were able to start 2008 off on a good, solid footing with the announcement that for the first time in a long time open-wheel racing in the United States would be unified in one series. It's been an interesting and challenging year so far, but I will say that it's gone very well from my perspective. I continue to hear around the paddock and around the garage and everywhere we go that everyone's excited about the tremendous opportunities we have going forward. We've been able to work through all the issues of the month and the year so far because of the great partnerships that we have. Certainly, one of those partnerships has been Honda. Since 2002, when we first started talking about them competing in the IndyCar Series, we've come to know and appreciate them and their supp ort of open-wheel racing in North America, and we very much enjoy that support ourselves to this day. One of the announcements, of course, is focused around Honda and their intentions of continuing in the IndyCar Series for the foreseeable future. In addition, we also want to talk about the work that really started last year around this time when we announced the Art Center project out in Pasadena (Calif.) through, again, Honda's support and their work with the Art Center. We were able to kind of really begin thinking about what our future IndyCars that will compete in the next 100 years at Indianapolis will start looking like and working toward the timing of introducing that; and, again, working with Honda and the chassis manufactures to help identify that. Now, to take that to the next level, to begin looking at that critically and how practically we might apply what we saw, we are going to start getting some feedback from the industry. One of the things we hope to d o is get some feedback from a number of other OEMs and car m! anufactu rers that might be interested in coming back into the sport of IndyCar racing, which means we're going to be taking a close look at competition and hopefully encouraging more involvement from manufacturers in the future. There'll be an industry round table that is created and is sort of kicked off in the next few weeks. I hope, too, that we look at some of the other industry constituents that will weigh in and factor into our thinking of what our platform's going to be like."

(On cost containment going forward): "I think that we all have a good sense for that. We (the IndyCar Series) were really on the leading edge of that. This business is a balance. It's technology, it's sport, it's entertainment. You have to keep a good balance. Clearly, if we can have competition and manage it and make sure that we don't let the costs get out of control or the technology get in the hands of too few so that everyone can be competitive, we'll be doing our job."

ERIK BERKMAN (President, Honda Performance Development):

(On extending Honda's IndyCar relationship thru 2013): "First, let me say that Honda is very pleased to be in IndyCar racing. I think you know our history. Fifteen years ago, Honda Performance Development was created to launch IndyCar racing for us. This was our first professional racing foray. Now with the unification and the upcoming centennial, we have a great opportunity to launch into this second century of open-wheel racing with a bang. We've been challenged at times going from the multi-manufacturer competition era to now a single-engine supply era. We like the notion of competition that would include other manufacturers. So we are delighted with the league's intention to host this round table. We think working with other manufacturers and discussing the concepts that we can br ing back some competition that will help to spice up the close racing that we already have. We could not be happier to be announcing today our intention for five more years. That adds to the stability and what's needed in going forward, so there is no doubt where Honda's position is. Secondly, I'd like to point out that everybody needs to make plans, and Honda is no different. Our company has grown over these past 15 years. We're at a point to where we need the stability, as well, to understand what we will be doing. We've branched out to other forms of racing in recent years. But now with this commitment for the next five years in IndyCar racing, that allows us to have our own internal measure of stability and security for our workforces. I can't just say enough why Honda is racing - how it helps us develop our people and how through this continuing culture of the racing spirit within Honda which is in fact our DNA. It makes us a better c ompany, and that is reflected in our products, which satisfy! our cus tomers."

(Do you get more benefit as a manufacturer from being the exclusive supplier or from the ability to beat the competition and advertise that?): "I think we get benefit if we go either way. There are different kinds of benefits out there. However, I can tell you that when we started that exclusive supply, we didn't know everything that we know now. We've learned some things along that way. We've become better at our quality control in the reliability. We've evolved the design to a point where we have a good product, and it's better than where we started. Not that we didn't think that it would happen. There were some surprises along the way. They were good surprises from what we could learn. The benefit of competition for us is something that is somewhat of an internal reward. It's a motivation for our company. Our company's founder raced. He formed the company with the intention of racing. Not all companies th at have existed 50-plus years like us can say that anymore. We have a strong racing spirit or racing culture in our company, part of our DNA. We get a lot of benefit from people who learn something about racing through direct application hands on. We have grassroots motorsports clubs and so on at our factories. Also have drag racing groups and go-karting groups. We believe that we can help that through the professional racing series here, instill in our company, and people of all walks of life in our company. They appreciate, follow and applaud what we are doing here in racing. So, the spirit is high and we want to keep that going. That is very important for us. Having competition is something that we want. We really do want that. In the event that we continue as a sole supplier, we will still benefit from that. But we'll turn our intentions and move it in a different direction of work at getting better on what we do."

TERRY ANGSTADT (President, commercial division, Indy Racing League):

(What do you take from the round table itself, and what are goals and objectives might be coming out of that?): "When we were kind of brainstorming and developing this, we actually secured RWB, which has quite a bit of experience in the automotive industry, and one of the representatives is here today, Clayton Triggs. They will help us in terms of reaching out and really securing what we hope will be almost 100 percent attendance. It really is to purely update and introduce - to get people thinking about our business. We'll talk about a little bit on where we think the (IndyCar) Series is going from a growth and development standpoint. But then really turn it over to the industry experts. Look for their opinion, their advice and their view of that next platform that we will be embraci ng. We could not be more excited about it. We think that it is very consistent with the technology and innovation platform of not only the IndyCar Series but the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Again, we think it is a great next step in the development of our racing business."

BRIAN BARNHART (President, competition and operations division, Indy Racing League):

"We're very excited by the news of the extension of Honda's participation in the IndyCar Series. We've had a great relationship with them beginning on track in 2003. As Erik mentioned, both in terms of competitive environment, as well as exclusive supply, it's unparalleled performance in reliability out of an engine manufacturer. We couldn't be more pleased to see them continue. They won the manufacturers championship at Indianapolis in 2004 and 2005, and they stepped to the plate in 2006 as an exclusive supplier and have done a marvelous job providing outstanding equipment. It's just an amazing relationship. We really appreciate their willingness to help us grow the IndyCar Series both on and off the track. It enables us to tell our parti cipating teams and potential teams another piece of the puzzle long-term. They know engines are going to be provided at least by Honda, and Firestone tires will be on with them. It's a couple of pieces of the puzzle done. Now, we'll do the industry round table and hopefully get some collective agreement on what the next engine platform and racing platform will be."

(On the purpose of industry round table related to future technology): "I think we would like to get the senior-level management people from the automotive industry to sit down and see if we can find a collective agreement on what that technology will be. From a league standpoint, we're open-minded. We want it to be a fresh approach. When we get that many key players in the room at the same time; if we can find a consensus amongst several of them that would like to participate in the IndyCar Series in the future under that platform, we'll be very open-minded."

(On how close the league is to making a commitment on the new chassis): "It will be driven a little bit by the industry round table. Form follows function with regard to that. Depending on what that platform is that's chosen, will dictate various aspects of that chassis. We certainly have appreciated what the College of Creative Studies and the Art School design project have presented, and we like a lot of those concepts and may be able to incorporate some of those. But the next step is determining what the engine platform's going to be. At this point, I think we're more inclined from a league standpoint to stick with a single supply chassis. I really like the aspects of an exclusive supply on the tires and an exclusive supply on the chassis. We'd really like to focus on multiple manufacturers on the engine side. I think that's the direction the series needs to go that makes the most sense. Exclusive supply on chassis and tires is the best way of controlling performance, speed, cost, safety; many of those aspects of it ."

-credit: irl

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Series IndyCar
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