Honda has struggled to match the pace of Chevrolet ... Well all, except one.
One of the common themes in the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series championship has been the constant battle between Chevrolet and Honda and Chevrolet's consistent superiority.
Chevrolet has won four of the first five races, the only one going the way of Honda being the washout at the Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana that led to James Hinchcliffe’s first victory since 2013.
This was a good day for Honda. But if we want to win, we’ve got some work to do
However, despite Chevrolet’s domination of the championship table with the top four positions in points and eight of the top ten, there is one Honda driver that is showing genuine championship form, despite the apparent lack of pace from that side of the garage.
An unexpected title contender
Graham Rahal has been the unlikely hero carrying the flag for Honda this season with two consecutive second place finishes at Barber Motorsports Park and also at Indianapolis. In comparison, not a single one of the Andretti Autosport drivers have made it onto the podium thus far.
“You’d be worried if he (Rahal) was in a Chevy. He would be absolutely a championship contender. He is now in a Honda,” said Will Power, winner of the Angie’s Grand Prix of Indianapolis.
“This was a good day for Honda. But if we want to win, we’ve got some work to do,” Rahal said with honesty.
Winning can come through many different avenues for the Honda drivers, even without outright pace to match Chevrolet.
“I try to make sure that I just do the best I can and not put a wheel wrong and push whoever the leader is and whoever’s around me as hard as I can and force them into a mistake, and if I can do that successfully then I think we can have a good day,” Rahal said.
At Barber Motorsports Park, strategy was led to Rahal's near-victory, but at Indianapolis, it was all about the car and the impeccable job being done in the pits.
“Strategy today wasn’t a huge factor, I think today was just good pit stops, good in and out laps, I think on our own we were pretty quick and that’s really what got us up there.”
Sato drives through the field
Rahal wasn’t the only Honda driver in the top ten as Takuma Sato finished in ninth place at Indianapolis.
Sato was complimentary about the Honda package but acknowledged that it isn’t easy to get it to go fast.
“Honda generates good downforce but to find a good balance is very tricky but hopefully we get there,” Sato told Motorsport.com.
He was, however, able to make it go fast enough to drive from 22nd on the grid to 9th by the time the checkered flag flew.
“I was able to overtake a couple of Honda cars on the track, that was great fun, on the direct battle with Chevrolet, we still have to work really hard to get closer but it’s encouraging to see [Rahal] on the podium and we did our best and I’m really proud of our result today,” Sato added.