Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Honda Racing’s 75yrs Trilogy Conclusion

As it takes a long time to recount three quarters of a Century, Y’all…


Otay, so much for my scribblin’ another short story on No Fenders, Hya!


As today’s “Third and Long!” Conclusion of my elongated Honda Racing story starts with a trivia question for Y’all. As in what do IndyCar and British Touring Cars Championship (BTCC)have in common other than Honda winning multiple Championships in both series?


Yep, they’ve both terminated their partnerships with Motor Sports Games!


Having extensively covered Honda’s multiple foray’s into thee Pinnacle ‘O Motorsports, nee Formula 1. I’d be remiss to not chronicle their Open Wheel Racing travails upon this side of Ye Puddle…


Following Honda’s withdrawal from F1 at the end of 1992. Honda Racing Corporation (HRC) built a bespoke 2.65-litre turbocharged V-8 engine to contest the 1994 Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) PPG IndyCar world Championship.


Bobby Rahal, then competing as an Owner-Driver with partner Carl Hogan had absorbed the assets of Truesports Racing at the end of 1992. For which Bobby Rahal had driven for His benefactor Jim Trueman’s racing team for years. Culminating in Bobby’s 1986 Indianapolis 500 win. With Trueman, owner of Red roofs Inn and Mid-Ohio Sorts Car racecourse dying from cancer eleven days after Rahal’s Indy 500 win


Rahal/Hogan attempted to carry on with Truesport’s in-house 92C IndyCar chassis, being redesignated the R/H-001 for 1993. With Bobby Rahal being Bumped out of the ’93 Indianapolis 500 by Eddie Cheever, Gasp!


For the ’94 season, Rahal/Hogan Racing became Honda’s launch partner. Mating the Honda HRX lump’ to the team’s customer Lola T9400 chassis. With two cars entred for Rahal and Mike Groff in Honda’s return to IndyCar racing.


Honda also supplied a third engine to Comptech Racing’s single car entry for Parker Johnstone. As Comptech had been campaigning Honda powered Sports Cars under the Acura banner.


With the Comptech IndyCar entry being a partial season campaign focusing solely upon “Twisties” racetracks, i.e.; permanent road courses and temporary street circuits. Seeing Comptech make it’s IndyCar debut at Portland.


Unfortunately the new Honda engine was underpowered upon super Speedways. Forcing Rahal/Hogan to opt for customer Penske PC22 Chevrolet’s instead for that year’s Indianapolis 500. Since the team feared failing to make the race two years in-a-row for sponsor Miller Brewing.


As Rahal finished 10th overall in the standings, with a best finish of second at Toronto. While Groff finished 20th overall with two Top-10 finishes. Coming in the first two rounds, with sixth place at Phoenix His best result.


For 1995, Rahal/Hogan dropped their Honda engine in favour of an Ilmor Mercedes lump’. With the newly formed Tasman Motorsports single car entity running a Honda entry instead. As ironically Tasman was owned by Steve Horne, former Truesports President, Crew Chief and Head Bottle Washer before resigning in 1992.


Honda made it’s official return to the Indianapolis 500 the same year with Tasman entries for Scott Goodyear and rookie Andre Ribeiro, who qualified third and 12th respectively.


As Indy 500 Aficionados will recall this was the year that Goodyear was leading with ten laps remaining. Before illegally passing the Pace Car! As my memories are quite Foggy now, but believe goodyear was Black Flagged. Ultimately classified 14th, while Ribeiro finished 18th.


Comptech continued as the second Honda engine partner, once again running a partial season campaign for Parker Johnstone who would score Honda’s maiden IndyCar Pole position during Round 13 on Michigan International Speedway’s 2.5-mile Super Speedway oval.


Two races later upon another Oval-track, at New Hampshire Tasman’s Andre Ribeiro scored Honda’s maiden IndyCar win from Pole!


Then for ’96, Chip Ganassi sagely joined the Honda brigade and the rest was History! With Target chip Ganassi Racing’s Top Jimmy’ (Vasser) winning four races enroute to the Championship, while rookie teammate El Zorro’, aka Alex Zanardi was Rookie Of the Year As Honda would dominate the CART/IndyCar Championship between 1996-2001. Winning six consecutive Drivers titles and four Manufacturer Championships.


As Target Chip Ganassi Racing would win the Drivers title from 1996-99 with Vasser, Followed by Zanardi (1997-98) and that Montoyer’ feller, nee Juan Pablo Montoya. (1999)


Gil de Ferran’s would win the next two Drivers titles for El Capitano’, nee Roger Penske between 2000-01. Before Newman Haas Racing’s Cristiano da Matta with rival Japanese manufacturer Toyota snapped Honda’s streak.


Then Honda, along with Toyota and Chevrolet jumped ship to the Dark Side, aka Indy Racing League (IRL) for the ’03 season.


As I suppose it’s only fitting or karmic that it would be Bobby Rahal and David Letterman’s Rahal Letterman Racing team scoring Honda’s first Indianapolis 500 victory in 2004 with Buddy “Hot rod” Rice. While Andretti-Breen Racing’s Tony Kanaan won the IndyCar Championship for Honda.


2005 saw a repeat of Honda’s dominance, this time with Andretti Green Racing’s Dan Wheldon winning both the Indianapolis 500 and Championship, before Toyota and Chevrolet withdrew at season’s end. Leaving Honda as the sole IndyCar engine supplier between 2006-2011.


Yet between 2012-2023, Honda’s been a pretty good choice for engine supplier in IndyCar. Claiming seven Indianapolis 500 victories and six IndyCar Drivers Championships the past eleven years.


And I haven’t even dived into Honda, nee Acura’s Sports car exploits! Having learned about Comptech Racing winning the Japanese Auto manufacturer it’s debutante 24 Hours of Daytona win, Wayback’ in 1991!


As Comptech would win the Camel Lights championship with Acura’s then brand new NSX V-6 motor bolted to it’s Spice Prototype chassis three years straight, i.e.; 1991-93. Along with a second Rolex 24 class victory in ’92, plus  a class victory at the ’93 12 Hours of Sebring.


Not to mention Acura having “three-peated” at the Rolex 24 for overall victory the last three years. Beginning with Wayne Taylor Racing in 2021. Followed by Meyer Shank Racing (MSR) back-to-back W’s in 2022-23.


Although MSR’s latest victory came underneath a cloud of controversy, with the team being ultimately caught Cheating with it’s tyre pressures during the race – and penalized afterwards, albeit keeping the win and their Rolex wrist watches…