(regarding Honda's future involvement with the IRL)
Supposedly, Honda has already made its decision to withdraw from the IRL. Remember HPD’s Robert Clarke saying that if the league didn’t come up with a rival manufacturer by 2009 that the Japanese automaker was out? Do you see any rival carmakers in the ICS?
Also, look for the domino effect in Honda’s motorsports projects. HPD is on record as saying that the reason that the auto manufacturer is in the American Le Mans Series (as Acura) is because of the opportunity to compete against rival manufacturers. Well, don’t look now, but Audi just pulled the plug on its ALMS program, leaving Acura essentially racing alone in the LMP1 category.
The main reason for Honda’s decision to compete in the ALMS was the costly blunder that its former director (Clarke) made in the IRL. He lobbied Honda in Japan for a hundred-million dollar plus expansion of HPD and virtually autonomous status in regards North American motorsports projects. Clarke got his wishes and he stupidly devoted almost all his new HPD resources towards designing, manufacturing, and developing a new Toyota-killer engine for the IndyCar series. This engine had just reached dyno testing when Toyota withdrew from the IRL in favor of NASCAR participation; leaving Clarke and HPD holding the bag alone in the league. Without a competing auto maker in IndyCar, there was not enough money available to justify deployment of HPD’s new engine; which is the main reason HoMoCo decided to badge it as an Acura and enter the ALMS in opposition to Audi and Porsche.
Well, those rival sports car programs are now pretty much toast and other manufacturers who were thinking about entering the ALMS (e.g. Peugeot) will probably now rethink their involvement. Where the ICS is concerned, it still doesn’t have a rival manufacturer interested in going against Honda.
Isn’t it interesting that Robin Miller’s “source in Germany,” who reportedly swore to him that Audi was coming to IndyCar, failed to give him a heads up about Audi withdrawing from the ALMS? According to the tenderloin scribe, the same source “thought Porsche [was coming] as well a few weeks ago but that's quieted down.” No kidding.
FRM is still trying to justify his IRL hard card and buffet pass by spinning the Alfa or BMW to the IRL fantasy, but is now admitting that “things have been kept pretty hush-hush;” which is Miller-speak for “not a chance in Hell.”
Last I heard the blogger who claims to know about the financial arrangements of Honda’s engine lease program in the ICS is talking out of his southern orifice. Ilmor designed, manufactured, and developed the engines being used in the IndyCar Series and were responsible for rebuilding them as well under contract from HPD. HPD is the source of the similar engines being used in the ALMS (under the Acura badge). HPD MAY have taken over the rebuilding of the Ilmor Indy engines but there is little chance that it is manufacturing them. Really, what would be the purpose? HPD’s “Indy” engine was designed as a replacement for the Ilmor engine; in other words it is supposed to be better. Why would HPD now undertake the manufacture of an inferior engine design when Ilmor already has an assembly line set up for the purpose? There aren’t any cost savings to be had that way.
If Honda pulls the plug on its ICS program, as seems likely, Roger Penske’s Ilmor is the most logical choice to replace the Japanese manufacturer as a source of engines. Unlike Honda, however, Ilmor has no reason to want rival engine builders stealing its business; so all the IRL’s talk about new “manufacturers” like John Judd’s race shop joining the league is probably just that, talk.
Assuming FTG sells his soul to The Captain in return for engines, what’s that going to bode for the league? Basically, I’d say that it means that the financial quicksand that the Idiot Grandson is standing in will sink lower. Right now, Tony is essentially picking up the tab for every Honda-Ilmor engine lease in his series. If Honda bows out, then expect Pimpski to peel off the Honda badges on his engines and carry on business as usual (just as soon as George drops the requirement for auto manufacturers to badge the league engines). However, there’s no reason for Roger to cut Tony a break on engine lease cost – which will probably remain the same – and whatever money that Tony was able to pry out of the Japanese for incidentals is probably headed back to whatever bank American Honda is using. Any way that onion is sliced, Tony is going to be hitting his mother and sisters up for more of their dwindling resources.
Remember the saying, “When America [‘s economy] catches cold, the world catches pneumonia?” What does one suppose will happen to the IRL when Formula One and NASCAR get walking pneumonia?