MAY 24, 2002
Honda goes to IRL with Ilmor!
THE American Honda Company has announced that it will be entering the Indy Racing League next season with engines designed and built by Ilmor - which is part-owned by DaimlerChrysler, Honda's rival in Formula 1.
The unlikely scenario has come about because the American Honda Company wanted to be involved in open-wheeler racing and concluded that the target had to be the Indianapolis 500. The program will be entirely in the United States and the involvement of Ilmor has come about because Honda Performance Development in Santa Clarita, California, was not in a position to design and build engines. It will now work towards that goal and will probably produce its own units in 2006 when the Ilmor deal ends.
Mercedes-Benz is believed to have agreed to the deal because it has invested heavily in Ilmor Inc., the US subsidiary of Ilmor Engineering, and did not want to break up its team or engineers. The company however did not want to run its own IRL program because the priority remains getting the F1 engines right. The Ilmor F1 program will be totally unaffected by the deal.
The news is a big bonus for IRL which now boasts four engine manufacturers for next season - Chevrolet, Infiniti, Toyota and Honda.
It is a setback for the rival CART series and comes as a second blow in the week in which ABC Sports president Howard Katz was quoted as saying that ABC will be backing IRL and that he believes that CART will not survive.
"There's not enough room for both US-based open-wheel series," Katz said. "There's not enough money, there's not enough advertising support, there's not enough sponsorship."
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