Forget Chevrolet vs. Ford. The hottest racing rivalry right now just may be Chevrolet vs. Honda.
In the four IndyCar series races run this season (not including Sunday’s scheduled Indianapolis 500), cars powered by Chevy and Honda engines have each won two. Last year, Chevy engines edged Honda engines for the season, winning 10 races to Honda’s 9.
In qualifying for this year’s 500, the 10 fastest cars were evenly split, with Chevy-powered cars taking the pole position for the second straight year in the famous race. Of the 33 teams qualifying at Indy this year, 15 had Chevy engines and 18 had Hondas.
All 33 teams in the IndyCar series use the same chassis, so it’s the engine, the driver and luck that mostly determine the winners.
Chevy and Honda engines are 2.2-liter twin turbo V-6s that can rev as high as 12,000 rpm and generate up to 700 hp. As with many regular production car engines, the Chevy and Honda IndyCar powerplants have direct fuel injection and run on E85 fuel, a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline.
Chevrolet and Honda engines got major updates in the off-season. Chevy’s engine has been redesigned from the cylinder heads up, while Honda’s added a second turbocharger this year to comply with IndyCar rules.
Art St. Cyr, American Honda Motor Co.’s vice president of product planning and logistics, said the addition of the second turbocharger caused Honda Performance Development engineers — the company’s racing arm — to rework nearly the entire engine.
“We had to do quite a bit of work,” he said. “We had to redo all the air and cooling lines and all the routing. We had to change the way the engine goes into the car. But some of the strategies that we learned with the single turbo we were able to carry over.”
The Chevrolet-Honda engine rivalry is likely to continue. Lotus, which fielded an engine last year, dropped out because its entry was not competitive. And even though Ford opened a racing technology and support center on May 14 in Concord, N.C., the company has no plans to supply IndyCar engines. The Ford center plans to focus on NASCAR, off-road rally racing and drag racing.
A Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 was scheduled to pace the Indy 500, the eighth time since 1967 that a Camaro had led the way. Chevy spokesman Monte Duran says there won’t be a Camaro pace car available for customers this year. The Z/28 is limited edition street-legal race car with a price tag, including shipping, of $75,000.