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Honda wins right to upgrade turbochargers

27 April 2012

Honda won a unanimous ruling from a three-person IZOD IndyCar Series appeals hearing allowing them to upgrade a component on the turbocharger used by Honda engines in the series.

"Today, following a hearing on the issues, a three-person panel denied a protest filed April 18 and upheld IndyCar's decision to approve use of a 0.74 A/R compressor cover for the single turbocharger," read the formal announcement of the appeal panel's decision.

Honda had initially planned to use the new compressor cover for their engine's single turbocharger in Long Beach, and were given the go-ahead to make the change ahead of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. However, Honda had to roll back the work after rival manufacturer Chevrolet lodged a protest against the upgrade.

After IndyCar's vice president of technology Will Phillips, together with Tony Cotman - the project manager responsible for overseeing the development of the new chassis and engine specifications for 2012 - reviewed the matter last week and again ruled that Honda could proceed, Chevrolet exercised their option to force a formal appeals hearing that was finally held on Thursday, April 26.

The three-man appeals panel consisted of Hans Peter Kollmeier, Jim Voyles and Jack Snyder - with one representative picked by each of Chevrolet, Honda and IndyCar respectively after the two manufacturers failed to find consensus on a single name. The ruling followed eight hours of technical and legal arguments. Although Chevrolet still have a formal two-day right of appeal, Honda have been given the go-ahead to make the switch in time for this weekend's Sao Paulo Indy 300 in Brazil.

"We are gratified that an independent panel has endorsed IndyCar's ruling of April 18, 2012," read a statement from Honda.

"We are disappointed with today's decision," responded Jim Campbell, U.S. Vice President, Performance Vehicles and Motorsports. "Chevrolet believed the modification was contrary to the applicable series rules, and asked IndyCar to thoroughly review the issue so that the rules were applied fairly.

Campbell added, "We respect the diligence of the panel appointed to hear the protest and examine the situation."

The appeal decision is an important victory for Honda, whose stable of IndyCar teams has clearly been struggling against those with Chevrolet engines in the first three races of the 2012 season to date. Chevy-powered Penske cars have won all the races so far in 2012, and even overcame a mass ten-place starting grid penalty for a decision by Chevrolet to change all its teams' engines ahead of the Long Beach event.

Chevrolet engines use a twin turbocharger system, while Honda opted to use a single system instead. As well as being criticised for a greater amount of throttle lag, the single turbocharger approach has ended up leaving the Honda engine down on power.

IndyCar had included a new rule this season just in case such an eventuality arose. The rule was intended to provide the opportunity for any clear emerging discrepancy between single- and twin-turbocharged systems - in either direction - to be addressed once the season was underway. All turbochargers used in the series are manufactured by BorgWarner.

"IndyCar committed well in advance of the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series season to structure engine regulations focused on creating parity between competing manufacturers, and this commitment played a significant role in our decision to adopt a single turbocharger configuration for the new HI12RT Honda Indy V6," read the statement from Honda. "The new compressor cover helps to offset a demonstrable performance disadvantage between single- and twin-turbocharged IndyCar Series engines.

"We look forward to deploying the new compressor cover to optimize performance of the Honda Indy V-6, as we continue to do battle with our worthy adversaries from Lotus and General Motors."


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