Honda Claims IRL 'Triple Crown' of Championships
Date: October 18, 2004 01:31
Honda Press Release
Torrance, Calif. 10/17/2004 -- In just its second season of Indy Racing League competition, Honda, its drivers and teams have swept the competition in the 2004 IndyCar Series, winning three major IRL championships - the Manufacturers' Championship, Drivers' Championship and Rookie of the Year - and 14 of the 16 races this season.
With a streak of consecutive victories that began at Phoenix, the second race of the season, Honda clinched the IRL Manufacturers' Championship at Kentucky Speedway, 11 races into the season.
Major victories in this string included a first-through-seventh sweep of the Indianapolis 500; a 1-2 finish at Japan's Twin Ring Motegi Circuit, built by Honda in 1997 to bring U.S.-style open wheel racing to that country; and 1-2-3 sweeps of the two 400-mile races on the schedule at Michigan Speedway and California Speedway.
Combining speed with consistency, Andretti Green Racing's Tony Kanaan claimed the drivers' crown earlier this month at California Speedway. Kanaan combined three race wins and two poles with six other top-three finishes in 2004, and finished fifth or better in 15 of the 16 races. Kanaan finished every possible race lap, and led a series-record 889 laps.
Honda's third major IRL title, Rookie of the Year, was secured by Super Aguri Fernandez Racing's Kosuke Matsuura in the season finale at Texas Motor Speedway. The first-year driver from Japan highlighted his season with a fourth-place result at Kentucky Speedway and a total of seven finishes in the top 11. In addition, Matsuura also claimed rookie honors at the Indianapolis 500 after starting ninth and finishing 11th in the Memorial Day classic.
"It has been a fantastic year for Honda in the IRL," said Robert Clarke, vice president and general manager for Honda Performance Development. "Although the results might make it seem otherwise, this has been a highly challenging year for HPD, with programs for the 'old' 3.5-liter engine at the start of the season, and the switch to the new 3.0-liter engine starting at Indianapolis. This achievement is a tribute to the tremendous hard work and dedication of all our associates at HPD, our teams and drivers, and our technical partners."
Earlier this year, Honda also announced its sponsorship of the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, which becomes the first road/street course event in the history of the IRL on April 3, 2005. The event will take place on a 14-turn, 1.806-mile temporary circuit incorporating a runway at the Albert Whitted Airport and downtown waterfront streets.
The 2004 IRL Manufacturers' Championship continues a tradition of Honda excellence in a wide variety of racing categories, from motorcycle motocross competition to Formula One Grand Prix.
"To prevail in such a competitive series, and against such strong opposition from both Toyota and Chevrolet, makes this championship all the more special," said Yasuhiro Wada, president of Honda Performance Development. "The IRL IndyCar Series has proven to be a challenging and hard-fought championship, which makes us especially proud of this achievement."
Previous Honda racing titles have included four consecutive Formula One Constructors Championships (1988-91), three consecutive World Motocross titles (1979-81), eight Motorcycle Grand Prix championships in the last nine years, three consecutive IMSA Camel Lights titles, and four CART Manufacturers' Championships and six consecutive drivers' championships (1996-2001).
The scale of Honda's achievements in 2004, with 14 victories in 16 events, ranks among the best in the company's history of motorsports involvement. In 1988, Honda won 15 of 16 Formula One Grand Prix races with Team McLaren and Team Lotus, eight by Ayrton Senna and seven by Alain Prost. That year, Honda won its third consecutive Formula One Manufacturers' Championship and Senna claimed the drivers' championship.
Honda Performance Development was founded in 1993 as the wholly-owned racing subsidiary of American Honda Motor Company, Inc. It is the technical operations center for Honda's IndyCar engine program. Currently housed in a 43,500-square-foot facility in Santa Clarita, California, HPD currently is building a new, 123,000-square-foot headquarters at a nearby location to increase the company's manufacturing, research and development capacities.
Honda IndyCar Fast Stats
Honda won 14 consecutive races this season, starting with the second race at Phoenix International Raceway and continuing through the October 3 race at California Speedway.
Honda drivers led 73.19% of all laps run this season, a total of 2,419 out of 3,305 laps.
Honda race winners this year include Tony Kanaan (Phoenix, Texas and Nashville); Buddy Rice (the Indianapolis 500, Kansas and Michigan); Dan Wheldon (Twin Ring Motegi, Richmond and Nazareth); Adrian Fernandez (Kentucky, Chicagoland and California); and Dario Franchitti (Milwaukee and Pikes Peak).
Eight of those 14 victories were 1-2-3 (or better) sweeps of the top finishing positions, and four more were 1-2 results for Honda.
Honda swept the top seven finishing positions at Kentucky Speedway and Indianapolis; ran first through sixth at Kansas Speedway; first through fifth at Chicagoland; first through fourth at Nazareth; and finished 1-2-3 at California, Michigan and Pikes Peak. Honda drivers finished 1-2 at Twin Ring Motegi, Texas, Richmond and Milwaukee.
Honda drivers finished 1-2-3 in the IRL Drivers' Championship standings, in five of the top six positions, and seven of the top nine. Tony Kanaan, Dan Wheldon, Buddy Rice ended the year first, second and third, with Adrian Fernandez fifth, Dario Franchitti sixth, Vitor Meira eighth and Bryan Herta ninth.
Honda driver Kosuke Matsuura won the IRL Rookie of the Year title by a 35-point margin over Ed Carpenter.
Honda drivers also claimed 11 of 16 pole positions this year in the IRL, including streaks of five in a row (Homestead through Texas) and six in a row (Kansas through Pikes Peak).
Top Honda qualifiers were led by Buddy Rice with a series-leading five poles (Homestead, Indianapolis, Kansas, Nashville and Kentucky); Tony Kanaan (Michigan and Pikes Peak); Dan Wheldon (Phoenix and Twin Ring Motegi); Dario Franchitti (Texas); and Vitor Meira (Milwaukee).
Honda drivers qualified 1-7 at the Indianapolis 500; first through fifth at Twin Ring Motegi, Texas and Nashville; first through fourth at Pikes Peak; 1-2-3 at Milwaukee; and 1-2 at Phoenix, Michigan and Kentucky.
The Texas Motor Speedway 2004 season finale was Honda's 32nd race as an IRL IndyCar Series engine supplier. Coupled with the race wins recorded by Tony Kanaan (Phoenix) and Bryan Herta (Kansas) in 2003, Honda now has won exactly half, 16 of those 32 races.