Honda shuffles HPD boss
Art St. Cyr - Existing HPD Boss
Ted Klaus - New HPD Boss
T.E. McHALE: Good morning, everyone. Thank you for joining us for the first media briefing of the 2019 season hat Honda Hospitality. We appreciate all of you making the time to be with us today.
T.E. McHALE: Ted, this may be an unfair question two days into your tenure at an IndyCar paddock, but give us some initial impressions of what you've seen so far since yesterday morning.
TED KLAUS: Again, I'd love to give everyone my welcome. Some of you have already welcomed me, so I really appreciate that. And that was my first impression, arriving Thursday evening with Art and the HPD team. Having a chance just to meet some folks at the opening party hosted by INDYCAR. Just feeling how small, tight‑knit the overall family is.
My first experience with practice yesterday, kind of connecting to what Art just talked about in the off‑season. I'm trying to see the connection between all the preparation that has already been invested by everyone at HPD and all our partner teams.
I guess another key word is 'precision'. I personally love that word because it matters to our brands. Seeing the precision and the professionalism in the cadence of the activities, and perhaps racing has a lot of meaning in real life right now as we look around: everyone doing their role and responsibility on behalf of some team goal. We probably need that in our lives a little bit more.
Pretty impressive reflection for me in the first couple days. But I think things will heat up today and tomorrow. I'll get even more emotionally invested in this first experience.
T.E. McHALE: Art, you are transitioning to a new role as vice president and business unit head of the auto operations department at American Honda. How have your experiences at HPD help prepare you for that?
ART ST. CYR: In my new role, I'm head of auto operations at HPD. The way I describe it is, I look at the car from when it's conceived all the way to the point it makes it to the dealership. Product planning, public relations. I'll still have some involvement here in racing, the logistics side. Also environmental vehicles, telematics, that type of stuff. There's a lot of diverse divisions that are under my purview.
One of the things that racing brings, and this goes all the way back to our founder, Soichior Honda, is the importance of teamwork. This type of environment really emphasizes that.
It’s one of the reasons why racing is so much in our DNA, he talks about being ready on time. The race is going to happen whether you're ready or not. That's the same way in the real world as well.
A lot of the teams that we have here translate that message into what we're doing, making sure we're making a good product for our customers, making sure everybody is on the same page as to how we're supposed to deliver that product to our customers.
The ultimate goal is making sure that we win no matter what because in racing its winner take all. That's our business philosophy as well as our racing philosophy.
T.E. McHALE: Ted, same question for you. How has your experience at Honda R&D helped prepare you for this new role?
The passion that my father instilled in me to take your time in life and do something that really mattered to you really translated to me having a career in Honda. For 28 years, I have focused on system integrations. I'm a chassis engineer who became active torque transfer and chassis engineer to electromechanical brake systems.
The simple point is I love to bring different man‑machine elements together. I love to see how you go from a strategy to a concept to a target. Art talked about the target in the off‑season. For every project I've worked on the last 28 years, we have clear lap times. Not quite as crystal clear as racing, but goals to be met. I'm really looking forward to that clarity in racing.
We're going to translate my 28 years of experience, but the great thing is that Art has created a championship-form team within HPD and all our partners. Those members are stable. They're amazing members. I’ve had a chance to meet many of them.
I fully intend to learn my role. I'll have some things to say that will be challenging like Art has been doing for the last seven years. But my role is to align this amazing talent and keep them focused and pointed towards meeting these targets.
T.E. McHALE: Art, without trying to get too far ahead of ourselves, we have a pretty important event coming up in Florida next weekend with the 12 Hours of Sebring, our partner teams on the Acura side, Acura Team Penske and Meyer Shank Racing. Both here this weekend, one with Honda, one of them not. Talk a little bit about the sports car program, how that has shaped up for 2019.
ART ST. CYR: We're really excited about our sports car program this year. Last year with our DPI program with Acura Team Penske, it was our first year. We were still learning, kind of learning the ins‑and‑outs of the IMSA system. We were able to get a victory last year at Mid‑Ohio, which was really great, Honda and Acura's home race. That was a really big learning experience for not just Acura but also Team Penske and the way we worked together.
Even though we'd all been in sports cars before, having the two organizations work together was really great. It really led to some good preparation for this year. On the NSX side, we did an Evo [update kit] for the NSX GT3. We were at COTA last weekend and finished 1‑2 with our NSX GT3 Evo. That's looking pretty successful right now.
The Daytona race, as you all know, was rain‑marred, I affectionately call it the 18 and a half hours of Daytona, it was kind of more of a crapshoot. We were on the lead lap for both DPi and GTD. I believe had a real legitimate shot of winning both classes if the race had actually gone the full 24 hours. I don't think those results are representative of what we can do.
Sebring is next week, another big race, very bumpy course. I think our DPi program is looking good. We have Alexander Rossi driving for us this year. That's a pretty exciting thing to have. Our two cars with Meyer Shank Racing running the NSX GT3 Evo, I think they are going to be competing for victories every race this season. Pretty exciting season going forward on the sports car side.
We like how it's linked with our American Honda side in building our Acura brand. We think both of those programs are very important going forward. We expect high success for those vehicles not just at Sebring but for the rest of the season, as well.
T.E. McHALE: At this point I'm going to open it up to questions from the floor.
Q. Less than two years out from the new Indy car engine. What type of new technology, other than the displacement change, is in the engine? What is the timeframe for the testing of that engine to be ready for 2021?
ART ST. CYR: As far as technology in that engine, I believe the homologation chart has been shared publicly. It's not a huge change from the current engine, but it's a 2.4 liter, twin turbo V6. A little bit bigger displacement. Fundamentally it's not that different from a technology standpoint.
With that being said, the real world is going towards electrification and similar technologies. One of Honda's viewpoints is trying to reduce the carbon footprint of what we do. Of course, that's part of the future plan.
As far as the 2021 engine, we're concerned on trying to get that out the door. It's more of an evolution of the current engine than a revolution. It's going to have more horsepower, it's going to go faster.
As far as the timeframe for that one, we just started working on the design of that thing. If you back up from when we need to start having engines in the car ready to race, probably around December of 2020 so the teams can start learning that engine, if you back that up, we need to probably start looking at testing the actual engine this time next year, we need to have it out and running.
We're scrambling to develop a new engine. The infrastructure is not set up to develop a new engine every year like we used to do. We're working through the designs, trying to meet those deadlines to be ready when the bell is rung in December of 2020, we will be ready to start delivering those to our partner teams.
The schedule is pretty tight. So we're cranking on it right now.
Q. (Question regarding the transition from Art to Ted.)
TED KLAUS: The transition is happening now, so certainly Art and the HPD team have begun the process to prepare to meet the '21 engine homologation spec. I'm coming in green really to the sport and to the position. Really the key role, or the key way in which we'll transition, includes spending time, Art. I'm here this weekend learning IndyCar, next week for the sports car.
Really my job is to observe what's already begun, support the amazing team at HPD which is solid and stable, then look for ways to take some calculated risks, support new ideas, as Art would have done. I'll just bring my particular flavor or style to it.
The key right now is for all of you, especially for the folks that are hearing this back in the shop, it's go time for this season. Next season will be the last year in the current homologation rule schedule. But it's also go time for 2021. That balance of stability and calculated risk taking is what I'll bring.
ART ST. CYR: Ted and I have talked over the last few weeks. Philosophically we're fairly aligned in what we're doing. Our backgrounds are fairly similar. One thing to emphasize is the team at HPD, from Steve Eriksen on down, is not changing. There is continuity in what's going on. Neither Ted or I expect a big disruption in what's going on at HPD.
Q. (Question about electrification.)
TED KLAUS: With the world rapidly changing, with electrification being one of the legitimate ways to have a future sustainable society, how can racing continue to lead, because we're always at the pointy end of things? We have a responsibility to challenge, not only to go fast but to give back to the future.
In general, just so you all understand, as a corporation at Honda, we've wanted to race an electrified sports car ever since we were imagining the original NSX. That was a premature idea. We have to find the balance between the economics of doing such a thing and then building that bridge to the future.
In general, not only me personally, but Honda is very interested in those opportunities. We've seen that come to fruition. I love when we're out in front of these things. I'm looking for those opportunities. It has to be done at the right time.
Just as we saw back in 2012 when we were having these conversations, it has to be done with the race organizers as well as the teams. We got to really think it through and make sure we can support all these partnerships that make the series work for the fans.
My final thought is, no matter what we do, it's got to be visceral. When you see it, smell it, when you feel it, it has to be that visceral experience. That's why I'm here, and I think that's why my son's son or daughter will be here. Those are my thoughts.
Q. Could you see yourself expanding into other forms of motorsports?
TED KLAUS: I think the best answer to that is, again, if we want to consider being relevant for the future, we have to do things that are both feasible but push the envelope.
Quite frankly the reality is that the energy that you get from even a crazy push‑the‑envelope battery pack is just not yet feasible. So, are we still interested for when that might come to be? Yes. But why wait? Again, electrification takes many forms. Then the broader envelope is how can we race in a way that moves the needle towards a carbon‑sustainable society. Not only in the battery or fuel, there are other elements.
I hope that answers the question, gives everyone a hopeful outlook for our future. It's going to be exciting towards 2025, right? It's going to be super exciting.
Q. All the effort with this engine, how much is going to the street cars?
ART ST. CYR: This IndyCar engine is a bespoke engine. The series really demands a bespoke engine. However, when we say technology, a lot of the techniques that we do to develop this engine, how we do it, a lot of our combustion modeling, we are at the sharp end, as Ted said, of development.
Even though the parts themselves don't directly translate over, this was the first direct‑injected engine that was put on the road by Honda, so this did lead the direct‑injection revolution that we have.
Q. Do you send engineers back and forth between racing and R&D?
ART ST. CYR: The answer is yes, we do that. Probably not with as much frequency as we would like to. But, there are active plans to have more what we call assignments, that we go back to R&D and what not. I think at HPD we have six, or maybe seven associates now that came from R&D so there is some transfer back and forth.
We have very constant communication with R&D. The current sports car engine that we’re running with the DPi is a production engine that was co-developed between Honda R&D and HPD. When that happened, there was a lot of communication and flow of information back and forth. So, there is that open link between the racing organization and the production car R&D organization.
Q. You mentioned the winning form Ted, earlier. Do you feel any pressure to maintain what Art is leaving you with?
TED KLAUS: Yes, it’s a good pressure. I don’t feel the pressure like the rest of the team just out of an ignorance. Out of what it actually is to be here and do it. It will continue to build throughout the season. But, just like every other human being. When you are in the winner’s circle at the end of the race. That’s when you feel the joy of winning and then that will feed the pressure for the following week. I’m really looking forward to it. It’s a good pressure and I have a lot of confidence in our partners on the backend of the shop and the front end of the shop.
Q. With a bigger displacement engine will you have more opportunity for a bigger delta at push to pass and with this new engine will you have your own on track development test program?
ART ST. CYR: The answer is yes and yes. The first one, it’s not because we have a bigger displacement engine, it’s because the rules have stated that the push to pass delta is just going to be larger. So the boost level between normal operation and push to pass is going to be higher in the new engine. That’s just based on the rules and how they set up (Q. How much higher?) I think it’s another 5KPa, but I will have to get back to you on that one.
As far as having an on-track test program, we will absolutely have to have an on-track test program. We haven’t quite worked out the mechanics of how that’s going to happen. But we definitely will have our teams run our engines on track. The one thing I can guarantee about developing a new engine, especially a new race engine is that it is going to break.
So, it’s in our best interest to break that engine as early as we possibly can so we have time to fix it. We will be using our partner teams to run that on track. How we’re going to do that, who were gonna do it with, how many teams, that type of stuff still has to be worked out. We are still in the early design phase of that so that’s a little bit further down the road of the mechanics.
There are several things that have to happen. We have to get our contract with INDYCAR cleared up. Right now, the contract doesn’t go in to the new engine. Our partner teams we haven’t signed on yet so we’ll work through that. We are still hoping for a third manufacturer to come on board as well so that’ll lead to a little bit of shuffling around.
All those things we’ll take in to consideration and we will put together a robust test plan to be ready answer the bell. As I said earlier, we have to be ready on time, the race will happen, so we have to be ready to go and we are planning for success. Ted’s going to be driving that schedule moving forward.
TE: And with that we’ll wrap it up. Thank you very much for being here!
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