Honda Unveils 2003 IRL IndyCar Lineup

2/4/2003 6:00:43 PM

The winningest active American open wheel racer, a former IRL and Indy 500 race champion, a pair of proven race winners and a promising series rookie make up the lineup as American Honda Motor Co., Inc. enters Indy Racing League IndyCar Series for 2003.

With 42 CART race victories in a career dating back to 1983, Michael Andretti comes to the IRL in the dual role of both team owner and driver, after assuming primary ownership of the former Team Green organization at the end of 2002. Now, as head of Andretti Green Racing, the 1991 CART champion will lead a three-car entry of Honda-powered Dallaras in IndyCar competition.

Andretti's teammates include Dario Franchitti, who won last season on the oval at Rockingham Motor Speedway in England for the latest of his 10 career CART victories. Franchitti, who started with the former Team Green organization in 1998, also won in Montreal and Vancouver last year. He was CART championship runner-up to Juan Pablo Montoya in the closest finish in series history - decided by a tie-breaker after the pair tied on series points.

The full-time Andretti-Green racing lineup is completed by Brazilian Tony Kanaan, who joins Andretti Green from Mo Nunn Racing and will be seeking a repeat of his 1999 victory at Michigan International Speedway when the IRL returns there in July. Briton Dan Wheldon, who made his IRL debut in 2001 with Panther Racing, will see testing and development duties with Andretti Green, with the possibility of racing for the team later this season.

Team Rahal rejoins the Honda-powered fold in 2003, with 1998 IRL champion and 1999 Indianapolis 500 winner Kenny Brack at the wheel of the team's Honda-powered Pioneer/Miller Lite Dallara. The Columbus, Ohio-based team previously was associated with Honda during the company's inaugural CART racing season in 1994.

Brack also is returning to Team Rahal after two successful seasons. In 2000, the Swede was CART Rookie of the Year, and he went on to win four times and lead the championship for much of the season before finishing second in the final standings.

Fernandez Racing, now teamed with former Formula One racer Aguri Suzuki, will field Atlantic Championship oval race winner Roger Yasukawa's Panasonic/ARTA Dallara with Honda power under the Super Aguri Fernandez Racing banner in the 2003 IRL IndyCar Series.

Last year, Yasukawa won in just his second Atlantic start at the historic Milwaukee Mile oval and finished second at the only other Atlantic oval race, at Chicago Motor Speedway. Of Japanese heritage, but born in California where he lives today, Yasukawa finished 10th in the Atlantic championship despite missing three rounds of the 12-race series.

Honda's racing subsidiary, Honda Performance Development, Inc. (HPD) of Santa Clarita, California, will lead the company's effort in the IRL IndyCar Series, in partnership with Ilmor Engineering Inc., of Plymouth, Michigan. HPD and Ilmor will work together as technical partners to design, develop and produce engines for the 2003 season. HPD and Ilmor also will provide trackside support and engine rebuilding services to teams using the newly developed Honda HI3R Indy V-8 engine.

"This is an exciting new chapter in Honda's racing history, giving Honda the opportunity to compete in the challenging IRL series and the famous Indianapolis 500 race, while at the same time expanding HPD's abilities as a true racing engine development company," said Robert Clarke, general manager of HPD. "Competing in the IRL series, with its rules to intentionally limit the use of high cost technology and thus provide more parity in the racing field, will give Honda a new competitive experience and the fans more exciting racing."

The 2003 Honda IRL IndyCar Series Lineup:

Andretti Green Racing

  • Michael Andretti
  • Dario Franchitti
  • Tony Kanaan
  • Dan Wheldon (test & development driver)

Team Rahal

  • Kenny Brack

Super Aguri Fernandez Racing

  • Roger Yasukawa (Rookie of the Year candidate)