AJ Foyt at Indianapolis in May 2011. Photo: Anne Proffit
AJ Foyt Racing has become the second team to align with Honda Performance Development (HPD) for the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series season. AJ Foyt, the first four-time winner of the Indianapolis 500, made the announcement together with son and team director Larry Foyt, as well as Erik Berkman, HPD president.
"AJ Foyt is a living legend in American racing, and it's an honor to announce the continuation of our association," Berkman stated. "AJ shares many traits with Soichiro Honda, the founder of our company. Passionate, dedicated men, their names become synonymous with racing in their native lands, and each has served as a symbol of his country's passion for motorsport, around the world. We consider AJ Foyt to be a venerable member of the Honda 'family' and we look forward to our continued association with both the man and his team."
For his part, Foyt cited the consistency of Honda's engine program and noted that it's "very important to build consistency. We are trying to get back to the winners circle and we think the best way to do that is with Honda. You know, we don't see engine failures any more with Honda and you've got to run from green flags to checkered flags in order to win. We haven't seen them go off," Foyt said.
The new Honda Indy V-6 engine is being developed at HPD's Santa Clarita, California facility. Initial track testing is scheduled to begin in August as teams align with either Honda, Chevrolet or Lotus for 2012 participation. All three of these OEM manufacturers have to be prepared to supply 40 percent of the INDYCAR field next season.
Berkman said he was expecting to see 25 cars and that "HPD's intent is not to go over 40 percent, so we're planning to have a total of 10 cars." With four Ganassi cars already announced as Honda's 'anchor' team - two Team Target and two Chip Ganassi Racing - and at least one AJ Foyt Racing entry (Foyt did say he's trying to get a second car up and running for 2012), Berkman expects to fill the balance of the Honda field with 1- and 2-car entries.
"I am really looking forward to working with Honda next year," Foyt continued. "I think they will provide us with the best engines in 2012 because of their resources. Their facility in California is unbelievable. I was very impressed. I really enjoy working with the Honda management team," he said. "I think they have been very fair and honest with our team and you don't see that too often in this day and age. When people treat us right, I don't forget that."
Foyt's team will continue with ABC Supply Co as the principal sponsor of the venerable No. 14 next year and, most likely, Vitor Meira will continue as the driver, Foyt implied. Larry Foyt, team director said he is "thrilled to be working with HPD again next year. They are such a professional organization and we really like being part of the Honda family. The promote a culture of winning and as we continue to grow as a team, we believe they can help us move forward to reach that common goal."
HPD was founded in 1993 and has participated in American open wheel racing since 1994. HPD scored its first Indianapolis 500 victory in 2004 with American Buddy Rice at the wheel. The company became sole engine supplier to the IndyCar Series in 2006 and, for a record six consecutive years, has not had a single engine failure in the Indianapolis 500.
© 2011 Anne Proffit