Ted Klaus’ time as Honda Performance Development (HPD) president may have been brief, but it certainly was effective in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES.
After a 30-year career with Honda, Klaus is retiring Dec. 1. He will be replaced by HPD Technical Director David Salters, who will become the seventh president of HPD since the company began operating in 1993.
Previously, Salters was with Ferrari and Mercedes in Formula One. He has been with HPD the past five years.
Honda announced the change of leadership Sept. 30 as HPD was in the stretch run of championship seasons in both INDYCAR and IMSA sports cars.
During Klaus’ two-year helm as HPD president, Honda won back-to-back titles to continue a string of three in a row INDYCAR Manufacturers Championships, Takuma Sato drove a Honda to victory in the 104th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge on Aug. 23, and Scott Dixon drove a Honda to his sixth NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship in 2020.
“We appreciate those results,” Klaus said. “A certain amount of that was built on the footsteps of Art St. Cyr before me, and we have been able to build on it. You saw it this year at the Indianapolis 500, how our investment with Chip Ganassi Racing, Andretti Autosport, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, Dale Coyne Racing and Meyer Shank Racing paid big dividends. That is how important our relationship is.”
The importance of that relationship can be measured on the racetrack in the most competitive series in the world. That was on display on a sunny August day this year at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“A fun fact is that in the Indy 500 this year, the picture of the cars coming across the line, you have four Hondas from three different teams,” Klaus said. “We're always very proud. We really seek to power every team equally, give them all an equal chance to win. I'm not sure who is going to challenge Scott next year, but I'm looking forward to at least a couple other Honda drivers.”
Klaus succeeded St. Cyr as HPD president before the 2019 season. He believes he is passing the leadership role to a man who is capable to taking Honda even further in its motorsports’ ventures in North America that also include the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with the Acura brand.
“I’m super excited for what we have accomplished together as HPD the past couple seasons,” Klaus said. “HPD is a unique entity in North America. It’s a mini version of Honda itself, where we can dream up and actually manufacturer, create, sell and service high-performance products to some of the most demanding customers. It’s been a privilege.
“David has the right mindset and pedigree to make decisions holding us accountable to keep winning. It’s all based on the core Honda spirit that has driven Honda from the beginning. We have inherited that from our founders.
“We have great teamwork, not only from inside the company, but the teamwork with our external partners including the sanctioning bodies.”
Salters is quite familiar with the INDYCAR paddock, working with the teams on various projects as technical director. It’s an important time for Honda, Chevrolet and INDYCAR as the series prepares for the next engine, a 2.4-liter hybrid-assisted powerplant that is scheduled to begin competition in 2023.
One of the final major decisions spearheaded by Klaus was to extend Honda’s agreement with INDYCAR as an engine supplier into the end of the current decade.
“We have a superb team here,” Salters said. “Through Ted’s leadership and support, we’ve been able to focus that team. This game is all about having a good team going in the right direction. That is what we have here at HPD. We are fortunate to engineer all aspects of the race car here. We have all the tools we need to do to do some cool stuff and go racing.
“I want to thank Ted for bringing so much energy and being inspiring to that. We have a really close-knit team, so we’ve all been discussing this stuff over the last years. We’re very aware here what is happening and the rule making, technical and business decisions. We’re all familiar with the discussions and where we want to go. Ted has led it brilliantly and courageously.
“The future in North American motorsports looks very bright.”
Klaus brought a refreshing presence to INDYCAR and often worked behind the scenes with racing teams to strengthen that relationship. When team owner Michael Andretti was considering a move to Chevrolet in 2019 and star driver Alexander Rossi’s contract was up for renewal, Andretti credited Klaus with working behind the scenes. He was successful in convincing Andretti of Honda’s vision for the future, and that helped Rossi sign a contract extension with Andretti Autosport.
“The secret sauce is about relationships and listening and working on behalf of your customers,” Klaus said. “It might be engineering and production. It might be race team or it might be HPD interacting with the teams. After many years of trying to figure things out, I discovered listening to others was a key. I brought that knowledge with me to HPD.
“David has already instituted listening to the teams and technical directors, and we will continue to do that.
“It sounds simple, but it’s difficult. We are an engineering organization that can help our teams understand opportunities to make their race car go faster. By working collaboratively, but in a complementary way, we can always do better. That is the very definition of factory support.
“We listen to our customers and allow them to inspire future actions and try to go on with it. There is no time to waste and no effort to waste, so we have to be smart.”
After he retires, Notre Dame graduate Klaus will join his father and build some vintage formula cars that Klaus intends to drive in vintage races beginning next year.
“I’m retiring from Honda; I’m not retiring from life,” Klaus said.