For Honda Performance Development, the 2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season produced seven wins, three poles, a 1-2-3-4 finish in the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, led by Takuma Sato, a fourth Honda-powered championship for Scott Dixon and, most importantly, a third consecutive INDYCAR Manufacturer’s Championship.
“It's the first time we've ever achieved (three-in-a-row) in our 27-year history, obviously we're excluding the time when we were the sole manufacturer,” said Honda Performance Development president Ted Klaus. “The way it makes you feel, you're just very, very grateful and appreciative of many people.
“Certainly the whole team at Honda, our extended family, all of the race teams and drivers that really earn it on the track. Then you appreciate INDYCAR and the fans for really not giving up on 2020. In spite of all the challenges we've all faced, we've kept ourselves going.
“I know in the big scheme of life, racing maybe is quite frivolous. Hopefully in some small way we've contributed to the normalcy, the mental stability of the world for those people that are INDYCAR fans.”
Klaus, who has shepherded Honda’s rise over the last two seasons of manufacturer competition, said the accomplishments of 2020 and having teams and manufacturers complete nearly 3,400 miles of competition on just three engines during the shortened 14-race campaign was a testament to the team at HPD, its race teams and INDYCAR.
“It's rare that you would dominate the ‘500’ the way we did, support a single driver to win the driver’s championship, then bring home the manufacturers trophy,” he said. “I'm not sure how many times in our 27-year history we've done that. But it's very, very special. It's not to be taken for granted.
“One of the untold stories for both us and, quite frankly, for Chevrolet is we shut down our whole operations in a very short period of time in response to what was happening in the world. Of course, we weren't unique that way. Then we all realized that we need to get back to work. We need to build the engines for the season, for the Indy 500.
“There was a lot of uncertainty. I guess the best thing about the racing community is they're able to take the uncertainty, and they just kind of chew through it. They come out with some solutions that could work. Everyone got on with it. Maybe that's kind of a skill we can bring to the world as we chew through some uncertainty in life, then we turn a bunch of unknowns into less unknowns.”
As INDYCAR moves the NTT INDYCAR SERIES into its next generation of 2.4-liter turbo-powered hybrid engines, Klaus will be watching from the sidelines. He’ll retire from HPD after a 30-year career with Honda. But he knows Honda Performance Development is in good hands.
“I think for us, it's so many small little things,” Klaus said. “We'll be entering our 10th year with this engine. It's a lot of attention to detail. Also, you got to hit the reset button. You've got to forget everything you did this year, get hungry again. You can't let your mind say that it's the 10th year. You have to assume there's incremental increases in everything we do.
“And David Salters is going to be my successor. He is no stranger to racing. He's going to listen to our teams, and he's going to drive HPD to bring the power to them.”