Sunday, May 27, 2007

Honda Supplies Every Engine at the Indy 500

At one time, the Indianapolis 500 symbolized America's pre-eminent role in the automobile industry. Americans Harry Miller and Fred Offenhauser started the companies whose engines dominated the Indy 500 race year after year, not because of any official sponsorship arrangement, but because cars powered by their engines beat the competition.

This year, by arrangement with the Indy Racing League (IRL), Honda supplied every one of the engines for the 33 competitors--as it did in 2006. All but three entries utilized a chassis manufactured by Dallara Automobili, Italy. All tires are supplied by Firestone. (That may seem to be a vestige of Indy's American heritage, until one recalls that Firestone is now a susidiary of Bridgestone, a Japanese company.)

By way of comparison, take a look at the eclectic mix of makes and models that made up the 1971 Indy 500 field, won by Al Unser in a Ford-powered P.J. Colt chassis.

While exclusive supplier arrangements certainly level the playing field and arguably focus the race into a true competition of racing teams and drivers, it nevertheless shows how things have changed in the good old USA, even at the Brickyard. In any event, congratulations to the winner, Dario Franchitti, driving--sigh--like practically everyone else in the race, a Dallara Automobili/Honda car.


Anonymous Dan Patterson said...

The Indy 500 might just be another outward sign of an inner evolution in the US and elsewhere: Manufacturing efficiency. In the days of yore there was a foreign and domestic market for things made in the US (Fords and refrigerators, shirts and typewriters) but that was before global markets and cheap, high quality manufacturing. Anybody else remember the Honda Accord from the late 70's? Like the VW before it, we sneered and scoffed at it's light weight, 5-speed transmission (Who needs 5 gears? The dang thing is made outta tin cans. Har har har...)high fuel mileage, and small size. Stupid, right? Britain also once ruled the waves, and the only thing coming from China were silk scarves and opium.

The Indy would be a great place to showcase a variety of easily obtained, high-output engines and chassis except for two things: From what shops and manufacturers, and that "arrangement" that stifled competition like so many trade tariffs.

As in NASCAR, race teams only want to win and showcase their sponsors. The Hudson Hornet, the Olds "Rocket 88", the Hemi "Bird", etc. all did exactly that until something better came along. Now those brands are nothing but fond memories and trophy purchases for retired boomers.

The manufacturing ability of the US is largely gone, except for some mostly small endeavors and foreign-owned outlets. Gone too is the leadership and innovation that answered the questions asked by the market, replaced by buzz-words, golden parachutes, and marketing bs.

Our current American lifestyle and generally poor value of individual achievement contributes to one of those "arrangements" where we're all pretty much similar, pretty much content, and pretty much mediocre. For a glimpse of the days when American know-how fostered healthy competition, both in the arena of ideas and on the playing field, have a look at a web-site devoted to the sights and sounds of racing before corporate sponsorship, HANS restraints and "arrangements": . Go to the audio files, turn the speakers up to "11", and close your eyes.

Dan Patterson
Arrogant Infidel

Wednesday, May 30, 2007 4:02:00 AM  
Blogger alohasteve said...

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007 5:16:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's totally depressing that Nascar is supplied by foreign corporations and funded by Southern domestic dollars. Too bad Detroit didn't see the big picture and make efforts to create efficient, lightweight engines (much less cars).

Great blog, guys!

Thursday, May 31, 2007 9:16:00 AM  

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