All Chevrolet entries will be penalized 10 starting positions for Sunday’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach after the engine manufacturer decided to change all 11 of its engines for the weekend.
As reported earlier, Chevy decided to make the changes after discovering problems on the powerplant of James Hinchcliffe in a Monday test at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California. The Andretti Autosport driver had already been officially penalized 10 spots for Long Beach prior to Chevy’s move today.
“This is obviously disappointing, but it is the same for all the Chevy teams and these things happen when you are in development programs,” said AA team owner Michael Andretti. “Luckily, the problem was caught during a test rather than in the middle of a race. It’s unfortunate, but we stand behind Chevy and whatever is needed to continue to set the standard.”
The changes are considered unapproved by the series since the previous engines hadn’t gone the minimum of 1,850 miles yet. But Ryan Hunter-Reay, a Chevy-powered driver who won at Long Beach in 2010, felt that having a mass penalty for all Chevy teams was too harsh.
“Personally, I feel this is a drastic punishment,” he said. “The engine manufacturers have done a lot in a short time and to penalize the drivers ten spots in what will be a tight championship fight, I think, is drastic, but I don’t make the rules. I certainly believe in Chevrolet, every engine they have given me has been strong and I am proud to represent their brand.”
The Associated Press’ Jenna Fryer first broke the story with a series of tweets this morning:
“‘This was certainly not a decision made lightly,’ says Chevy’s Chris Berube. Problem discovered at Sonoma testing that ‘could affect all’”
“Berube says engine change was ‘intently discussed’ with partners and teams before deciding to change all 11 engines. #IndyCar”
Berube is Chevy’s IndyCar program manager. The report was confirmed shortly afterwards by the series itself on the Twitter account of its public relations team.
Chevrolet and Honda have been well-matched in the first two races of the season, but the Bowtie Brigade has come out on top with wins at St. Petersburg (Helio Castroneves) and two weeks ago at Barber Motorsports Park (Will Power).
Honda would appear to have the advantage going into Long Beach thanks to this development, but you have to wonder if they’ll be feeling a bit of pressure to capitalize on this like most fans will expect them to.
Meanwhile, the Chevy drivers will have to shake off the penalties and prepare for a mettle-testing weekend at the Beach.
“It would be easy to complain about how harsh [the penalty] is, but I think the attitude of everyone on the Go Daddy crew is that when the going gets tough, it’s time to nut up, buckle down and push hard for the best result possible,” Hinchcliffe said. “And that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”
Quotes/materials taken from league/team releases were used in the making of this article.